From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Aidan Doyle: Children Sometimes Notice Things That Adults Don’t

What inspired “Stone Flowers”?

I visited a temple in Kyoto and I noticed that some of the statues of gods were wearing shoes, while others weren’t. The first line of the story came to me and I worked from there. I’d come across the idea of disappearing gods in the works of Terry Pratchett (Small Gods) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and wanted to do my own version of it.

Names of characters always interest me. How did you go about naming your characters? Was there any significance in their names that you would like to discuss?

Many Japanese names with the same pronunciation can have different meanings depending on the kanji (Chinese characters) used. Daisuke and Yoshiko are two names that I like. One of the possible meanings of Daisuke is “big help” and Yoshiko can mean “good child” or “joyful child” or “fragrant child.”

Cherry blossoms are a prominent image throughout “Stone Flowers”. Why cherry blossoms?

Cherry blossoms have a special place in Japanese culture. They mark the arrival of spring and as the blossoms only last a couple of weeks, they came to represent the transience of beauty. Cherry blossom viewing parties are still a popular part of the Japanese social calendar.

In keeping with a lot of modern fantasy fiction I am reading these days, “Stone Flowers” has a very Asian feel. What do you think it is about Asian culture and locations that make it such an ideal setting for fantasy literature?

I lived in Japan for four years and had the opportunity to visit some amazing temples and shrines. The blending of Buddhism and Shinto gives Japanese mythology its own particular world view, one that can be very different from a Judeo-Christian influenced belief system. In terms of popularity with English speakers, Western myths (Arthurian cycle, elves, fairies and so on) are more popular than Eastern myths. I attended WorldCon recently and an editor from one of the major SF publishers commented that it was much harder to sell novels based on Eastern myths and mentioned that Bridge of Birds (a World Fantasy Award winner set in a mythical China) had been out of print for some time. And yet manga and anime have become increasingly popular. As a kid I gained an early appreciation of Eastern mythology by watching the TV series Monkey.

Why is it that only children can see the gods in “Stone Flowers”?

Children sometimes notice things that adults don’t because they haven’t been trained to not see things. One of my former work colleagues in Japan remarked that he preferred teaching younger children rather than adults because the children hadn’t yet had the life squeezed out of them by the Japanese educational system.

So, what’s next for Aidan Doyle? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to announce?

At the moment I’m working on a YA novel set in an alternate world feudal Japan.

T.J. McIntyre has seen his short fiction and poetry published in numerous publications including recent appearances in Everyday Weirdness, Ruthless Peoples Magazine, and Scifaikuest. He is a member of various writing organizations, including the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), and serves as a moderator for the Lobo Luna and Western Writers writing communities on LiveJournal. Until earlier this year, he published Southern Fried Weirdness, an anthology and web zine celebrating speculative fiction and poetry with a Southern perspective. He lives in a busy household in the muggy heart of rural Alabama with his wife, two young sons, an aging Doberman mix, five tiger barbs, and three salt-and-pepper catfish.