Sun Yisheng, or the difficulty of finding Chinese detective short fiction

This week we read Sun Yisheng (孫一聖) in my Detective Fiction class using the Nicky Harman’s awesome (if incomplete) translation of “The Shades who Periscope Through Flowers to the Sky.” The title is a reference to the Dylan Thomas poem “When once the twilight locks no longer” and succeeds in imitating the surreal power of that work to forge a double murder crime story of urban China. Harman has written about the difficulties of translating the work elsewhere on WP, but what I found interesting about Sun’s story is the way it turns tiny details into microcosms, as he does, for example, when the protagonist uses a shard of glass from his prison cell to reflect light on a girl who is taking her clothes off in a nearby building: just as he is becoming aroused everything turns dark because a solar eclipse is taking place. Students liked it, I think, but it doesn’t fit so well into the genre of detective story. In a way it’s good that I can’t easily find good examples of this genre from China as it allows me to throw in experimental works like this one. Last time I taught the course it was a Yu Hua story, as I recall(?), but originally I just taught one of Van Gulik’s “Judge Dee” stories, which of course is cheating even though these are based on original Chinese Judge Dee (狄公案) stories. Still, would greatly appreciate recommendations if any of my readers (totally fictional) have any.

Monkeys of Mayhem

In March we saw a big brawl between two rival gangs of monkeys in Lop Buri, Thailand, and then their  final take over of the town. Then, in June, came a life sentence for Kalua, the alcoholic Indian monkey who terrorized  over 250 pedestrians and will be spending the rest of his days in solitary confinement. According to the reports:

Local authorities said Kalua was formerly owned by an “occultist” who routinely supplied him liquor to drink, which turned him into an alcoholic. They said the monkey became very aggressive three years ago when his owner died and left him no avenue to acquire more alcohol.

Can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, and wonder why he didn’t join a monkey gang if he wanted to raise so much hell? The Lop Buri story reminds me of that Strugatsky novel “Doomed City”, where:
Could it be another portent of some kind?


Oobmab and other Weirdnesses

So I found a clean version of Oobmab’s “The Flock of Ba-hui” in (GB) Chinese (「巴虺的牧群」2013). The source is a very interesting Fantasy dojinshi and translation discussion forum called “The Ring of Wonder” (which looks completely different in its mobile format btw). There are many other works of HPL-inspired horror available on their Cthulhu board and, interestingly, the “Cthulhu” board is only one of three subforums of “the  Mirror of Obscurity – 幽暗之镜” category–which also includes subforums “Surreal Lullaby: General Subcultures 异夜咏谣” and “SCP Foundation.” A lot of translations from “CopyPasta” and things like Charles Stross’s Lovecraft-inspired SF “The Laundry Files.” Cha has a detailed review of “Flock,” and this site has a brief one.

Tang Fei in English w/links

Tang Fei (糖匪) is one of the more interesting of the Chinese New Wave SF authors in that her work frequently crosses genres and seems, to this reader at least, to be closer to slipstream fiction than SF.

《黄色故事》”Call Girl” Trans by Ken Liu 2013 @ Apex, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014(Rich Horton ed.)
《蒲蒲》”Pepe” Trans by John Chu 2014 @ Clarkesworld, Apex best of the year reprint Vol 4
《宇宙哀歌》”A Universal Elegy” Trans by John Chu 2015 @ Clarkesworld
《碎星星》”Broken Stars” Trans by Ken Liu 2016 @ SQ
《自由之路》”The Path to Freedom“, Trans by Christine Ni 2016 @ paper-republic
《看见鲸鱼座的人》”The Person Who Saw Cetus” 2017 @ Clarkesworld, and the Chinese version

Wen Yiduo (聞一多, 1899-1946)

This is a pic of poet Wen Yi-duo taken while he was studying art in Chicago in the early-1920s, at approximately the time he was writing his famous collection Red Candle 《紅燭》. As some readers may know, Wen was murdered before the eyes of his son by Kuomintang thugs in 1946. A tragic loss because he was a brilliant poet, an excellent literary scholar, and a gifted illustrator in the Art Deco style. (See below).