Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New Year, New Blog

"A Writer writes ... always."

This quote comes from my favorite movie about writers block - Throw Momma From the Train starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.

It also acts as my mantra pushing me forward as I begin my adventures in imaginative fiction that should have begun a lifetime ago.

So, what do I plan to write? Well, the short answer to this is: Asian Fiction - fiction with Asian protagonists, settings and themes.

Why Asian fiction? Well, it's the niche I am interested in and don't see much on bookstore shelves. Really. Especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It's out there, but it is pretty hard to find. Look at some of the links for some of the authors I have read. Most of them are mysteries and a few are horror. Only a couple of them are fantasy. Some authors not even listed aren't even being published any more.

I noticed this trend in the 1980's when Dungeon's and Dragons was my Role Playing Game (RPG) of choice (you can throw the geek references at me here). Back then, there weren't many Asian themed RPG's and the majority were about Japan. And, I think it goes without saying, all of them were written by non-Asians. So when the Oriental Adventures supplement came out I lapped up each page as if I was learning long lost truths about my heritage. What opened my eyes was discovering how many inaccuracies, untruths and clichés riddled its complex text.

Then, I began noticing that there were next to zero fiction books with Asian themes on the bookshelves of major bookstores either. I suddenly had a need to find out about my own culture and I had very few resources to utilize to start looking.

You should know that I am half Chinese, half Japanese and all Canadian, so I know what growing up Asian-Canadian is all about. I still remember those Asian influences in my childhood. I remember going to my uncle's place in High Park and hearing kabuki music lilting from his record player. I remember eating sushi at an early age (and wondering what all the fuss was about when it became popular in the 1980's - after all I had been consuming it since the 1960's). I remember devouring my Uncle Jack's authentic Chinese meals which included fresh steamed fish with ginger, green onions and soy sauce. He cooked the fish in a wok and would pour hot oil over top of the fish to crisp the skin sending aromatic smells wafting throughout the house. I also remember ancestral shrines, Buddhist funerals and the odd red envelope filled with money on Chinese New Year.

But I hadn't learned much about Asian history. I knew a little. I knew about the Japanese internment in World War II, but my parents didn't discuss this much. And what about Chinese and Japanese history? The school curriculum didn't add much to my knowledge either. Everything I have learned about history I've learned on my own.

So I began my cultural exploration by seeking out books and RPG's with Asian characters, settings or themes. RPG's began changing as tastes changed. Things really took off when Asian cinema began to cross the Pacific and gain a foothold in mainstream movie theatres. Games such as Feng Shui and Legend of the Five Rings were published and became cult hits. Sure, they were still mostly inaccurate and cliché versions of Asia as seen through western-coloured glasses, but they were more accessible and a starting point to introduce people to Asian culture and history. So, I narrowed my focus in RPG's and began specializing in only running RPG's with an Asian focus.

As for books, slowly Asian fiction and even some Asian authors began appearing on bookstore shelves. As these books became more available, the internet and internet book sellers such as Amazon made finding the more obscure ones easier and less expensive and I was able to enjoy many excellent authors that may forever remain as niche writers.

By 2000, I had begun dabbling in writing, and what I wanted to write was what I had been seeking and reading about for over 15 years, Asian fiction.

So what can a Canadian-born descendent of Chinese/Japanese parents contribute? The area of Imaginative Genre Fiction such as Fantasy and Science Fiction remains relatively untapped and it is there I plan to stake my writing claim. Asian-style fiction can be just as fantastic as contemporary western fantasy. It has shape shifting foxes, horrendous demons, faceless apparitions, majestic dragons and spirit-talking shamans not to mention the odd talking monkey on a quest for enlightenment.

But as a Canadian-born descendent of Chinese/Japanese parents, I have a very different voice than those who might have been born, raised or lived in Asia. I have been raised in an Asian environment, tempered and formed by western ideas and sensibilities. Even my travel’s to these lands is limited. My voice, although my own, can only be an echo of an Asia that lives in my imagination. In those worlds, I have visited at length and never truly left.

2 comments:

cenobyte said...

Go hard, man. Writing every day (or at least, regularly) at the very least 'primes the pump', or so the story goes. There is a wonderful publisher of speculative fiction/sci-fi/fantasy right in your back yard, when you're ready, and they produce an anthology of new Canadian spec/sci-fi on a regular basis.

If you don't mind, I'll be reading you.

Cheers!

Xiaolung said...

No problem. Always nice to see comments from a friendly face.