azn_jack_fiend: (asiatheinvincible)
(This post is backdated to keep it out of the way. It was originally posted 7/2/2010)

Curtiss Hawk II

A Curtis Hawk II in service.

Lan Ping - from film

The actress Lan Ping. I knew that in the summer  of 1937 she left her acting career in Shanghai to go to a Communist training camp in the interior.  One of my betas pointed out that since she actually left in July, the dates wouldn't be right.  I was crushed. But it was so close that I decided to go with it anyway.  It's an alternate universe, after all (and that sounds so much better than saying "I made a historical mistake and I'm too lazy to fix it").

Jiang Qing

Lan Ping was the stage name for the woman who became Jiang Qing and married Mao in 1938.  By the way, Mao was 5'11", which was gigantic for the time period. I was a little hesitant at using her as a character, even for a cameo, since she was one of the masterminds of the Cultural Revolution and therefore basically a mass murderer.  She lost power and was imprisoned after Mao's death in 1976 and committed suicide in 1991.

Mitsubishi A5m



The Mitsubishi A5M. It was 30% faster than the Curtis Hawk II. The next in this line was the more famous Mitsubishi Zero. The A5M was superseded by the Zero but was still used throughout WWII.



The Palace Hotel.

from http://www.virtualshanghai.net/Image.php?ID=15138

The bomb site after the Palace Hotel was destroyed.  Most accounts say that the bombs were from a Chinese airplane, but the exact cause is a bit of a historical mystery.  It could have been the bad weather, pilot error, equipment failure or some combination.

Nanking Road

Nanking Road, facing toward The Bund / Wai Tan.

from http://www.hmsfalcon.com/bund/late30s.jpg

The Bund circa 1937. The high building in the middle is the Customs House tower, with a large clock known as "the Big Ching".

The Bund

A modern view of The Bund.

Art Chin

One of the Chinese-American fighter pilots: Major Art Chin AKA Chin Shui-Tin. He flew fighter planes in China from 1937-1945 and had the highest number of kills in a biplane (8) out of the Chinese aces.  He was born in Portland, Oregon, returned to Portland after the war and died in 1997.  A large minority of the Chinese aces were Chinese-American volunteers.  Full bio with more pictures here.



Great photo. This is Colonel Kao Chi-Hang, born in Manchuria, 5 kills, died in Hunan province in November 1937 and posthumously promoted to Major General. Full bio here.

Northrop Bomber

A Northrop Gamma, the plane used by the Chinese Air Force as a bomber.

from http://ww2total.com/WW2/History/Chronology/1939/10/October-09-15.htm

A map of the Japanese advance with territory captured by year.



Here's HK singer/actor Aaron Kwok, my AU fantasy-cast! He is very suave...



But he has a bad boy look as well.  Are those tentacles?



He likes to work out while looking at himself...



And get nekkid whoo hoo

http://eblog.macau.com/2008/09/01/361
He can sing and dance while wearing a bikini bottom... ON HIS CHEST. This man can obviously do anything.

Full Author's Notes:

The idea for this came to me when I saw the Racebending Revenge Ficathon at Dark Agenda, which was initiated as a creative protest against the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie whitewash.  Do Jack? Of course! Look at my user name, haha -- it was inescapable. Anyway, I started working on this about three weeks ago.  I was determined to attempt something thoughtful yet exciting and not too pessimistic. The basic premise of the ficathon -- to racebend canonically white characters as characters of color and not ignore the racial difference --  was wonderful, but I wanted to add to a diversity of approaches and not duplicate the perspective of this Supernatural comic by glockgal. The comic is all kinds of cool, and it elegantly points out that many canonically white characters simply couldn't exist as characters of color without either the story or the world being very, very different. They just couldn't get away with it. And I had a feeling that would pretty much apply to Captain Jack in a Torchwood setting.

On the other hand, one could say something similar about straight/cis versus LGBT characters.  And Jack does get away with being omnisexual through the force of his sheer amazingness! I didn't see how that quasi-magical near-invulnerability to homophobia could simultaneously extend to racism. It's not impossible.  I would never say it's impossible, because I believe that all things are possible with imagination, but my imagination simply wasn't up to the task.

That got me thinking along another track. If I was in charge of the Time Agency and assigning agents to run missions in 20th century Europe or the Americas (and in many places outside, for that matter), for maximum mobility, I would make damn sure that all the agents looked like white guys. If they couldn't pass for that, they would get temporary facelifts or very good holographic disguises.  If it was the 10th century, or the 30th century, things would be different, but for the 20th, white guys are indisputably at the top of the pyramid.

I also imagine that in the 51st century, racial categories like "white" and "Asian" or national categories like "American" or ethnic categories like "Han Chinese" would be obsolete, having evolved in all sorts of different directions. They would be understood in an academic sense, but not on the level of experience... until time travel brings them back to life, of course.

With all this in mind, I decided to approach the goal more through the means of setting. That is, keep the character the same in almost all respects, change the setting and then see how that would affect the story.  Shanghai 1937 leaped to mind. The major difference was that the setting would be much darker.  I thought about Rose's scene comforting Nancy in The Empty Child and knew it would have to be totally different in Shanghai 1937.  I was talking about this in early stages with [livejournal.com profile] heddychaa , who's a history major, and she noted that based on her experiences teaching in Canada, it was unlikely that Rose, being very young and not having gone to university, would know much about the history in that area. 

