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  • Bearing the Burdens of History (II)
    Apr 12, 2021 / By Chen Yen-Chen ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=125

    Under the vicissitudes of colonization and cultural assimilation, Salizan’s Bunun ancestors, proud hunters and stewards of the forest, so well-versed in the wisdom of the head strap, became laborers serving at the whims of others, and the head strap became the tool that sped the demise of their culture. For, after subduing the Bunun people, the Japanese colonial regime relocated them out of the mountain highlands and forced them to work as coolies, a move that cut off the tribe from their ancestral lands. Mr. Lin Yuan-Yuan, a Bunun elder, told Salizan a grisly tale on one of their expeditions into the mountains: “There was an Isbukun Bunun named Vilan who was also (forced into) carrying Chinese juniper wood. His family was from Mashisan. He borrowed a rifle from the Japanese to go hunting. He took it to the old family home and shot himself because he wanted to die in the same house as his parents.”

    Salizan Takisvilainan

    In “Monuments of Sorrow” Salizan tells how the way of life of the tribes people was transformed by the roads, residences, and schools built by the Japanese as they pushed their way into the mountain highlands, with all the force of empire behind them. As their territory shrank, the Bunun people were forced into labor, exploited. In battle after battle, conflict after conflict, the blood of the Bunun people was spilled, soaking the earth, but the memorials that were built invariably celebrated the Japanese invaders. The only legacies left to the natives who died defending their land were criminal records. In “Trail of Tears” readers are guided through the reconstruction of a stone house. Through the careful stacking of the stone flags, a process requiring almost reverential patience, the ruins of an old home are gradually restored, along with the vanishing construction techniques of the Bunun people.

     

    According to Salizan, his direct ancestors were relocated from the mountain highlands at 2000 meters down to a new settlement at 300 meters. He has already gathered a mountain of documentary evidence and oral accounts of this event. In time he will collate and organize these materials, and write the story of his own family’s upheaval from their ancestral lands.

     

    I stand atop the summit;

    From my tribal culture, I face these ranges.

    Let me and the land of my ancestors once more produce new meaning.

    - Salizan Takisvilainan “Homeland, Village, Person”

  • Bearing the Burdens of History (I)
    Apr 12, 2021 / By Chen Yen-Chen ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    We are told that during the Age of Discovery, as the Portuguese explorers sailed past Taiwan for the first time, they cried out in astonishment, “Ilha formosa!” (“Beautiful island!”). Indeed, Taiwan is a rich and fertile land, blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna. Its geography is diverse, its landscape both pleasing and well-suited for human inhabitation. Although research now suggests that first people to call this island Formosa were likely Spanish colonists, the story of the Portuguese explorers has long since become a touchstone of pride for all Taiwanese, and a powerful echo of the reverence that binds its aboriginal people to the island, their spiritual mother.

     

    Taiwan and much of Latin America occupy parallel histories: colonization by the Spanish; periods of dictatorial rule followed by struggles for independence. Over the course of history, control of Taiwan has successively passed from the aboriginal inhabitants to the Dutch, to the Spaniards, to the Tungning Kingdom (the Ming successor state established by Koxinga), to the Qing Dynasty, to Imperial Japan, to the Kuomintang, before finally flowering under modern democracy. Alongside this intermingling of cultures and bloodlines, Taiwan’s literature has developed into the variegated display of forms we see today. Yet, because they originally had no written language to record their stories, the literature of Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples has only gradually, through the tireless labor of dedicated individuals, gained belated recognition.

     

    For Salizan Takisvilainan, a young poet of the Bunun people who left his tribal lands to pursue an education but eventually returned, drawn by the deep love of his native culture, the barriers to cultural preservation presented by the lack of a written language are all too real. To better grapple with these challenges, he established Millet String Publishing House, an independent publisher based in Nakahila Village, Jhuosi Township, Hualien County. A laborer of language, a bearer of words, Salizan uses the Latin alphabet to phonetically record the stories of village elders, and prepares them for native-language publication. So far, he has produced A Simple Dictionary of the Takbanuaz Dialect of the Bunun Language, An Oral Account of the Kasibanan Incident, and Mipakaliva: Age of Legend – Myths of the Bunun People of Jhuosi Township. Concurrent with his publishing work, Salizan has worked as a mountain guide and porter, and undertook the writing of Moving Mountains: A Tale of Rangers and Porters.

