Kelli Stanley, author of the award winning mystery City of Dragons, set in San Francisco's Chinatown, to guest post today. Thanks, Kelli!
Kelli Stanley's debut novel, NOX DORMIENDA (A Long Night for Sleeping) (Five Star; July, 2008), was a Writer’s Digest Notable Debut. It won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and was a Macavity Award finalist. THE CURSE-MAKER, the sequel to her debut "Roman noir" novel NOX DORMIENDA, was just released on February 1, 2011, from Thomas Dunne/Minotaur. Kelli’s second novel, the San Francisco-set CITY OF DRAGONS was a Thomas Dunne/Minotaur released on February 2, 2010, to overwhelming critical acclaim. CITY OF SECRETS, the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, will be published in the Fall of 2011.
Year of the Dragon
Today does not mark the start of the Year of the Dragon—that’s next year. It’s actually the Year of the Rabbit … but I couldn’t resist headlining dragons for a couple of reasons. One, of course, is that my first Miranda Corbie novel is set during the Year of the Dragon … and then, too, I happen to be a dragon (most dragons you meet will always tell you they’re a dragon … it’s considered the luckiest sign of the zodiac, the symbol of the Emperor, etc. … as if we can take the credit for the year we’re born!)
When Janet invited me to post—for which I thank her immensely, as I love her blogs, and dream daily of chocolate confections—I thought about why I love Chinese New Year so much.
Sure, I celebrate the Gregorian calendar. But somehow, the pressure of that “2011”—and the starkness of the bare number—is intimidating. Cold, even.
One of the greatest burdens—perhaps THE greatest burden—of the animal known as homo sapiens is our pernicious consciousness of time. We recognize and anticipate our own mortality—and this makes the future of a new year—a new demarcated set of time within which anything could happen—a frightening prospect.
We off-set the fear of the future with the comforts of memory, the blessing that eases the burden. Maybe that’s one reason why people like to read historical fiction … and maybe one reason many of us like to write it. We also battle our anxiety over what changes the future holds with noise makers, celebration, parties and alcohol, an annual Masque of the Red Death kind of gaiety. So yeah, January 1st is both celebratory and problematic, full of hope for change and fear of change.
But what about Chinese New Year?
For me—and maybe partly because I didn’t grow up in the culture—there’s something comforting about marking off years in cycles that repeat, and representing them with forces of nature … oxen, rats, rabbits, snakes, horses, twelve symbols all together that cycle through every twelve years. I prefer to welcome the Year of the Rabbit than four spare numbers. And Chinese New Year celebrates the transition from winter to spring, always an optimistic time.
And then the festivities … I’m lucky to live in San Francisco, where you can see and hear and experience the roughly two weeks of symbolic festival played out: lion dances, red lanterns, special food, the dragon dance, flowers, fish, red envelopes full of money, parades, incense … it’s beautiful. Full of ancient tradition and new technologies, vibrant street markets, positive energy, and plenty of time—not just one night—to welcome in a new year and a new animal. The Dragon, incidentally, is the only mythological creature in the zodiac.
So this year, as every year, I’ll be looking forward to Chinese New Year and welcoming in the Year of the Rabbit. It instills me with more confidence that plain old 2011.
And wherever you may be, I wish you and yours “gung hay fat choy”!
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