I didn't want to make the story unrelentingly grim, so I tried to throw in some humor and action. The dogfight was a lot of fun to write.  I also learned about the Chinese aces of WWII while researching.  Before writing this, the only stuff I knew about the air war in China was some stories about The Flying Tigers, an American Volunteer Group that was active 1941-1943.  The Flying Tigers are incredibly well-known in the U.S., which is fine, but the situation leads to an unbalanced perspective on the air war in China. In fact, Chinese and Chinese-Americans volunteering directly for the Chinese Air Force played an active, heroic and tragic role.

Racism in the US Air Force did ameliorate greatly throughout the war.  As an example, before 1940, African-Americans were simply not allowed to join the Air Force in any capacity.  In 1941, the first cadet class for the Tuskegee Airmen started.

Some of the research wasn't that fun. I agonized endlessly over names.  When it came to OCs, I really didn't want to throw out random combos and end up calling someone the English equivalent of Dick Stroker or Harry Bush or something. That would suck! I made an embarrassing mistake when I first started writing: I thought Hark was a last name. I don't speak any Chinese language (I'm Japanese-American) but I'm a wuxia-head, and I'm very familiar with the name Tsui Hark because he is the god of wuxia, and I thought Hark was his last name, when Tsui actually is! I'm used to reversed names in Japanese, and though I can't speak Japanese, I can look at a Japanese name and tell if it's been reversed for an English naming convention or not, and I can't do the same for Chinese names. That's one of several reasons I really needed my Chinese beta, sinngrace, and I am incredibly thankful she answered my call for help.  I also got some linguistic and cultural feedback near the end of the process from [livejournal.com profile] springgreen, and although I was not able to incorporate or work through everything, it was extremely helpful. For style and structure I got fantastic feedback from [livejournal.com profile] heddychaa, the show-not-tell queen, and [livejournal.com profile] canaana, who gave me invaluable advice, moral support and guidance about how to address some serious problems the first draft had.

The two little words, "Praise Buddha" became my most time-consuming problem, oddly enough. 50% of each type of beta didn't like it. I thought about it endlessly, and I decided to leave it in.  Here are some options I had to weigh:
  • Take it out. If I did, I had the feeling that every imagined-translated "damn" and "hell" and "god" would exist in a default cultural Christian context for most readers.  It would feel like erasing Buddhism. Of course many Chinese and Chinese-Americans aren't Buddhist at all, but still, I wanted to have some Buddhism in there.
  • Don't translate it and leave it in as amituofo.  I didn't want to do that. If it was an English story about a nominally Catholic French fighter pilot, would they be saying mon Dieu? If I was reading that, I probably wouldn't like it, and a translated "My God" would seem preferable. Or a Muslim Egyptian fighter pilot saying Inshallah... that's a more difficult case, but it would still seem more natural to see it translated into English as "God willing".  It would really depend on context and the other choices the author was making.
  • Translate it differently. A longer version would be something like "Homage to Amitabha the Buddha of Boundless Compassion and Wisdom."  That sounds way too esoteric and remote for the context.  Achieving an absolute literal translation is not a realistic goal, especially since it's already from another language in the first place (Sanskrit).
  • Leave it as is, with the understanding that for a lot of people, Buddhist and non, it will read as kind of corny and hokey, like it should be "Praise Jesus" but with an awkward, possibly ignorant substitution.
I decided the last choice was the worst of all possible evils.  Also, fuck it, I'm a Buddhist. It's just that like most Buddhists, I'm not a particularly good Buddhist.  And I remembered the last time I was on an airplane ride with heavy turbulence I was saying the Japanese Buddhist equivalent of amituofo quite fervently.  But I understand other people might really hate the choice I made, and I'm not going to say your arguments (aesthetic, religious, cultural, or linguistic) are invalid.

Praise Buddha! Or not. Anyway, moving on... in light of the blow-up surrounding the ridiculous Supernatural Haiti fic, whatever the dubious literary merits of my own "The Battle of Songhu", I hope I provided a not-too-horrible contrast when it comes to utilizing a setting of historical tragedy: one far removed in the past, but still a touchy subject to this day. I think any writer of any race/ethnicity and any talent level should not be afraid to attempt the same... if they just do research, keep an open mind, realize their limitations and creatively address those limitations.  Still, I cannot guarantee the level of ethical representation, just as I cannot guarantee quality. This was tough, but I still had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope I made a good showing for Torchwood/Doctor Who in the challenge.  Cheering: Doctor WHO-OO, HEY, Doctor WHO!

Finally, here are the full versions of the two poems referenced in the fic:

Man Jiang Hong 
My wrath bristles through my helmet, the rain stops as I stand by the rail;
I look up towards the sky and let loose a passionate roar.
At age thirty my deeds are nothing but dust, my journey has taken me over eight thousand li
So do not sit by idly, for young men will grow old in regret.
The Humiliation of Jing Kang still lingers,
When will the pain of his subjects ever end?
Let us ride our chariots through the Helan Pass,
There we shall feast and drink barbarian flesh and blood.
Let us begin anew to recover our old empire

Poem Number 15 of the Nineteen Old Poems from the Han Dynasty
Man's years fall short of a hundred;
a thousand years of worry crowd his heart.
If the day is short and you hate the long night,
why not take the torch and go wandering?
Seek out happiness in season;
who can wait for the coming year?
Fools who cling too fondly to gold
earn no more than posterity's jeers.
Prince Ch'iao, that immortal man --
small hope we have of matching him!

~~~

(link to fic post for The Battle of Songhu on livejournal)

(The Racebending Revenge Challenge Ficathon at A03: Profile and Works List)

~~~

Added 10/26/2010: Fabulous art by [livejournal.com profile] suavebastard that I won in the [livejournal.com profile] help_pakistan  auction.

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