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Interview: Y.M. Pang on “Little Inn on the Jianghu”

Y. M. PangTell us a bit about “Little Inn on the Jianghu.

“Little Inn on the Jianghu” is a parody of wuxia (Chinese martial arts) stories. Instead of starring a hero with inhuman fighting ability, it follows an innkeeper whose inn is constantly being destroyed due to all the fighting.




What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’ve watched my share of wuxia TV shows, especially adaptations of Jin Yong’s work. Innkeepers are truly the most unfortunate characters in wuxia–and in historical dramas, which feature similar tropes. Heck, it’ll be a stretch calling innkeepers characters, since they are unnamed and speak 1-2 lines before all hell breaks loose. I’ve always wondered, how on earth could these innkeepers stay in business when their inns are getting smashed 24/7? How deeply must they hate those jianghu “heroes,” who unceasingly choose inns as convenient battlegrounds and leave smashed tables and broken doors in their wake.

Surely some innkeeper somewhere has decided, “That’s enough,” and is looking to hunt down a jianghu hero in return. This is the story of that innkeeper.

My decision to write about “the unfortunate innkeeper” may also have been influenced by more than wuxia, subconsciously. When sharing the story with beta readers, some of them–who had little prior experience with wuxia–still understood the humour, because it reminded them of RPGs or westerns. Wuxia and westerns are basically first cousins. Just switch the swords for guns, and the inns for saloons. Both exist in worlds where lawlessness rules the day and businesses get screwed over either way.


Was “Little Inn on the Jianghu” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Not particularly. Though I will say: after working in retail for a couple of years, I sympathize with the innkeeper even more.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

I did some research about food, rations, and bamboo forests. But ultimately, the story is about depicting the world of wuxia, which is notorious for departing from actual history. The clothing and hairstyles, for instance, are likely not an accurate reflection of the historical period, which Innkeep Cheng points out.


What aspect of “Little Inn on the Jianghu” was the most fun to write?

The banter between Innkeep Cheng (poor guy, even I’m calling him Innkeep) and Yifeng. She is fully immersed in their wuxia world, while he sees through its seams but can do little about it.

Oh, and the climax.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

Among modern fantasy writers, Patrick Rothfuss has unrivalled prose, while also being top-notch in crafting plot and character. I really admire Brandon Sanderson for his tight plots, work ethic, and strong endings. And like many writers–nay, people–my age, I grew up reading Harry Potter.

But the author who influenced me most may not be an epic fantasy writer at all. It may be Katherine Paterson. The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia blew my mind as a fourth-grader. I’d encountered fictional tragedy before, in the TV adaptation of Water Margin that I watched intermittent episodes of as a child. But Paterson showed me how it can be done in modern literature, and influenced how I thought about plot, resolution, and character development–namely, not all progression needs to be in a positive direction.


What are you working on now?

I am editing a visual novel I wrote a few years ago (think of it like a choose-your-own-adventure book but played on a computer, with images). As usual, I also have a dozen short stories and novels in varying stages of completion. One short story is starting to become a novella, which is a tragically common occurrence for me.


“Little Inn on the Jianghu” appears in the 70th Anniversary Issue of F&SF.

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