Aragorn, Shane, Decker, Aubrey, & Li Bo ???
The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly (Oct.12, 2007) has a striking picture of Gollum with the title "Return of the Ring?" Inside is an interesting article about the possible settlement of a rift between Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema, the film company that brought us the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What was most interesting for me, however, was thinking about the definition I left you for the wuxia genre. What does Tolkien's epic tale have in common with that genre? I see it as a Western wuxia story. Then I wondered, what else can fit into this "commodious vessel" of the wuxia genre?
The American Western, for example, is an obvious choice. Characters like Shane, many of John Wayne's cowboy characters, Gary Cooper's High Noon character, and the lineage is brought up to date with Unforgiven and possibly 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James (I say possibly because I haven't seen them yet, only read about them) are all heroic characters. As a heroic fiction genre writer, the Western is an American wuxia form, with the gunslinger paralleling my "swordslinger" wandering blades (youxia - labeling the swordsmen and women of Chinese wuxia as "knights-errant" is a misnomer and I never use that term in referring to the Chinese tradition).
Further, I understand some science fiction movies such as Blade Runner as wuxia, and I'm sure you can name others. And at the far end of a wuxia spectrum, I place one of my favorite action/adventure/historical fiction authors, Patrick O'Brian with his Aubrey-Maturin epic series of historical fiction set in a very historically accurate Napoleonic naval war era; the movie Master and Commander:The Far Side of the World was based on two novels from that series.
On my wuxia spectrum, I move from "sheer fantasy" with Tolkien and the Science Fiction folks to "sheer history" with O'Brian. The Westerns are somewhere in the middle dealing in an idealized "wild West," though probably less so with Unforgiven. And the middle is where my work goes, as my novel, Dream of the Dragon Pool, is set in a historical Tang dynasty, but overlaid with a "fantasy" story about a real historical character, Li Bo, the great Chinese poet-adventurer.
For me as a writer what these stories obviously have in common is their emphasis on the hero and heroic action. And perhaps less obviously, the setting or place where these actions take place. Across this spectrum of "heroic fiction" there is a common setting - the world of the hero. For Tolkien it is Middle Earth, for the Western the "wild West," for me the early Tang dynasty, for O'Brian the geography, technology, and culture of early 19th century European naval warfare.
In a sense, each of us have our "special worlds." And for traditional wuxia that special world is known as the jianghu, literally "rivers and lakes," but figuratively, it is the setting for wuxia adventure.
In the next blog, I will give you my definition of the jianghu, and we can see how it compares to the settings of these other forms of heroic fiction.