Wuxiaworld recommendation

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Wuxiaworld recommendation

Postby mr friendly guy » 2017-04-05 02:00am


I am going to make a recommendation visit Wuxiaworld which translates Chinese and Korean web novels (usually of the fantasy genre) into English. Before someone goes, but what about the authors, and isn’t this pirating? Well rest assured (at least for the Chinese novels) they have negotiated deals with the Chinese online site to translate into English. For now it seems Chinese web novel websites despite setting up an English site, are content to negotiate terms for translation sites like Wuxiaworld. Some of the authors (at least the stories I am currently reading) have given their blessing and even suggestions on translating. So its all good.

Wait, what about the translators? Well the site does have advertisements, but the translators do ask for patreon donations. I have personally donated a once off to the translators for a story I am reading. Looking at their patreon donations, lets just say they aren’t exactly starving for a part time job (although the money is split among several translators). When you are earning > $2000 USD per month for translating 2 novels, I think its ok part time work.

Now lets go into some terms.

Wuxia is older genre which refers to martial hero. Think of the flying swordsmen archetype. The movie Crouching tiger hidden dragon would be wuxia. A lot of them have a theme of a hero developing in power by learning all these new martial arts techniques.

Xianxia is similar, but it tends to have more magic. If journey to the West was written today, it would arguably fit in this genre, especially when we see the monkey king learning magic at the early stages of the story and advancing in skill. You might find characters levelling up by learning new magical skills and gaining powers.

Note there is another category Xuanhuan “mysterious fantasy” which is the broader category. Think of xuanhuan like how western bookshops would group fantasy, and xianxia as a subgroup of fantasy. Think of all these groupings as simply a way for readers to get an idea of the subject matter, rather than a hard and fast rule since stories don’t always fit neatly into this category.

Now that we got genre out the way, lets talk about web publications. Apparently a lot of Chinese consider this to be not high class, sort of like how snob nose literati in the West look down on comic book readers. But we geeks and nerds know better, don’t we?

According to my research, web authors are paid by chapter, so there is an incentive to have a story with lots of short chapters. Think of this like a comic book, where you sort of have to make some significant plot development in each 22 page monthly issue. So a fight scene between two characters, would usually (not all the time) be resolved by the end of the chapter.

This also means authors don’t spend ages describing what a character is wearing, Robert Jordan style. They also have to convey what a character is thinking in very few words. They cannot go into a lot of detail, but its enough so that you get the feeling of what a character thinks. Its certainly enough that a lot of the time I started hating a character after a few lines as their rank hypocrisy comes out.

Author names
Wuxia traditionally had Chinese authors use poetic pen names, eg Gu Long (ancient dragon). Xianxia web novelists, have whimsical pen names, like Wo Chi Xi Hong Shi (I Eat tomatoes) or Er Gen (red ears), Mars Gravity etc. Before anyone goes, who calls themselves I eat Tomatoes? Well someone who earns 21 million RMB (>3 million USD) per year in royalties. That’s who.
http://www.wuxiaworld.com/author-spotli ... -tomatoes/

Lets go through some of the features of these xianxia web novels.

Xianxia characters are Wuxia characters on steroids. Actually make that wuxia characters on Captain America’s super soldier serum plus Bane’s venom, and TMNT mutagen and whole host of goodies. Seriously, when a character is knocked 270 km from the sky into the ground and still conscious and able to glare hatefully at the protagonist, I think that’s kind of comic book level of power up.

I can give you other examples. Duplicate idol statues of the characters standing from 3000 metres to 21000 metres (Mt Everest is under 9000 metres tall). Giants standing at 90 metres (D & D storm giants are only a few metres tall). Ocean worlds where characters can survive > 60,000 metres deep (the deepest part of the world is just less than 11000 metres deep). Xianxia is big.

The world is big. There is no way some of these fantasy worlds are not bigger than earth based on descriptions given (ie population size in a pre industrial planet, size of natural phenomena etc).

Levelling up
Remember all those computer RPGs where its kill the monster and get the loot. These novels are like that except it has a plot. There are conspiracies, geopolitics about who hates who, mysteries etc. However I get the feeling most of it is just to advance the character. Its just like the game where side quests and main quests help the player character become more powerful. They even have different regions where characters are just more powerful than characters in another region, just like RPGs. There are numerous villains, but I don’t get the feel there is a chief villain (at least so far anyway).

Another feature about the levels is that it helps you get a sense of which character might be more powerful, and hence trouble the protagonist. The authors tend to give ranks to the levels (available on the wuxiaworld wikia), and no they don’t go level 1, level 2 etc. The levels have poetic names, for example earth, sky, tyrant, emperor etc.

So if a character is a much higher rank than the protagonist, you know to be worried. Its an easy way to gauge things and its woven nicely into the story because characters mostly, can sense each others rank. So imagine a D & D level 20 character able to sense the character level of an NPC by just looking at them and realising they are only a level 10 character and then treats them with contempt. This of course leads to underestimating the main character.

So far I am reading I shall seal the heavens and Against the Gods. I would start with I shall the heavens given a lot of people recommend this one. It is completed in Chinese with 1614 chapters (translated to English you would have 1000 -2000 words per chapter), and so far more than 1360 chapters have been translated with the whole series expected to be finished by July 2017.

