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MEETING LITTLE FLOWER
By Liao Hung-Chi
Translated by Eleanor Goodman
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  • Taiwanese Comics: A Reflection of Taiwan’s History (II)
    Nov 10, 2020 / By Chi-An Weng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=110

     

    Unfortunately, in the long term Taiwan’s comic industry has declined over time and the works by these outstanding creators remain no match for the imported Japanese manga. Regardless of whether it was pirated or approved by the authorities, Japanese manga has always made it difficult for Taiwanese comic creators to find a way to exist in the market and forces them to rise and fall with the tide.

    A TEATIME ADVENTURE

    This difficult environment has by no means hampered Taiwanese comic creators’ participation or perseverance. In recent years, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has strongly advocated for a new wave of Taiwanese comics and the developments that have begun to arise are very different from those of the past. The first is that we’re seeing works where Taiwanese history or local customs are a key theme, for example A Teatime Adventure by Kiya Chang, Dutchman in Formosa by Kinono, Scrolls of a Northern City by AKRU, Guardienne by Nownow, and 1661 Koxinga Z by Li Lung-Chieh all show a connection between Taiwanese comics and local history. Another new feature we’re seeing is comics taking a European-style “graphic novel” approach, such as the non-fiction periodical Tropical Monsson, and Son of Formosa which tells the story of a young man who became a political prisoner during the White Terror in Taiwan under martial law. Elsewhere on this front, Pam Pam Liu and Elainee have drawn on their family stories and work experiences in their respective comics Good Friend, Cancer and OT Diary. For the Time Being by Chen Pei-Hsiu and Sometimes in the City by 61Chi both employ the slightly experimental methods displayed by a new generation of young creators. Finally, we’re starting to see all kinds of boundary-crossing collaborations. In the same way that previously comics would collaborate with the film and theatre industries on series adaptations, we are now starting to see more engagement between comics and novels. For example, Ruan Guang-Min and Sean Chuang’s illustrated adaptation of Wu Ming-Yi’s novel The Illusionist on the Skywalk really showcased the strengths of both Taiwan’s literature and its comics.

    1661 KOXINGA Z

    For every move made by the Taiwanese comic industry you can find a parallel step in Taiwan’s political and economic development, whether it be the shift from foreign imports to locally produced comics, the industry’s striving for rebirth after authoritarian oppression, or the many new possibilities generated despite the testing external environment. This is by no means a coincidence but rather that in the face of any kind of challenge, Taiwan’s national resilience leads it to meet worsening setbacks with increasing bravery. We look forward to seeing this strong force come into play as both Taiwan and Taiwanese comics shine even more brightly on the world stage.  

    SOMETIMES IN THE CITY

  • Taiwanese Comics: A Reflection of Taiwan’s History (I)
    Nov 10, 2020 / By Chi-An Weng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    The highs and lows of Taiwanese comics can be seen as a microcosm of the island’s history. As is the case with many cultural aspects, Taiwan’s first encounter with comics occurred while it was under Japanese colonial rule. The Taiwan Daily News had a column dedicated to comics which introduced politically satirical cartoons and story-based comics by Japanese cartoonists. It was beloved by the people and gradually nurtured home-grown satirical cartoonists like Mr. Keelong(雞籠生). In addition, young people in Taiwan began to organise their own groups and take distance courses on Japanese manga which planted an important seed in the future development of Taiwanese comics.    

     

    After 1949, when the government of the Republic of China came to Taiwan they brought cartoonists from Mainland China who produced a lot of official illustrations relating to “Anti-Communist and Anti-Russian Aggression” that were a part of the government’s patriotic propaganda campaign. The seed that had been planted among Taiwanese creators under Japanese colonial rule gradually began to grow after the Second World War. Children’s magazines and illustrated periodicals were produced by the people rather than the government and key wuxia comics like Yeh Hong-Jia’s(葉宏甲) Jhuge Shiro made the leap from serialisation to stand-alone volumes and experienced unprecedented commercial success, ushering in the first golden age of Taiwanese comics.   

     

    However, the tension that arose between the patriotic comics produced by the government and the  popular, commercially-successful comics reflected the difference between those who ruled by martial law and the masses who had their own political imaginations and needs. In 1966, Taiwanese comics were hit with a new censorship system requiring all comics to be sent for review and any elements which may “impair the physical or mental wellbeing of children or adolescents” would be removed. Ironically, when the system was introduced it caused local Taiwanese comics to die out and when the principal players were faced with a withering, desolate market they ended up tacitly introducing pirated Japanese works. The dominance of Japanese manga in terms of both quality and quantity together with the low cost of manufacturing pirated works completely changed the landscape of the comics industry in Taiwan. From that point onwards, as far as most Taiwanese people were concerned  the term “comic” made them think of Japanese manga, and comic fans tended to know a lot of Japanese cartoonists inside out but would find it difficult to name a single Taiwanese comic creator.