     

    After completing his obligatory military service, Salizan began following tribal elders into the mountains, where, over the next ten-plus years, he gathered materials for the Moving Mountains: A Tale of Rangers and Porters, three pieces of reportage comprising his personal experiences supplemented by a plethora of practical field studies. The eponymous first essay deals with heads straps, the indispensable tools of transport of his ancestors – woven headbands from which a large basket was suspended, allowing one to bear weight with the head and neck, while the basket rests against the back. In earlier times, head straps allowed Bunun tribesman to carry quarry home after a hunt, or to transport the large stone flags needed to build stone houses.

    Moving Mountains: A Tale of Rangers and Porters

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=126

  • Chopsticks, Batons, and Authorial Acrobatics: A Collaboration Between Editor and Writers (II)
    Apr 12, 2021 / By Kaiting Chan (Editor of Chopsticks) ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=123

    We hoped readers would sense subtle connections linking the three stories based on the prompts alone, and then the last two stories could surprise readers by creating a more coherent whole. The idea of “passing the baton” to the next writer became another critical step in the book’s development. Although the collaborative framework of the book would be laid out there on the book jacket, we hoped the experience of reading the linked stories would far surpass the mere explication. For Xiao Xiang Shen, the author of “The Dream of the Crocodile”, this wasn’t his first time receiving the baton from another writer. He had already proved himself writing in the relay race format, which is why we assigned him the fourth story. The first three stories were a superstitious tale of horror, a suspense story laced with romance, and a mystery fusing a tale of detection with elements of social realism. With the fourth story, Xiao Xiang Shen expanded the blueprint of the book by writing from an almost sociological perspective, addressing the culture of chopsticks, and the difficulties faced by young women in contemporary Asian society. While surprising, “The Dream of the Crocodile” provided a satisfying conclusion, which only increased the difficulty of the challenge faced by the fifth writer. Now that the string of chopsticks-related incidents had reached a perfect conclusion, what was Chan Ho-Kei to write about?

    Xiao Xiang Shen

    I consider this the final miracle of the book, a miracle woven by five writers. This isn’t just a collaboration between writers. It is an acrobatic competition with five performers on the same stage, all attempting to outdo each other. In addition to addressing the themes assigned by the editorial team, each is throwing down the gauntlet to the writers that follow. “What materials are you going to harvest from my story? Are you going to tie up the loose ends?” Or perhaps, “Will you notice the little mysteries I left unsolved?” The last two writers are the wide receivers, catching the compositional elements and foreshadowing thrown to them by the first three, possibly even picking up a fumble or two. They are expanding the scope of the book, while, at the same time, stitching its pieces together and cleaning up loose threads. Even more astounding is the fact that none of the writers were acquainted with each other before beginning the book. All they had in common was that they were all mystery writers. The synchronicities that emerge between the writers’ stories is a product of their passion, spirit, and professionalism.

    Chan Ho-Kei

    I’m not confident we could actually pull off another miracle like this one. Just getting authors interested in this kind of collaboration is rare and wonderful enough, like spotting a shooting star at night. After coming up with the basic themes, Xerses, JeTauZi, and I invited Chan Ho-Kei to join us. He immediately began advocating that “good stories know no borders”, which set us on the path of inviting a Japanese writer to join the project, giving form to our transnational concept. Mitsuda Shinzo, a talented writer of supernatural stories, is held in high regard by Taiwanese readers. When it came time to write the final story, Chan Ho-Kei was assisted by a timeline of the events of the previous four stories drawn up by Xiao Xiang Shen, which helped him to locate points where he could weave the threads of the stories together. Nearly every stage of this book would have proved impossible but for the experience and quality of the other writers on the team. Everything about this rare and unique process of creation exceeded our imagining, except, perhaps, for the cliché that once good writers get started, they can’t put down their pens—every story ended up running over our assigned word counts!

     

    Chopsticks is an unexpected success of a book, with its imagination-defying plot and rarely-seen literary pyrotechnics. Combining horror, mystery, fantasy, romance, and science fiction, all built on a foundation of chopstick lore, the book illustrates the cultural commonalities and differences between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. Simultaneously, the interactions between these five masters of fiction reveals the unique literary characteristics of each region. One book, five stories, rife with ingenious plotting, stunning authorial acrobatics, and a thick atmosphere of mystery and horror distilled from one of the most familiar objects in East Asian culture. We simply cannot wait for these literary pleasures to be enjoyed by book lovers from around the world.

