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Every culture throughout the world has produced some form of heroic fiction. It’s an important genre, perhaps the most important genre of all, because heroes represent the ideal individual. Even though they’re usually larger than life and capable of superhuman feats, heroes nonetheless provide a standard of conduct to be emulated by mere mortals. Heroic fiction functions in much the same way as religious stories, a kind of positive propaganda device. Gilgamesh, Beowulf, the Arthurian Knights and Superman have all got the right stuff.
Wuxia (pronounced “wooshia”) is a 2000 year old Chinese literary tradition. Wuxia tales focus on the exploits of wandering warriors that fight injustice. They are masters of martial arts and the sword is usually their favorite weapon for righting wrongs. Wuxia warriors tend to be individualists as opposed to members of a team. The term wuxia translates to “martial chivalry”.
On the surface, the righteous badass of wuxia seems very similar to other warriors found in heroic fiction; the valiant knight, the roaming ronin, the wild west gunslinger, etc. However, one aspect separates the wuxia warrior from all the others. Wuxia warriors were more often than not female, making wuxia a genre far ahead of its time.
Wuxia is an integral part of Chinese culture. Though it began as a literary tradition, it has influenced film, television, comic books and video games. I became aware of wuxia many years ago by way of the first wave of kung fu films that came to America back in the 70s. I was particularly attracted to the films that featured female heroes and my favorite actress was a woman named Angela Mao Ying. She was extremely charismatic without ever objectifying herself. The thing I love most about female wuxia heroes is that they’re NEVER sexualized, whereas in the west, female heroes are routinely sexualized. Again, wuxia is a genre far ahead of its time and truly worthy of being called heroic fiction.
My first novel, Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali is a modern day wuxia tale and my humble contribution to this noble tradition.