     

    The central government’s cultural control could never completely suppress the people’s desire for freedom. When the authoritarian control gradually loosened in the 1980s, local Taiwanese comic creators managed to slip through the cracks and find opportunities to shine, Ao You-Hsiang’s(敖幼祥) wuxia series The Wulongyuan appeared, as did Tsai Chih Chung’s(蔡志忠) comic book adaptations of traditional Chinese classics. When Taiwanese martial law was lifted in 1987 after 38 years, Taiwan’s long-suppressed creativity achieved total liberation which prompted a second golden age of comics to arise during the 1990s when creators with many different styles appeared. For example, Richard Metson took an American approach to comics in The Black Book and Wizard and Brat, while in Nine Lives Man and Balezo Push(阿推) experimented with Jean Giraud’s style of science fiction. This range of different themes and illustration styles is a demonstration of the artists’ explosive creativity. Among these creators, perhaps the most dazzling was Chen Uen, who filled his works with traditional ink paintings and reinterpreted the narrative and art of comics. His works have sold at extremely high prices both at home and abroad.

    LEGENDS OF ASSASSINS by Chen Uen

     

    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=111

  • Translating Taiwanese Science Fiction: Past and Present (II)
    Nov 09, 2020 / By Bernie Yang ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: Translating Taiwanese Science Fiction: Past and Present (I)

    In terms of foreign translations of Taiwanese science fiction, the number of translated works remains relatively low and they only tend to be discussed in an academic context. This means it isn’t a market-driven genre so most of the perspectives on it tend to come from within academia and it’s hard for science fiction translators to emerge. For example, take two of the Taiwanese sci-fi translations currently available in English: The City Trilogy by Chang Hsi-kuo and Zero and Other Fictions by Huang Fan. Both are published by Columbia University Press which has a long history of publishing anthologies of Taiwanese literature and were translated by John Balcom who has a close relationship with Taipei Chinese PEN and is also a long-time translator and advocate of Taiwanese literature. Translating works and introducing them to foreign readers generally tends to be quite sporadic and is often out of touch with the mainstream market. 

     

    However, it is worth mentioning that the recent rapid developments in Chinese science fiction prompted renowned sci-fi research scholar Mingwei Song(宋明煒) to edit The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chinese Science Fiction for Columbia University Press in 2018. The anthology included excerpts from works by two Taiwanese authors: a chapter of Daughter by Lou Yi-Chun titled “Science Fiction”, and chapters 5-7 of The Dream Devourer by Egoyan Zheng. Their respective styles definitely stood out among the crowd of Chinese writers.

     

    As well as supporters in academia, another important promoter of Taiwanese science fiction in recent years has been the French translator of The Three-Body Problem, Gwennaël Gaffric, who has translated many works including Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes, The Illusionist on the Skywalk and Routes in the Dream, as well as War of the Bubbles by Kao Yi-Feng and Membrane by Chi Ta-wei, and in the process he has introduced each work to a French readership.    

    The Illusionist on the Skywalk

    Publishing mediums have also changed dramatically following rapid technological developments in recent years. Taiwanese science fiction has taken advantage of the popularity of e-books and even audiobooks. For example, in 2018 Chang Hsi-kuo’s short story collection Ten Billion Names of the Devil was published first as an e-book and the English edition, also in e-book, will be available online imminently. Isaac Hsu’s long-awaited novel Skin Deep will also be published first in e-book, proving that science fiction writers are staying at the forefront of the times.

     

    While the recent expansion of Taiwanese science fiction overseas might to a certain extent be due to the surging popularity of Chinese sci-fi, what is clear from the examples outlined above is that for Taiwan the genre has developed in a way that encourages considerable diversity, with mainstream writers and sci-fi authors alike consistently publishing works of a high standard. It’s hoped that by including Green Monkey Syndrome by Andrew Yeh and The Puppet’s Tears and Other Stories by Isaac Hsu in the selections here at Books from Taiwan, more readers will get a glimpse of Taiwan’s golden age of science fiction which in turn will promote further translations and development. By reading these classics and considering them in the context of current developments, readers can gain a deep understanding of science fiction’s timeless charm as a genre.