  • Chopsticks, Batons, and Authorial Acrobatics: A Collaboration Between Editor and Writers (I)
    Apr 12, 2021 / By Kaiting Chan (Editor of CHOPSTICKS) ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Chopsticks has been a long journey, one which has yet to reach its end. As the first original book from Apex Press, it has sold surprisingly well in the Taiwan market, receiving rave reviews from readers and critics alike. The tailwinds have held strong, and with the help of numerous people, the book will soon be available to readers in South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. At this point Chopsticks has taken on a life of its own, one never envisioned by the editor and publisher. It’s the fans who are now opening new horizons for the book.

    Chopsticks

    Combining the talents of writers Mitsuda Shinzo, Xerses, JeTauZi, Xiao Xiang Shen, and Chan Ho-Kei, the structure of Chopsticks is part collaborative creation, part relay race. The first three authors wrote stories based on two prompts: “an urban legend concerning chopsticks” and “a person with a fish-shaped birthmark on their arm”. The latter two picked up the baton where the ones before them left off, writing additional stories to help tie all of the pieces together into a coherent whole.

    Mitsuda Shinzo

    In “Lord Chopsticks”, the first of the three vanguard stories, a Japanese middle school student performs a forbidden ritual by sticking a pair of bamboo chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, thus mimicking a funerary rite. This act summons Lord Chopsticks to grant the student’s wish, but he must pay by becoming prey to a monster that will hunt him through his dreams. The second tale, “The Coral Bones”, is about a young woman who beseeches a Taoist priest with a fish-shaped birthmark on his hand to locate a missing chopstick. Possessed by a spirit known as Immortal Wang, the chopsticks once brought good luck, but decades ago, after one of the pair disappeared, the remaining chopstick has only brought misfortune. “The Cursed Net” is based on a popular urban legend about Bride’s Pool in Hong Kong. According to the legend, if a ritual meal for the dead is placed at the edge of the pool, a ghost bride will appear to take vengeance on behalf of the supplicant. In the story, a young internet star is assisted by the ghost bride in solving the case of her boyfriend’s death during a livestream broadcast. “The Dream of the Crocodile”, links together the first three tales with the story of a father who will stop at nothing to save his son from the curse of Lord Chopsticks. His unflagging determination leads him to the ruins of a flooded school at the bottom of a reservoir, where yet another mystery is revealed. The final story, a sci-fi romance/adventure, completely defies expectations, carrying forward the suspense of the previous four while developing novel linkages between them.

    Xerses

    Looking back it is clear that arriving at the theme of “chopsticks” was the first critical step in the book’s development. The process of selecting the theme was fairly straightforward. We just felt out different ideas, one at a time. To facilitate discussions we created a group on Facebook with Xerses and JeTauZi. Each day we tossed around ideas, looking for areas of commonality between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. We considered some heavier topics like cram schools or death by overwork, and more general themes, like “the sea”. After turning things over for a while, in a flash of inspiration, JeTauZi came up with “chopsticks”. It struck us as strange at first, but the more we thought about it the more intriguing it sounded. Chopsticks are simple utensils, but each region has its own taboos, myths, and legends around them. It seemed worthwhile to challenge ourselves to create a sense of horror surrounding an ordinary, commonplace object. From chopsticks we free-associated our way to “fish”. Adding the essential element of a person led us to “a person with a fish-shaped birthmark on their arm.”

    JeTauZi

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=124

  • Taiwan’s History Through an Ordinary Life: An Interview with the Author and the Illustrator Behind SON OF FORMOSA (II)
    Jan 26, 2021 / By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=118

     

    Images Reveal the Feelings Beyond Words

    Zhou Jianxin’s ample experience illustrating picture books informs his creative approach to this long-awaited challenge: his first full-length graphic novel. He explains that graphic novels are usually fast paced, narrating a complete event within the space of a page. But Mr. Tsai’s story contained emotional tones that needed to slowly steep before their impact could be fully felt, such as the homesickness, melancholy, and cherished ideals that are conveyed by the aforementioned songs. At these moments, Zhou Jianxin uses the full-page and multi-page spreads so common in picture books to create a sense of stillness, slowing time within the progression of images to allow for sustained emotional development.

