The Dragon and the Stars (Derwin Series)
Edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi
Review by Cathy Green
DAW Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756406189
Date: 04 May 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In their afterward, editors Derwin Mak and Eric Choi explain that the genesis of The Dragon and the Stars was when Mak went to the Worldcon in Yokohama, met a number of science fiction writers from China and was asked to write an article on Canadian Chinese science fiction writers for a major Chinese science fiction magazine. Mak and Choi have assembled eighteen stories from the Chinese diaspora, primarily writers of Chinese ancestry from North America, but also including writers from Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines, and all the stories have Chinese characters and/or deal with Chinese themes. The writers represented are Brenda Clough, Tony Pi, Eugie Foster, Charles Tan, William F. Wu, Emery Huang, Crystal Gail Shangkuan Koo, Emily Mah, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Shelly Li, Gabriela Lee, E.L. Chen, Susan Ee, Urania Fung, Wen Y. Phua, Ken Liu, Eric Choi and Derwin Mak. There is also a nice introduction by Tess Gerritsen.
Brenda Clough contributes a steampunk story, “The Water Weapon”, involving a giant bamboo steam-powered dragon, magic charms to make the possessor bulletproof, and the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Several writers used fox spirits in their stories. I particularly enjoyed Urania Fung's "The Right to Eat Decent Food", which involved American teachers at a school in China falling under the sway of a spirit when they are quarantined at the school during the SARS outbreak and cannot stomach eating the lousy cafeteria food. A girl named Rabbit shows up bearing burgers and fries and then things start getting crazy.
In Wen Y. Phua's "Papa and Mama", a young girl tries to cope with taking care of her deceased parents who have reincarnated as a bird and a fish.
Eugie Foster contributes a bittersweet story of love and pottery, and Melissa Yuan-Innes contributes an interesting twist on Hans Christian Anderson's "The Red Shoes".
While the majority of the contributions are fantasy stories, science fiction is represented as well. Of the science fiction stories in The Dragon and the Stars, one of the standouts was Shelly Li's "Intelligent Truth", which involved testing robot AIs for sentience and the protagonist learning the "be careful what you wish for" rule the hard way.
The eighteen stories cover a wide range of themes, and while the majority of the stories fall on the fantasy side of the genre, science fiction is represented as well, including the steampunk and alternate history subgenres. In addition to the introduction and afterward, the anthology also contains biographical information about the contributors, which includes website listings and other publications, so readers wishing to read further stories by the authors in the book should not have any difficulty locating additional reading material. Given the broad mandate ofThe Dragon and the Stars and the variety of the stories, it is a solid collection that should appeal to a wide range of readers.