Can you give us a little background for “Qi Sport”? How did you come to create this world?
“Qi Sport” is set in the same world as my novel Vermilion, and shares a character — Lou Merriwether. Lou’s a professional psychopomp, which is rather like being a Ghost Buster, in that she escorts, or compels in some cases, lingering undead to leave our world and move into the afterlife. She deals with ghosts and shades, and also geung si, which are a Chinese monster sort of somewhere in between a vampire and a zombie.
When Robin Laws approached me about his anthology, Schemers (where “Qi Sport” first appeared), I wanted to write a Lou story, specifically about geung si (called jiangshi in Mandarin, and sometimes known as simply “hopping vampires” in English). I was still researching and revising Vermilion, had been reading about the true history of Chinese immigrants to the US. Many immigrants had their bones shipped home to Toisan, in accordance with Chinese burial practices — the book, The Chinese in America by Iris Chang, claimed that over ten thousand pounds of bones were shipped home during the early years of Chinese immigration.
It occurred to me that a less scrupulous shipping agent — or one on the take — might cherry-pick corpses that seemed like they’d rise as geung si, especially if there was, say, some sort of illegal geung si boxing ring in San Francisco. Given what Lou does for a living, she would not stand for that . . . but neither would she necessarily ask her parents’ permission to go after the thugs.
You said your novel featured one of the characters from “Qi Sport.” Care to tell us a bit more about it?
Vermilion is set after “Qi Sport,” when Lou is about nineteen, a bit more experienced, and struggling with her grief over the death of her father. She has a vexed relationship with her mother, Ailien, who’s an apothecary in Chinatown, but when Ailien comes to Lou to ask that she investigate a bunch of missing men who disappeared after the completion of the Transcontinental railroad, Lou follows their trail to Fountain of Youth, a rather sinister sanatorium in the Rocky Mountains, run by one Dr. Lazarus Panacea. It’s a little bit Weird Western, a little bit steampunk, and 100% adventure novel.
What are you working on these days? Any upcoming publications or exciting projects readers should watch for?
I have a few short stories out this year — “Grave Worms” in Cassilda’s Song, an all-lady King in Yellow anthology, which is . . . I dunno, King in Yellow meets Ayn Rand? And I have two stories in two all-lady Lovecraft anthologies, Dreams from the Witch House and She Walks in Shadows, the latter of which is called “The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad,” and it’s probably the most ridiculous story I’ve written in a long time, which is saying something.
The big thing I’m working on right now is my edits for my second novel, which is coming out this year as well — it’s an historical novel, set in the 18th century, called The Pleasure Merchant; or, The Modern Pygmalion. I’m really excited about it. It’s my least speculative work to date, but probably my most horrifying. It’s loosely based on a chapter in the life of 18th century philosopher and writer Thomas Day, who once adopted two orphan tweens and took them to France, in the hopes that he could educate one of them to be his ideal wife. He was not a nice person. Anyways, The Pleasure Merchant is out this November, and I’m super proud of it . . . it’s sort of my takedown of “nice guy” culture as well as being about love, pleasure, and the rise and fall of a certain wig-maker’s apprentice who bites off more than he can chew when he changes careers to become a gentleman’s valet.
Oh, but next year, I should say that Lazy Fascist Press is publishing my short novel Rumbullion: An Apostrophe, as a standalone. It appeared in a lovely but insanely expensive collection from Egaeus Press, but will now be available in paperback. I mention it because it also features characters from Vermilion, just not Lou.
Pick one: “beautiful, seductive undead” vampires or ravening revenants. Show your work.
I gotta go with beautiful and seductive. I love disaffected, noble vampires as metaphors, and I love them because . . . they are awesome! Anyone who knows me knows I dig fops pretty hard. Anyways, I imprinted at a young age on Interview with the Vampire (first R-rated film I ever saw in the theatre, with my dad, which was . . . slightly uncomfortable) and ever since then I’ve just gravitated toward them more than zombies or the grittier vampires you see now and again. I think that’s why I loved What We Do in the Shadows so much, it’s such an awesome treatment of all kinds of vampires, but the lead guy, Viago, is just the best!
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