     

     

    The well-thought out variations in color scheme and illustration techniques used in each volume are another highlight of these books. In the first volume Mr. Tsai’s childhood memories are represented by unfussy sketches touched up with pink watercolor for skin tones, a color which also symbolically hints at the red of the Japanese imperial flag. The second volume digitally emulates the relatively stiff forms of ink woodblocks to bring out the dreariness of internment, only introducing color upon Mr. Tsai’s release as he is greeted by the sight of the blue sky and ocean. The third volume, in which Mr. Tsai founds a children’s magazine, Prince, echoes Japanese manga in its use of effect lines and screen tones, accentuating the retro vibe with its maize and maroon palette. The artwork of the as-yet-unreleased fourth volume utilizes modern illustration techniques paired with bright orange accents for a more contemporary feel. By laying out a comprehensive and precise design plan for the entire series, Zhou Jianxin hoped to better convey the passage through the phases of Mr. Tsai’s life. His intent is to use “lines to convey feelings, technique to convey the era”.

     

    Because Son of Formosa is based on the life of a living individual, the creators were both nervous and excited to pass their drafts to Mr. Tsai for review. “Only he could discover those details which we knew nothing about,” Zhou Jianxin says with a laugh. Mr. Tsai’s personal feedback led to the incorporation of additional details for readers to enjoy, like the carved floral ornamentation on the table in his childhood home, and the stage from which the Japanese officers announce the end of the war. “This wasn’t a story we invented on our own. We were concerned about how we represented this living person, and wanted to minimize mistakes.” From the beginning, Zhou Jianxin felt a deep calling to faithfully depict Tsai Kun-lin’s life.

     

     

    Reading as a Personal Experience of Collective Memory

    At the end of the interview the conversation turns to Son of Formosa’s potential in foreign markets. Yu Peiyun is forthright in her insistence that comic books and graphic novels are a gentle medium, free from the stimulating lights and sounds of high-tech entertainment. Readers can choose a solitary moment to quietly digest a work, giving space for emotional currents to be drawn out in their own time. This kind of reading experience is cherished around the world, allowing comic books and graphic novels to easily cross borders.

     

    While the story of Son of Formosa is a microcosm of Taiwan’s journey through the modern era, from colonization, to totalitarianism, to democracy, these elements of collective memory are not exclusive to Taiwan’s people. They are greater than the history of a single nation. “To international readers,” Yu Peiyun reflects, “Taiwan may seem like a far-away place, but possibly their own country, or neighboring countries, have a similar history. These feelings are something we hold in common.” The potential of Son of Formosa is not only to provide international readers a window on Taiwan. More importantly, it will resonate with ordinary people in all countries who feel caught up in the great tides of history. 

  • Taiwan’s History Through an Ordinary Life: An Interview with the Author and the Illustrator Behind SON OF FORMOSA (I)
    Jan 26, 2021 / By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Son of Formosa, the first graphic novel series from Slowork Publishing, depicts the milestones of Taiwan’s modern history seen through the life story of Mr. Tsai Kun-lin. Within its pages, readers witness the shifting panorama of the eras of Japanese colonization, post-war retrocession, the White Terror, the lifting of martial law, and the coming of democracy. Combining the spare but powerful text of author Yu Peiyun and the sensitive artwork of Zhou Jianxin, the four volume series is more than the story of one man – it is a vessel for the memories of an entire generation of Taiwanese.

     

      

     

    An Ordinary Life: History in Miniature

    Author Yu Peiyun laid eyes on Mr. Tsai Kun-lin for the first time in 2016. At the time she was assisting with an exhibition of writings by victims of the White Terror being held at National Taitung University, and Mr. Tsai attended the opening as an honored guest. The man Yu Peiyun witnessed that night was spry, radiant with energy, at once modest and warmly engaging. Having some understanding of his life experiences, she couldn’t help but wonder, “How could someone who had endured so much give the impression of such warmth and wisdom? Coming into contact with him was refreshing, as if he had the heart of an innocent child.” As she listened to him sharing his memories, the impulse kept welling up inside her to record the story of his life.

     

    (from left to right) Yu Peiyun, Tsai Kun-lin, and Zhou Jianxin

     

    As both a scholar and author of children’s books, Yu Peiyun had discovered that most of the children’s literature available in Taiwan came from overseas. “But we have such rich history and stories of our own,” she relates, “They should be written down.” For this reason she decided to collaborate with Slowork Publishing to produce a book focused on Taiwan: a detailed life history of Mr. Tsai Kun-lin that would serve as a portrait of an era in miniature.

