I stare at the crimson printing on my computer screen. Crisp black lines frame electronic words of caution. What is this, anyway? The 1877 U.S. Senatorial report on Chinese immigration I Googled? Or the “boxed warning” for a toxic drug?
The red letters form an introductory disclaimer of sorts, an alert regarding nineteenth-century political incorrectness. The Senatorial report’s contents will reflect the attitudes of yesteryear’s Americans. In other words, readers with sensitive ears, beware. Still, I need to study sections of this 1,281-page document to blog about railroad workers from China. My finger tabs through the report’s opening pages.
“There is a vast hive from which Chinese immigrants may swarm...,” the report indicates. “They are cruel and indifferent to their sick...inferior in mental and moral qualities...”
Anger warms my face. The historical report I prepare to read in depth is a verbal cesspool of toxic prejudice. Worse than I expected. Even the testimony of Charles Crocker–-the infamous railroad executive who respected the tremendous contribution of Chinese laborers in building the U.S. Transcontinental Railway--oozes stereotypes. I just began this morning’s immigrant-experience research project and already my blood pressure soars.
Now please don’t consider me naïve. Years ago, I learned about the anti-Chinese legislation passed in nineteenth-century America: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (to keep “them” out) and various anti-miscegenation laws (to prevent interracial marriages). U.S. immigration policy muddle-ups are not confined to the twenty-first century. That’s one of several reasons why I wrote my new short story, “Moon-Flame Woman.” I hope “Moon-Flame Woman” will help readers picture all immigrants as distinct individuals with gifts, fears, hopes and dreams.
The setting for “Moon-Flame Woman” is a North American railroad construction camp in 1866. In my story, Cho Ting-Lam has lost self-respect. She, a slave, has neither a husband nor sons. Disguised as a man, Cho Ting-Lam uses explosives, crystal technology and Qi to bore railroad tunnels through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Then a prejudiced railroad superintendent endangers her and her people.
“Moon Flame Woman,” is scheduled for publication in the upcoming Shanghai Steam Anthology (Absolute XPress, November 2012). Shanghai Steam is a unique mashup of steampunk (advanced technology through steam-age mechanical devices) and the Chinese literary genre known as Wuxia (loosely translated as martial hero).
I invite you to visit the worlds within Shanghai Steam. From ancient China to a future Mars, from the British Empire to the Old West, nineteen authors will show you worlds with alcohol-fueled dragons, philosophical automatons, and Qi-powered machines both wondrous and strange in tales of vengeance, paper lantern revolutions and flying monks. I also wish to thank Teresa LeYung-Ryan for her pre-submission review of my “Moon-Flame Woman” manuscript. Teresa provided valuable advice which strengthened my story.
Below, I list the Shanghai Steam table of contents. For more information about the anthology and its authors, visit the Shanghai Steam Facebook page.
Laurel Anne Hill
Author of Heroes Arise, an award-winning novel about breaking the cycle of vengeance.
Table of Contents
The Fivefold Proverbs of Zhen Xiaquan
Qin Yun's Mechanical Dragon and the Cricket Spies
Laurel Anne Hill
Love and Rockets at the Siege of Peking
K. H. Vaughan
The Master and the Guest
Ming Jie and the Coffee Maker of Doom
A Hero Faces the Celestial Empire; A Death by Fire is Avenged by Water
Julia A. Rosenthal
Riding the Wind
William H. Keith
Mistress of the Pearl Dragon
Song of My Heart
Last Flight of the Lóng Qíshì
Protection from Assassins
Seeds of the Lotus
The Ability of Lightness
Fire in the Sky
The Legend of Wong Heng Li
Legend of the Secret Masterpiece
Jing Ke Before the Principle of Order
Causes Laurel Hill Supports
Winter Nights Shelter and Shelter, Inc.