ABOUT LATEST BOOKS AUTHORS RESOURCES FELLOWSHIP GRANT TRANSLATORS EVENTS

LATEST

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

    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)
    By Kaiting Chan (Editor of CHOPSTICKS) ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
    Apr 12, 2021

    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

  • Grant for the Publication of Taiwanese Works in Translation (GPT)
    By Books from Taiwan
    Apr 01, 2021

    GPT is set up by The Ministry of Culture to encourage the publication of Taiwanese works in translation overseas, to raise the international visibility of Taiwanese cultural content, and to help Taiwan's publishing industry expand into non-Chinese international markets.

    Applicant Eligibility: Foreign publishing houses (legal persons) legally registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries.

    Conditions:

    1. The so-called Taiwanese works must meet the following requirements:

    A. Use traditional characters
    B. Written by a natural person holding an R.O.C. identity card
    C. Has been assigned an ISBN in Taiwan

    i.e., the author is a native of Taiwan, and the first 6 digits of the book's ISBN are 978-957-XXX-XXX-X or 978-986-XXX-XXX-X.

    2. Applications must include documents certifying that the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works consents to its translation and foreign publication (no restriction on its format).

    3. A translation sample of the Taiwanese work is required (no restriction on its format and length).

    Grant Items:

    1. The maximum grant available for each project is NT$600,000, which covers:

    A. Licensing fees (going to the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works)
    B. Translation fees
    C. Marketing and promotion fees (limited to economy class air tickets for the R.O.C. writer to participate in overseas promotional activities related to the project)
    D. Book production-oriented fees
    E. Tax (20% of the total award amount)
    F. Remittance-related handling fees

    2. Priority consideration is given to books that have received the Golden Tripod Award, the Golden Comic Award, or the Taiwan Literature Award.

    Application Period: Twice every year. The MOC reserves the right to change the application periods, and will announce said changes separately.

    Announcement of successful applications: Winners will be announced within three months of the end of the application period.

    Application Method: Please visit the Ministry’s official website (https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/), and use the online application system.

    For full details of the GPT, please visit https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/PointDetail.jsp?__viewstate=oRWyc5VpG+PNII1HENWzEl8qiFfwAwJw7oJCOHz4L408lIe/efs7z+WTtc3mBJBkYvZhpy/Mg9Q

    Or contact: books@moc.gov.tw

  • THE BASEBALL CLUB MURDER: A Masterwork of Contemporary Taiwanese Crime Fiction (II)
    By Sean Hsu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
    Mar 31, 2021

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=120

     

    Mystery writer Shimada Soji burst onto the scene in 1981 with the release of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, a novel brimming with chilling perversions and the pure pleasures of deduction. The novel set Japanese mystery writers on the path of the Third Wave of Orthodox Writing (also known as New Mystery), venerating early mystery writers like Edogawa Ranpo and Yokomizo Seishi. By the ’90’s, the works of New Mystery writers were slowly being translated and published in Taiwan in Mystery magazine. Followed in the 2000’s by the systematic translation and publication of American and British Golden Age mystery writers by publishers like Yuan-Liou and Faces, a new generation of Taiwanese writers in their twenties and thirties were itching to try their hand at constructing detective stories that revolved around a central ruse. Crown Publishing jumped on the bandwagon with a smorgasbord of projects: the JOY Series, which focused on contemporary American and European crime fiction; a selection of Shimada Soji’s works; the collected works of Ayatsuji Yukito; and the Mystery Fan series, which published other Japanese authors. In 2008, seven years after discontinuing the Crown Award for Popular Fiction, the publisher established the annual Soji Shimada Mystery Award with the inaugural prize going to Mr Pets’ Virtua Street in 2009.

    Virtua Street

    One of the great contributions of the Soji Shimada Award is that it brings together authors and readers: in recent years the award has helped smooth the way for the sale of overseas publishing rights for recipients. In addition, the award has facilitated interactions between Taiwanese and Japanese crime fiction. The short story submission prize established by the Mystery Writers of Taiwan has also played a significant role in raising the profile of Taiwanese crime fiction authors, acting as a much-needed proving ground for aspiring novelists after the closure of Mystery magazine left a dearth of publication opportunities. Without these developments, the market for original crime stories might have sunk to a far lower nadir than seen today.