     

    Sleuthing for Source Materials: Piecing Together Taiwan’s Unique History

    A work of historical biography cannot be undertaken without first gathering a rich array of source materials. Mr. Tsai had already published a personal memoir, so Yu Peiyun focused on researching details of everyday life that she could write into the story in hopes of striking a chord with readers. One such detail appears in the second volume, as political prisoners are moved to Green Island for internment. Upon seeing the prisoners, the local inhabitants are shocked. “They’re so pale. They look like white woodlice,” they say, comparing the malnourished prisoners to the thin-limbed crustaceans that inhabit the island. In confusion they ask, “They’re all people? Why were we told they were apes (sing-sing)?” The island’s inhabitants had been told that “new students (sin-sing)” would be arriving, a euphemism for prisoners which is also a near-homophone for apes in Mandarin. Humorous details such as these come directly from Yu Peiyun’s research, and were incorporated to more accurately recreate the atmosphere of the times. Yu Peiyun jokes that her research was a bit like solving a historical mystery. Since Mr. Tsai couldn’t possibly provide all of the details to recreate an entire era, it was left her to track down the missing pieces of the puzzle. Fortunately, Yu Peiyun relishes detective work.

     

     

    In addition to finding historical information to weave into this moving tale, Yu Peiyun put a great deal of thought into the presentation of the story. The title, Son of Formosa (Child of Qingshui District in Chinese) indicates how she differentiates her approach from that of conventional memoirs covering this period of history. She hopes to clear away the clouds of misery and suffering associated with the era, erasing the usual labels, and instead convey that same impression of purity she had on first meeting Mr. Tsai. Although he had lived through political and national upheavals, in the end he was still that innocent child of Qingshui District–a son of Formosa.

     

    A number of period songs also appear in the books. Yu Peiyun relates that Mr. Tsai is a music lover with a fine singing voice, for whom music has an almost redemptive power. Inserting interludes of song into the story highlights this aspect of his character, showing readers how his singing restored his spirits in times of hopelessness and kept the taste of freedom alive in his heart through the darkest years of his imprisonment.

     

    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=119

  • A Man with Nine Lives: An Interview with the Author of NINE LIVES MAN: TIME'S WHEEL (II)
    Jan 26, 2021 / By Bernie Yang ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=116

     

    Sharp-eyed readers may notice a number of Easter eggs planted throughout the comic that have real world correspondences. The publication dates of the series echo the dates of events in the fictional timeline or publication dates of fictional books in the story. These carefully scripted links help create the surreal sense of the interpenetration reality and fiction. Chang Sheng also hoped to maintain some implicit connections to the original series. The period of the original comic is referenced in the Prince album Purple Rain, which appears several times as a device to move the plot forward. In the original comic, Guy Ninemann reincarnates as a variety of life forms, including a dog or a tree. Chang Sheng kept the idea, but changed the specifics, having his Guy Ninemann reincarnate as a robot and a bear.

     

     

    The cover of the comic book is no exception to the meticulous planning characteristic of the project. Chang Sheng worked with the publisher to ensure that no writing would appear on the outside jacket. By leaving only a symbolic representation of the number nine to hint at the contents, Chang Sheng hoped to leave space for readers to form their own interpretations.

     

    Persisting in the Face of a New Challenge: the Warmth of Hand Drawn Art

    Time’s Wheel presented a major challenge to Chang Sheng. It was the first time in his more than ten years of drawing comics that he forwent the use of computer technology, instead producing the art completely by hand. The new approach allowed him to leave a physical record of his progress in the form of the original artwork.

     

    When discussing his work habits, Chang Sheng reaffirmed his belief that maintaining consistent hours and consistent output is the only way craft a superior comic. To stay on schedule he had to work roughly ten hours a day. However, because he was more familiar with computer art tools, producing art by hand took roughly three times as long.

     

     

    With the additional time required to collect the reference materials on which he bases his realist art style and develop the various links between the real world and the fictional world of the comic, Chang Sheng was soon barely coping with the pressures of staying on schedule. When he was close to missing a deadline, he reluctantly requested aid from his old assistant, the computer. After submitting his work, he couldn’t help joking with himself: “It’s a good thing I’m working on Nine Lives Man. Without nine lives, I’d be dead by now!”

