Mohamed blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction in her latest collection, No One Will Come Back for Us (Undertow, May).

How do you balance science fiction’s spirit of discovery with horror’s reliance on the unknown?

It’s always a struggle! As a scientist, I tend to want to overexplain; as a writer I know a fictional sailor who believes St. Elmo’s fire is strictly related to atmospheric electricity is going to kill the story about it being a benevolent omen from a divine spirit. At the same time, there are so many unknowns in science that I think it can work well in a horror story. There are terrible mysteries in both, there is fear in both. What I love best is a character who knows just enough science to say “There should be an explanation for this” and then discovers that they’re in a horror story where there is, in fact, no explanation.

Which story was most challenging to write?

In terms of technical challenge, I definitely thought “The Redoubtables” was a big one. It doesn’t have a traditional plot structure; there’s no action at all. Just this young journalist and this old villain and her descriptions of the site of a disaster. It shouldn’t work but it does, and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. Short fiction is a terrific place to play with structure and format. When it works it just works.

The title tale deals with an unusual pandemic. How does the main character’s journalistic lens influence the story?

A great deal, I hope! I think as with “The Redoubtables,” there’s a kind of anxiety and eagerness to learn in any story where an outsider is trying to view something that only insiders know. It shapes the whole way the story is told. What are the biases and fears the narrator takes with them? In this story in particular, a retelling of “The Dunwich Horror,” the narrator is so completely overconfident and underprepared that he ends up as a participant—or maybe I should say victim—rather than an observer. It’s not just that a journalist wants to tell a story, but that he’s very aware that the story will be filtered through himself, a human being.

How did you maintain the very human element at the center of these otherworldly stories?

I chose early on to say “I’m going to hand-wave the magic or hand-wave the science if it saves me room to connect with my characters.” What I always want to do is write a story that’s about characters, not happening to characters. I want their fears and hopes and desires and choices to be the core of the story, because humans are, when you get right down to it, just as otherworldly as anything else I could come up with.