    The Borrowed

    Meanwhile, genre literature in general has provided an injection of energy into the field of Taiwanese story-telling. In recent years, Taiwan’s cultural and entertainment sector, with its emphasis on exporting soft power, has begun to attract international attention. Book rights have led the way with the sales of overseas translation rights for The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei and The Sniper by Chang Kuo-Li. The television series The Victim’s Game, adapted from a novel by Tien Ti Wu Hsien, was recently acquired by Netflix. The success of manga/video game crossover The Agnostic Detective, co-created by Xerses and Yingwu Chou, is yet another example. All of this has raised the visibility of Taiwanese creators, and expanded their vision as well, challenging them to create works of increasing breadth, depth, and maturity, characteristics prominently on display in The Baseball Club Murder. Whether it is the clever fusion of Taiwan’s social history into the narrative framework of the Golden Era detective novel, the evocative imagery, or the deft handling of subtle emotional currents, Tang Chia-Bang’s The Baseball Club Murder is never short on charms to court the admiration of readers from around the world.

    The Sniper

  • THE BASEBALL CLUB MURDER: A Masterwork of Contemporary Taiwanese Crime Fiction (I)
    By Sean Hsu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
    Mar 31, 2021

    The Baseball Club Murder is one of three TAICCA Select titles in Books from Taiwan Issue 13 and the recipient of the 2019 King Car Soji Shimada Mystery Award.

    On the evening of October 31st, 1938, a body is found on a train travelling the Shinten railway line. The deceased, Chen Chin-Shui, a businessman from Banka, died clutching a bottle of Hakutsuru sake. Early the following morning a train out of Taipei pulls into Kaohsiung, the final stop of the West Coast Line. On board is the lifeless body of Fujishima Keizaburo, president of a Japanese trading company, a knife protruding from his chest. A baseball fan club, the Ballgame Association, where both men were members, is the only link between two cases from opposite corners of Taiwan. The victims met there through their mutual interest in baseball, but repeatedly clashed over their differing views and social backgrounds. While investigating the death of Cheng Chin-Shui, detective Li Shan-Hai of the Taipei South Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Department begins to suspect that the murder of Keisaburo Fujishima some 400 kilometers away may be the key to cracking his own case. As the investigation deepens, this case that hinges on the complex relations between Japanese and Taiwanese people in colonial Taiwan leads Detective Li all the way back to the Tapani Incident of 1915, an armed uprising of Taiwanese locals against Japanese imperial rule.

    The Baseball Club Murder

    Author Tang Chia-Bang, a baseball fanatic and former news reporter, says the story was brewing in his mind for many years before he finally took time away from freelance journalism to write this, his first work of fiction. The major awards the book eventually garnered were the furthest thing from his mind when he started. At the banquet for the Soji Shimada Award, Tang said, “My first thought was just to write something to share with a few friends.” Perhaps it is the purity of this original intention that allowed Tang to complete a 100,000 word manuscript that seamlessly integrates baseball, railroads, and Taiwan’s colonial history into the structure of a classic crime novel.

    Of these three elements, history is paramount. Taiwan of 1938 was a colony of Japan – spoils of the First Sino-Japanese War – and would remain so until the end of the Second World War. The evolving relations between colonizer and colonized, initially characterized by armed resistance but later giving way to the détente of mutual prosperity, are distilled within the novel into the murders of two men, the detective investigating the case, and the villain whose identity is obscured within this murky and contentious mix.

    In Taiwan, baseball is a miraculous sport. Now the country’s “national sport”, it was first introduced to Taiwan by the Japanese and gradually took root in the lives of the local people. The sport became a cross-cultural meeting point, a space for interactions on a relatively equal footing, and, for some, an opportunity to completely transform one’s social status. The Kyumikai Club of the novel provides these same functions, but are the conflicts in the club just the usual tussle of competing interests? Or are they a deep running personal vendetta that provides the motive for the crime? The railway setting provides a distant echo of these processes of cultural assimilation (no nation has embraced the subgenre of travel mysteries like Japan), while also being implicated in the novel’s numerous intrigues and puzzles. Like baseball, the development of Taiwan’s railways is intimately linked to Japan, and equally Japanese crime fiction has had a deep impact on Taiwanese readers and writers. That the novel received the Soji Shimada Award may be the greatest acknowledgement of this complex heritage.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=121

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

    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.

     

    Zhou Jianxin

     

    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.

     

    Zhou Jianxin

     

    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)
    By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
    Jan 26, 2021

    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)
    By Bernie Yang ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
    Jan 26, 2021

    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)
    By Bernie Yang ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
    Jan 26, 2021

    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