     

    High-Concept Comics Translate Better to International Markets

    In recent years Chang Sheng has established a formidable track record, winning numerous national and international awards, and selling overseas translation rights in a variety of foreign markets. But if you ask him if he’s satisfied with his work, he responds with characteristic self-deprecating humor: “Ask any creative person. They’ll always say they’re unsatisfied!” But he does admit to a significant point of pride which may be the key to his headway in foreign markets, namely, his works are built around simple, but powerful, core concepts that transcend the demands and orientation of the market.

     

    A concept that’s good enough will always attract readers. When paired with art that presents a clearly distinct visual style, you’ve got a comic that directly impacts the reader, thus transcending the language barrier. Nine Lives Man: Time’s Wheel is a stellar comic book that succeeds in shaking up conventional notions of time and reincarnation. With a high-concept plot and painstakingly detailed artwork, it seems destined to shake up international comic book markets as well!

  • A Man with Nine Lives: An Interview with the Author of NINE LIVES MAN: TIME'S WHEEL (I)
    Jan 26, 2021 / By Bernie Yang ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    In 1985, Taiwanese comic artist Push released his highly original sci-fi comic book Nine Lives Man. The comic inspired a generation of readers as they followed the adventures of Guy Ninemann, a man who unwittingly receives nine lives, as he travels between Heaven, Hell, and the mortal realm. One of those young fans was Chang Sheng. In 2018, Chang Sheng, now a comic book artist in his own right, enlisted Push and three other artists to create new interpretations of the classic. With no restrictions on genre or style, the artists agreed only to follow the core concept of “a man with nine lives”.

     

     

    Calling All Artists: A New Edition of Nine Lives Man

    According to Chang Sheng, a comic book becomes a classic because it has some element which transcends the era in which it was created. In the case of Nine Lives Man, the core concept of a man having nine lives always intrigued Chang Sheng, but, as a comic creator he felt frustrated that he couldn’t run with an idea that was not his own. That frustration remained until five years ago, when, through a twist of fate, he had the opportunity to ask the original creator Push if he could draw his own version of Nine Lives Man. He never imagined Push would agree right on the spot, initiating a unique creative project never before seen in the history of Taiwanese comic books.

     

    Drawing inspiration from the prominence of the number nine in the original comic, Chang Sheng wanted to invite nine different comic book creators to participate in the publication of a nine issue series to be released on September 9th, and later release a compendium of the series in 2019. He even hoped to curate an exhibition about the project, among other ambitious ideas. After pitching the concept to publishers and artists across the industry, he was able to recruit only five artists, including himself and the original creator, Push. Although the scale of the project fell short of the original conception, the five artists set to work based on the core concept of “a man with nine lives”. Their creations span the gamut of styles from sci-fi to fantasy to thriller to romance, and even include a sequel that picks up thirty years after the timeline of the original. Taken together, the multiple versions of Nine Lives Man constitute a sumptuous visual feast.

     

    Chang Sheng relates a number of curious episodes from the process of creating the series. The group first began their discussions at a coffee shop called R9. The number nine appeared again on Chang Sheng’s bus ride after the meeting. After deciding to dedicate himself to the project, he began to pay more attention to where the number nine appeared in his life, taking it as a lucky number. Only then did he discover that traces of the number nine ran everywhere in his life.

     

    From Nine Lives Man to Time’s Wheel

    Following the plan of the original, Chang Sheng’s Nine Lives Man: Time’s Wheel, tells the story of Guy Ninemann, a man with nine lives, who incarnates as various people (and life forms) to avert a city-wide bomb attack. In the various bodies of a police detective, a prisoner on death row, a writer, a little girl, a grandmother, a robot, and even a bear, he returns again and again to the scene of the incident to see if he can prevent the catastrophic loss of life and untold suffering that unfolds. The story subverts linear time, as well as traditional notions of reincarnation, as the successive lives of the protagonist overlap and interact with one another, each altering the course of events leading to the incident. The bewildering timeline is paired with Chang Sheng’s admirably meticulous artwork to produce an utterly unique reading experience which inspires readers to ponder the very nature of life itself.

