So, I thought I’d trying out something new when a story comes out: author’s notes, the equivalent of DVD extras. Might contain mild spoilers, though this time they don’t. Every story has those extra little bits that I couldn’t fit into the main narrative, and I figured I’d share some of them with you.
We’ll start with “The Shipmaker”, which is in issue 231 of Interzone, now out in the wild. It’s the Jason Sanford special issue, with three stories by him (you can see previews here, here and here), and an interview. The remaining stories are by Matthew Cook, and by me.
(no spoilers, but this makes more sense if you’ve actually read the story)
“The Shipmaker” is part of the Xuya continuity, as is evidenced by the references to Xuya itself, the vast Chinese galactic empire to which both the main characters Dắc Kiến and Hạnh belong–and to the Mexica Dominion, the interstellar descendant of the Aztec Empire. I’m using “dominion” deliberately, to highlight the hegemonic rather than territorial structure (the real-life Aztec Empire was hegemonic, exerting influence rather than seeking to incorporate territories into a global administration).
I generally don’t pick names that carefully, but here I made a couple deliberate choices: Dắc Kiến is a traditional name for Vietnamese boys (it means “acquired view”, “knowledge”), and the fact it was given to a woman reflects the changes in the society. Hạnh is a very common name for girls, meaning “with good conduct, behaving well”, and it’s deeply ironic given how Hạnh herself turned out.
About accents: I waffled a bit on this one, but in the end I decided Vietnamese diacritical marks were very important for Vietnamese speakers, but were just going to be confusing (not to mention hard as heck to typeset), and I stripped them from the story.
Near the end, there are several references to fundamental events of Vietnamese history: Le Loi/Lê Lợi threw off Chinese domination and founded the Lê dynasty. He was supposed to have a magical sword, given to him by a tortoise (Lake Hoàn Kiếm in Hà Nội, the Lake of the Returned Sword, is where the sword got taken back by the tortoise afterLê Lợi refused to return it).
One of the (many) names for Hà Nội during its history was Thăng Long, which means “the dragon with deployed wings”, hence the image of the dragon.
And you can read more about Huyền Trân here.
Đại Việt is one of the traditional names for Vietnam, notably under the Lê dynasty (the current name of Vietnam was actually given in the 19th Century, following a series of events that didn’t take place in the Xuya continuity). It means ‘Great Viet” (Việt itself means “Vietnamese”, pretty much).