Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog

Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog looks at the broad range of issues encountered by me as a novelist working in the Chinese wuxia (heroic fiction) genre. I have, however, a very broad background and this blog will not narrowly focus on one genre of literature, rather I will consider books, movies, and ideas that relate to my life as a writer. For more information about my background please visit my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com or www.facebook.com/WuxiaNovelist

Location: United States

Check out my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com for everything you could ever want to know about me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Out of the Fog?

Well that was quite an interesting fog. We get them like that up here at the Dragon Gate Inn when fall transitions into winter, and in the spring and summer…it’s a nice place, here in the jianghu.

Following that random thought about the nature of historical fantasy, I was going to write about my attitudes toward writing in this genre. As you probably know by now my academic background was fairly extensive in the field of history and that I turned from it, not completely but far enough that neither I nor my former colleagues would consider me a practicing historian.

That’s okay because I’m not, I’m a storyteller. Yet, so are historians. Then the difference must be in either the stories we tell or, perhaps, in how we tell them. Historians base their “stories” on “reality.” Obvious problems there – our old friend Zhuangzi had a field day with such ideas and definitions.

Perhaps, it’s better that I just write about what I think I’m doing and let you all decide for yourselves how I relate, if at all, to the historical side of this “historical fantasy” equation.

The key to understanding my approach lies in the “Author’s Statement” found in the front matter of my novel, Dream of the Dragon Pool – A Daoist Quest. It reads:

The adventure you are about to embark on is based upon an 8th century Chinese understanding of reality, while many of the characters, incidents, and locations in the story appear in Chinese historical records, some are yet to be discovered, and others may never be. It is up to you to decide if any of this matters.

There are two main points here: 1. the story is based on “an 8th century Chinese understanding of reality.” 2. “It is up to you to decide if any of this matters.”

When I’m writing my medieval China stories, I try to write from a medieval Chinese understanding of reality. There’s a well known axiom in historical research that people act upon what they perceive/believe to be real, not what necessarily is factual. The medieval Chinese believed in the existence of dragons, all kinds of dragons including the Blood Dragon that you will meet in my novel. They also believed in the existence of ghosts, of swordsmen, and shamanesses with great skills and powers. Their world was different from ours and when their beliefs cross into areas that we have decided are purely imaginary, we call those worlds “fantasy.” So for the general public, this type of story would be “historical fantasy” – a “make believe” world based in some historical time and place.

Yet, I wonder which world is more “make believe” – a world where people make up definitions, like “historical fantasy” or “history,” and don’t realize that these definitions are subjective, yet deem them “real” – or, a world where people believe reality can take on many different forms and existences and act accordingly? But I’m not here to make judgments. I’m just trying to explain my way of writing “historical fantasy.”

So, back to the point, I try to represent the world as the people of the place and time I’m writing about understood it – and I guess that’s the historian part of me. I try to take their perspective on how that world works and tell stories about it – and that’s the storytelling part of me.

And here’s where the second point is relevant: it is you, the reader, who decides if this works or not. And a step further, if this presentation, this story speaks to you in any way or not.

It took me many years to discover that as Picasso said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” Yet, Zhuangzi would find the idea of “realizing the truth” rather amusing.

In the next blog, I will write about an amazing Japanese anime film that I just saw. I want to see it again before I attempt to write about it.


The Innkeeper


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