The Inspiration Behind Zhai Chengda's Wife:
One of the toughest things we can do for something we love is to acknowledge its faults. Whether it's tolerating your partner's snoring or recognising that eating a whole cheesecake will expand your waistline, it's tough to accept that there's bad mixed in with the good. But when it comes to writing fiction, acknowledging those problems gives us a chance to grow.
I love steampunk fiction, and I'm terribly aware of one of its biggest problems - that it's very Eurocentric. As a genre, it's usually focused on the achievements of the western world, particularly Britain, to the exclusion of other societies. There's nothing wrong with stories set in London, Paris, or for the more adventurous the Wild West. But steampunk can be so much more, and thinking about that inspired me to reach further afield for a setting.
Historically, China has been responsible for many of the world's great inventions, from gunpowder to the printing press, and that makes it a natural location for a steampunk story. Inspired by the industrial achievements of Song Dynasty China, I created a world in which the Chinese Empire has made great leaps forward, including airships and rocketry, and is dominating its neighbours. Not everyone wants to bow down before a great power, and a nation on the borders is intent on resistance. But when your opponent is a military giant, more subtle forms of resistance are needed, and so a tale of spies and diplomacy begins. This is the story of Zhai Chengda’s Wife.
Many details in this story are extrapolated from real life. From the military manuals to the political conflict, everything has its roots in something from our world. This isn't a story about the world as it was, but perhaps it's a world as it could have been. And if it adds to the variety of those steampunk unrealities, then I'll consider my work well done.
Thanks, Andrew! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and the others May 31, 2019!