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Interview: Corey Flintoff on “Interlude in Arcadia”

Tell us a bit about “Interlude in Arcadia.”

It’s a story that combines elements of Greek mythology with the #MeToo movement. A classics professor encounters a naked girl on the street on a chilly October day. Her appearance leads to the revelation of his own secret. Before the story is over, he’s reminded, quite forcefully, that one person’s myth is another’s religion.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

That first scene, the middle-aged man meeting the naked girl, came to me first. I decided I had to figure out who she was and why she was there. Eventually I realized that the story was really about the man, who he was and why he was there. Once I understood his secret, the ending came pretty quickly.


Corey FlintoffWas “Interlude in Arcadia” personal to you in any way?  If so, how? 

I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology and especially the way it’s portrayed in ancient art, like the red- and black-figured paintings on pottery, or carvings on pediments and gravestones. Great “mythologies” contain all the foundation stories of every culture, and we as modern writers are really just chasing newer versions of those stories. Sci-fi and fantasy writers owe a lot to that foundation.

Besides, I was once on track to becoming an academic myself. Luckily, I realized just in time that I was unsuited to the discipline and that I would have been terrible at it.


Can you tell us anything about your writing process for this story?

I tried writing this as a literary flash fiction, but it went nowhere. It wasn’t until I opened my imagination to the fantasy possibilities of the story that I began to grasp the psychology of my main character.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

I have lots of influences, but right now I’m going to name the wonderful English writers John Collier and Joan Aiken. I read the short stories in Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights over and over as a kid, and I was especially fond of the stories in which devils and demons go about their business in modern times. I came upon Joan Aiken’s work much later, but I love her humor, her style and the erudition behind her tales.


What are you working on now?

I’m working on a rather brutal fairy tale, and a story of children (not a children’s story) and witchery. I’m also circulating a story that takes place during the war in Libya and a non-fiction essay about a friendly-fire incident in Iraq.


“Interlude in Arcadia” appears in the January/February 2020 issue of F&SF.

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