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Does anyone know what this story is? Here are the details I know:

  • A pilot crashes on some form of embattled planet.
  • On the planet there is an octopus mom-type creature. She is very large and her culture and genetics and species is such that she finds all her joy and purpose in life in nursing young.
  • She ends up losing her children and she is fading fast.
  • She finds the pilot and nurses him back to health, adopting the pilot (an adult man) as her baby.
  • I read it in a compilation of Science Fiction short stories.
  • I think I read the story sometime between 2015-2017, but the compilation may have come from an earlier year.
  • I believe the compilation was a collection of science fiction short stories, possibly having "science fiction" or "year / year's best" in the title.

I've searched the full text of many sci fi compilations for "Twice-mo, Twice mo, and Barren" - thank you to Nailah for the suggested key words. I have found no hits as of yet.

It was one of the most heart-warming just incredible stories. Yet I can't find it and I'd love to use it in my classrooms as a lesson in empathy, and perspective taking.

Any help you can offer would be most appreciated - I'm so hoping this forum might be able to help.

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    Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this and when do you think it might've been published? Feb 14, 2023 at 2:54
  • Possible similarities to Alastair Reynolds' story "Beyond The Aquila Rift"? I haven't read it but there was an episode of Love, Death and Robots based on it, there are differences from the question (the alien wasn't specifically maternal) but I don't know if they're in the story or not. Feb 14, 2023 at 14:25
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    Hmmm. This sort of sounds like it could be Philip Jose Farmer's "Mother." It does involve a crashed astronaut and a mothering alien - only she isn't exactly octopoid and he is placed inside her womb (a large room-like space) where he is fed and nurtured. Her name is Polyphema.
    – Cassfrank
    Feb 15, 2023 at 1:17
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    I read this story too, but I can’t find it either. I remember the octopus-mom named the man “Two Eyes” or something similar, and she kept calling him a girl, because the octopus-babies on that planet were always born female and some became male when they matured. I remember the phrases “Twice-Mothered” (if a female has offspring more than once) and “Barren-Arms” (if a female has no offspring).
    – Nailah
    Feb 22, 2023 at 11:06
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    Left Foot, Right" by Nisi Shawl The story is set on a distant planet where a human pilot crashes his spaceship and finds himself stranded in an unfamiliar and hostile environment. The pilot is rescued by a giant octopus-like creature named Mother, who has lost all of her own offspring and is desperate to find a new baby to care for. She adopts the pilot, whom she names Left Foot, Right, and takes him back to her den to care for him.
    – shanu
    Mar 2, 2023 at 4:56

1 Answer 1

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I believe this is a novelette titled A Mother's Arms by Sarina Dorie. I too was moved by this book and it really stayed with me.

I read it in a copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (March/April 2016) and the story can also be found in her book Won't You Be My Neighbor?.

Opening:

I was what my people called eightblessed, one child for each of my arms. I rested in the immense boughs of the flowering nectar tree. Each of my outstretched tentacles tended to a baby octopillar. My babies tangled themselves in leafy twigs and experimentally suctioncupped their tentacles to themselves and me. I had never felt more full of pride and joy as I did when I birthed my litter

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  • Hello @pupgirl I just wanted to write with my gratitude. If anyone knows of a way that I can donate my social capital to pup girl please tell me. I previously put a bounty on this question and it remained unanswered but that's not the case anymore! An absolute celebration! So much gratitude to you! Oct 20, 2023 at 20:07
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    Vincent, I am so happy I was able to help! :-)
    – Pupgirl
    Oct 24, 2023 at 13:45

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