From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Author Spotlight: Eliza Chan

In this Author Spotlight, we asked Eliza Chan to tell us a bit about the background of her story for Fantasy Magazine, “The Boy Who Made Stars.”

Could you tell us a little about “The Boy Who Made Stars”?

It’s a creation tale with a twist. Firstly it’s set in rural modern Japan and secondly, rather than the moon being a heavenly body, it’s a whiny pathetic little thing. I tried to write it in that distant mythological voice that seems to appear in all folktales.

In “The Boy Who Made Stars” the moon is a self-pitying semi-solid mass. How did the image of the moon as a school outcast develop?

The moon is universally seen as something mystical and beautiful but I wanted to usurp this. I started thinking about how unique it is, and how being one of a kind isn’t necessarily a boon. Also there are so many tales about how the moon got its craters, the idea just grew that they could be acne scars.

Motoki is friendly, helpful, smart, and fun to be around, yet despite his attempts otherwise, he cannot bring himself to stay near the moon. Do you think there are limits to kindness?

I think definitely there is only so much your mind can accept at one time. The moon was asking him not only to accept its existence as a talking living thing, but to become instant best friends. Motoki is a caring individual, but he also lacked imagination and the moon was something beyond his everyday comprehension. I think we all would like to be kind but in reality there are limits to our ability to empathise.

The junior high school setting lets Motoki interact with the moon as head boy to another student. Did you originally envision “The Boy Who Made Stars” in a junior high school setting? Could you tell us about your writing process?

I was teaching English in Japan at the time so school life was very present and important to me. Also one of the schools was in a very rural area, much like the one in the story. During my time there, I heard and read a lot of folktales and I liked the idea of local history melting into local folklore.I also admired how the students acted as one big family, however it was hard for outsiders to break into this. Once I had set on the idea to make the moon an acne-ridden self-pitying characer, it had to be a teenager really!

Did you enjoy junior high school? How would you describe your junior high school self?

I was a diligent, straight A student in high school (in the UK junior high and high school are merged) who never really thought to question authority or think outside the box. Much like Motoki, I was good, but only by the conventional rules and didn’t know how to deal with things outside of that.

What’s next for you?

I’m still working on converting Asian folktales into modern or urban settings as a series of short stories and also on a novel based across three cities in Asia.

Jennifer Konieczny hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An alumna of Villanova University, she now pursues her doctorate in medieval studies at the University of Toronto. She enjoys working with fourteenth-century latin legal texts, slushing for Fantasy Magazine, and scanning bookshelves for new authors to read.