I started writing The Wind Mage a few months after I finished The Flame Iris Temple in May of 2020. I completed the text in March of 2021 and the editing plus art was finalized in August of 2021. Some of the topics I address in The Wind Mage are: the role of courtesans in society, the nature of political power for the educated scholar-elite, who are the fox-spirits and what do they want, as well as ship-travel and trade in what one might call the late medieval period.
The Wind Mage is nearly 100,000 words which makes it the shortest of the novels I have written. Parts of the book date back to 2019 because I thought book three would combine both Sandun’s story and Kagne’s story, interwoven. However, a couple of early readers thought this approach was confusing and so I removed all the chapters about Kagne. The resulting book, The Flame Iris Temple, was entirely focused on Sandun and his friends.
My question after book three was: should I tell Kagne’s story at all? I was uncertain about this for some months and I began preliminary work on two different novels. However, as the pandemic of 2020 reduced my life to my house and my partner, I used much of my suddenly free time for reading. I read: The Cambridge History of China Vol. 2: The Six Dynasties. I also read The Cambridge History of China Vol. 10: Late Ch’ing 1800-1911, and many other books. The most important book turned out to be: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling.
Strange Days – Strange Tales
Strange Tales is a truthful title. The version I own (translated by John Minford) contains more than 100 stories, but only a few of these stories are more than a two pages long. Many of the stories are about ghosts, or fox-spirits, and sometimes both. The most important story for me was Grace and Pine about a man who married into a family of fox-spirits and then had to defend them against an unexpected attack. The idea that fox-spirits had an enemy was totally new to me, as before reading this story I thought fox-spirits existed only to amuse themselves and sometimes annoy-harass-mystify the humans they chose for their own reasons.
Suddenly the idea that fox-spirits had enemies opened a door in my mind. I realized a new way to tell Kagne’s story and give it a satisfying conclusion because I could immediately see who would be the enemy of fox-spirits in my world. Over the next few days, the gears started clicking and soon I knew the entire plot of The Wind Mage. Writing the book went quickly, at least by my standards.
What Are Fox-spirits?
I should do an entire post about fox-spirits as they are completely foreign to European fairy tales and at the same time they are extremely common in Chinese-Korean-Vietnamese and Japanese tales. It appears to me that most people in east Asia believed fox-spirits were real until the 1800s. Fox-spirits are roughly analogous to fairies or elves but the key difference is that fox-spirits are highly sexual creatures and they will interbreed with humans. Otherwise, they behave mysteriously, and they never explain what they are doing or why to the humans – much like European fairies or elves.
A very important aspect of fox-spirits is that their true shape and form is very close to that of a fox, however they can pass for a human easily, and have sexual relations with a human without any trouble. How the fox-spirits do this is never explained, it’s just accepted as part of their magic. In my book I attempt to explain the fox-spirts and even suggest their underlying motivations.
All in all I’m quite happy with how The Wind Mage turned out.
Colin Glassey – 8/31/2021