     

     

    Faced with this complex narrative challenge, Chang Sheng prepared himself by plotting the relationships between the characters and events in the story, creating the conceptual map that now serves as epilogue to the comic book. Chang Sheng has always had the habit of first drafting a blueprint of his stories before beginning to draw. Doing so allows him to plan out the foreshadowing, big reveals, and pace of the story. In addition, it allows him to draw the comic sequentially, so he can ensure steady progress. Chang Sheng strives to create stories that conform to the classical dramatic structure of exposition, complication, reversal, and dénouement, both in the broad outlines of the narrative, and in the arrangement of panels and transitions between pages in the comic book format. His goal is to keep his readers hooked, and keep them turning pages.

     

    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=117

  • Feelings that Transcend Species : An Interview with the Author and the Illustrator of FOX HATCHES AN EGG
    Jan 21, 2021 / By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    We’ve all read Aesop’s Fables and closed the book with a knowing smile, moved by the love, courage, and humour in the stories. However, many of the fables feature one animal who is never very likable: a solitary fox with sharp fangs who is always labelled as cunning and treacherous. As a lover of fables, children’s book author Sun Chyng-Feng noticed that the fox had been treated “unfairly” over the years and decided to write Fox Hatches an Egg to gently invert the role.

     

     

    Reversing the Character’s Image and Shaping Its Ideal Values

    In the interview with Sun Chyng-Feng, we started by discussing the fox’s traditional role as a villain. She talked about how she started writing fairy tales in her third year of university and how she wanted to subvert the traditional way of thinking by challenging the various stereotypes surrounding widely-held gender and class distinctions. As topics like these are very important to her, Sun Chyng-Feng’s typical creative process is to start by deciding on the story’s main notion or subject matter, and then running with a story to express it. For example, Fox Hatches an Egg discusses the process of transforming from “selfish” to “selfless”.

     

    Since Sun Chyng-Feng has lived in the US for many years, collaborating with illustrator Nan Jun on Fox Hatches an Egg was more like a relay race than co-creation. First, Sun Chyng-Feng completed the manuscript and then Nan Jun came up with the image concepts and drew the illustrations. This process gave both author and illustrator the most space for creativity. Talking about the content of the illustrations, Sun Chyng-Feng said there was one image which left a particularly deep impression on her: a white duck egg which takes up almost an entire page. This simple, bold composition captures that moment when Fox suddenly sees the duck egg in the undergrowth and he’s so excited that everything else in his mind goes blank, as if the egg takes up the entire universe.

     

          

     

    Love Between Species and the Warm Life of Companionship

    For illustrator Nan Jun, the most moving part of the story was the cross-species friendship between Fox and the duck which was brought about by chance but eventually became inevitable. He recalls his own childhood home where his kind-hearted father would sometimes look after stray animals and even adopted piglets, ducklings, and other unusual “pets” by modern day standards. When reading Fox Hatches an Egg he could completely understand how after Fox and duck kept each other company, Fox can no longer see the duck as food and instead feels a wave of affection towards it.

     

    This is why when we asked Nan Jun which image was his favourite, he immediately said the cover: a picture of Fox curled up around the egg and sleeping soundly, with the two characters framed by the shape of a house. Nan Jun admits that the painting process means that you can’t always capture one hundred percent of the scene you imagined, but once he saw the completed cover he felt it had come out even better than he could have hoped. It really captured the warmth between Fox and the duck.

     

     

    In addition to the subtly revealed affection between the two characters, Nan Jun set the book during autumn and meticulously planned the detailed settings. “The special thing about setting it during autumn was that even though the weather would be cold, the pictures would be filled with the kind of colours which would make readers feel that sense of warmth.” He added that this all tied back in with the feelings between Fox and the duck.

     

          

     

    True Feelings Can Transcend Languages and Borders

    At the end of the interview, we chatted about the potential for Fox Hatches an Egg to reach an international readership and Nan Jun stated he was particularly confident in the book’s portrayal of the closeness between the characters: “Fox Hatches an Egg will resonate easily with people of all ages and races because emotions are a universal language. It’s a book you can fall in love with as soon as you read it.”

     

    Sun Chyng-Feng also believes that the book tells a universal story about love, and that there are no specific cultural or geographical limitations to it. In the end, Fox is so upset by his actions that he becomes a vegetarian and is more than happy to make that sacrifice. These bittersweet sentiments are what makes this the perfect fable, and also bring a touch of real emotion to the story. This may be why the book resonates so much with readers.