One thing I like about the I shall seal the heavens translation is that the translator make numerous foot notes. For example they say, that this character first appeared earlier in chapter x, talks about pronunciation of names which aren’t obvious with English Romanisation, talks about words which aren’t so easy to translate and why they chose this particular English word etc. He even translates notes from the Chinese author, which sort of personalises things, as the author describes his life to his fans and apologises when he cannot update due to personal emergencies.

Most of the blurb for these novels on the website don’t really tell me much, other than this is the story of <insert awesome guy here>. So I am going to give a better description.

The protagonist of I shall seal the heavens, is Meng Hao, orphan and failed scholar who is kidnapped to join a sect of cultivators (their equivalent to magic user, in D & D parlance they would be fighter mages). This Reliance sect replenishes its numbers by kidnapping and then subjecting recruits to a darwinian environment. A lot die, but some make it through. Hey, it’s a dog eat dog world out there, but the Reliance sect takes it to extreme, encouraging infighting whereas other sects at least cooperate between members. Why the Reliance sect treats its members in such a retarded manner is explained, and it goes beyond negligence.

Meng Hao survives and is eventually forced to leave his homeland (or rather his homeland leaves him, literally) and encounters other sects and grow stronger during his adventures, eventually finding out the truth about his parents. But that doesn’t end the story. There are more problems and hints of ancient conflict which have never been totally put to rest and war about to break up.

The author doesn’t give Meng Hao much of a break. He frequently gets targeted by people who covets what he has, or is just pissed off at him for very slight “provocation.” The fact that he survives just makes them more angry that someone dared to defy them to live.

Now the story I feel starts off slow, but once it hits its stride its damn addictive. So I am going to talk about some of the features

Cosmology of ISSTH
Its interesting. There are 9 mountains and 9 seas. These mountains are huge, like World Tree huge. Each of these mountains have 4 planets orbiting it, some are larger than others. I get the feeling even the starting planet is bigger than earth.

These 9 mountains and 9 seas are the remnant of the immortal world after a great war. Travel between each mountain is not easy as there are dimensional barriers stopping you, but enough cultivators can combine their power and breakthrough.

Aside from the 9 mountains, there are 33 heavens, areas which previously was part of 3000 realms which were subservient to the immortals, but during the great war, the immortals were attacked by 2 forces from “outside” and the 3000 realms decided to rebel. Some of the people from outside are from the author’s previous novels, which would suggest that the novels are all in the same universe or multiverse.

Meng Hao starts on a planet in the Ninth mountain, which is interesting as there was a civil war the ninth mountain in which one faction came out on top, but could not totally destroy everyone else who opposed them. The planet he starts off in is a relative backwater, and he lives in what must be the most backwater state.

Some battles would be a visual feast. Hundreds of swords flying out to strike an opponent. People self detonating to take out their enemy in death. A 90 metre giant hurling Meng Hao at the enemy cultivators (who are in the air) and then Meng Hao being flanked by flying demons as they clear a way to attack the enemy’s “Holy daughter.”

There is also tactics involved. One battle after I read it, I was thinking, why didn’t I think of doing that. A lot of the time Meng Hao plays to his strengths rather than blindly charging in, like say Parn from Record of the Lordoss war. If he is outnumbered, he dodges and first takes out middle tier opponents and then saves up the most powerful for last.

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if people like Game of thrones, you can’t get too squeamish here. Numerous times people try to genocide his entire group. While I always felt Meng Hao would be able to escape if worse comes to worse, I wasn’t sure if the tribe he was tasked to protect would. Destruction of every man, woman and child is promised, and Meng Hao destroys the attacking force. A lot of the time, both the body and soul of an opponent is destroyed. In a world where reincarnation occurs, destroying the soul leads to true death.

There is a scene where an enemy asks for mercy, and Meng Hao asks, if our positions were reversed, would you do the same. And the enemy knows the answer (since he tried to genocide them twice already), and then resigns himself to a last attack as all his forces are wiped out.

Just when you thought the brutality couldn’t get worse, he eventually faces more stronger opponents and the brutality gets turned up a notch.

The character
What makes Meng Hao spectacular, is not his ruthlessness, nor his ability to make 1000 metre tall mountains fall on opponents, or his numerous other magical abilities, its his goddamn trolling and capitalism. That’s right, he trolls them in ways which left me in stitches. Or at least it would be funny if you get the tropes in Chinese shows.

For example when someone tries to attack him and loses, they then cry victim as their helpers come to attack Meng Hao for “bullying”. He turns it around and accuses everyone of ganging up in an attempt to rob him, while using magically enhanced voice so a lot of people in the clan can hear the accusation. The absurdity even causes his enemies to pause, as they realise it boils down to my word vs your word. After all, in the cultivator world, just like the real world, people have to give a justification for their actions even if it is bullshit.

No discussion of Meng Hao would be complete without describing his capitalist tendencies. Some would call it conning. He sells healing medicines in the middle of a fight between two people for exorbitant prices. One side is going to buy and gain an advantage, and the opponent is then force to buy to counteract. This is just one of the example of how he powergames the system. It’s a refreshing way to earn money rather than kill the monster and gather the loot.

Lord Fifth
This character’s name is play on the fact that the Chinese words for parrot and five, are similar. Lord Fifth of course is Meng Hao’s perverted parrot.

Sometimes I find Lord Fifth behaviour like toilet humour, but sometimes its just so hilarious, especially when the opponents are real serious types. That’s all I am going to say on it.
So enjoy reading the translations on wuxiaworld.
Never apologise for being a geek, because they won't apologise to you for being an arsehole. John Barrowman - 22 June 2014 Perth Supernova.

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