Fantastic Victoriana: Y

ákoff. Yákoff was created by Ivan Turgenev and appeared in “Father Alexyei’s Story” (1877). Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev (1818-1883) was a Russian novelist who is best known for Fathers and Sons but who also wrote a surprising amount of supernatural fiction. One might say that “Father Alexyei’s Story” has a typical Russian darkness to it. Father Alexyei is a sad old priest (Russian Orthodox variety) who the nameless narrator meets while inspecting his aunt’s estates. The narrator eventually gets Father Alexyei to tell his story. When Father Alexyei was younger, he had a good wife and good children. His first son became a bishop. His other son, Yákoff, Alexyei hoped that he would become a priest. Yákoff was a meek, thoughtful very intelligent boy. But one day he walked in the forest and met a little green old man, who gave Yákoff an assortment of nuts. The old man had a hump on his back, kept shifting from foot to foot, and laughed, and was green even in his hair and eyes. Alexyei and his wife are inclined to disbelieve Yákoff, but he brought with him one of the nuts, which didn’t look like any ordinary nut. From that point forward Yákoff is not the same. He starts well at the seminary, but then sends his father a letter saying that he wishes to leave it: “I am afraid of myself, for I have begun to think a great deal.” Yákoff prefers to go to the university in Moscow instead. Alexyei’s wife dies, but Yákoff does not seem to mourn her much and goes off to Moscow. He returns on the first vacation, and his personality has changed; he has become tiresome and surly, even to his father. He looks older and always scowls. When question he is either silent or snarls. Back in Moscow he writes his father twice and seems to be returning to his old personality, but six weeks later, during the Christmas holidays, he returns to Alexyei’s house and says that he has left the university. He won’t explain why. His face has changed, become “dreadful, dark–not human, actually!–his cheeks were drawn, his cheek-bones projected, he was mere skin and bone; his voice sounded as though it proceeded from a barrel.” Yákoff roams about his room at night, then suddenly stops and stares into a corner. Alexyei keeps questioning Yákoff about the changes, and Yákoff finally admits that he’s being visited by “the person...whom it is awkward to mention at night.” That person, who looks like a man, “only all black,” appears in the corner of the room and looks at Yákoff. Alexyei can’t see him, but Yákoff can, and is tormented by him. From that point forward Yákoff and Alexyei fight for Yákoff’s soul–a losing battle, as, even with some temporary reverses, Yákoff becomes increasingly changed, frantic, his face “the colour of red copper, he was foaming at the mouth, his voice was hoarse, exactly as though some one were choking him!” Yákoff and Alexyei go on a pilgrimage, but during a church service Yákoff takes the communion but not the water and wine, and it is only back at home that Yákoff will explain what happened. During the service the devil spoke to him for the first time, telling him to spit out the communion bread and grind it under foot. In doing so Yákoff commits the sin against the Holy Spirit–the only one which will not be forgiven. The devil does not appear to Yákoff any more, but “he has ruined my soul and why should he come any more now?” Yákoff dies soon afterward. And that’s why Alexyei is so sad. (But in his coffin he looked young and tranquil and pure, the way he used to, and Alexyei is sure that the Lord did not judge him harshly).

“Father Alexyei’s Story” is on the grim side, certainly. It lacks the assumptions and trappings of Western supernatural fiction, so that none of the characters are really surprised at the appearance of the green man or of the actions of the devil. Like some of the other stories on this site, it reads more like folklore than anything else, a story about a man who succumbed to temptation. And so your enjoyment of it will depend on how much you enjoy reading folktales.

Alexyei was innocent, really. He just couldn’t resist the devil. It all comes of speaking to strange green men, which I heartily recommend you all avoid doing.

an Ziqiong. Yan Ziqiong was created by Li Ruzhen (or "Li Ju-chen") and appeared in Jinghua Yuan (Flowers in a Mirror, c. 1820). Li (1763-1830) was a failed scholar who was supported by his older brother and pursued a variety of interests as a dilettante scholar. He wrote Flowers in a Mirror as a historical novel exposing the cruelties of T'ang (and Qing) Dynasty China and as an allegory of the human condition, trapped between the base and the spiritual. (In the West, this impulse produced Zola and the Naturalists. In China, this produced wuxia). The novel, though quite similar to an earlier novel (Lu mudan, the Green Peony, 1800), is much better known and is variously seen as an erudite allegory, a work of proto feminism, a defense of orthodox Confucianism, a defense of Daoism, and an unsuccessful failure.

Flowers in a Mirror, set during the reign of the wicked Empress Wu Zetian (684-705 C.E.), is not about Yan Ziqiong. There are two different stories at work, neither of which feature Yan as the heroine. The hero of the first story is the adventurer T'ang Ao, who passes his scholarly examinations but is dismissed after a short time and so returns home and leaves China, accompanied by his daughter, Tang Guichen, his brother-in-law, the merchant Lin, and by his friend Duo, a sailor. They visit a number of "strange lands" and meet some very peculiar foreigners. They also undergo a variety of unpleasant and dangerous experiences, including Lin being made to wear makeup and earrings, getting his ears pierced and his feet bound in the "Country of Women," a parody of China under Empress Wu. In the course of his trip T'ang acquires a number of traveling companions, all reincarnated flower Immortals. Evil Empress Wu had very arrogantly demanded that all of the hundred flowers blossom on New Year's Day. The flower-Immortals obey her, but are punished for doing so by the Jade Emperor (it's irresponsible on their part) and are forced to reincarnate on Earth. T'ang Ao's trip through the strange lands becomes a quest to bring them together. Most of them end up accompanying T'ang Ao. T'ang finally acquires Daoist enlightenment, but he does not return to China.

The second story is Tang Guichen, who takes another long sea journey with various friends before finally returning to the capital and entering a scholarly examination specifically for women. Tang passes and is eventually reunited with her father before she reverts to her celestial identity. You see, she's Bai hua xianzi, the reincarnation of the Fairy of the Hundred Flowers, and when Empress Wu had demanded that the flowers bloom for her the Fairy had refused, saying that she'd prefer to be exiled on earth than commit an act which would reverse the proper order of yin and yang. The flowers are nonetheless tricked into blooming, and the Fairy, with the flower-Immortals, are banished to Earth. But on Little Penglai Island (a utopian Daoist fairyland and the same location in which T'ang Ao received enlightement) Tang Guichen is enlightened and so is able to reassume her position in Heaven.

But this entry isn't about the T'ang Ao or Tang Guichen. It's about Yan Ziqiong, who for the purposes of this entry represents all of the reincarnated flower-Immortals, the women warriors of Flowers in a Mirror. The novel, you see, is full of women warriors, nüxia, most of whom dress in masculine attire and act heroically and in stereotypically masculine ways, displaying great martial skills and rescuing T'ang Ao, Lin, and Duo from a variety of dangers. There's Luo Hongqu (Red Lotus), an expert archer who wears a tiger skin over her white archer's outfit; she got the tiger skin by shooting a poisoned arrow directly into the tiger's eye, causing instant death and saving T'ang Ao. She is avenging her mother's death by killing all the tigers on her home mountain. There's Ziying (Purple Cherry), who uses her skill at archery to save Lin and Duo from a pack of wild animals. Ziying taught herself to shoot so that she could support her brother and her widowed mother. There's the purple-clad Lirong (Beautiful Hibiscus), who single-handedly saves Lin and T'ang Ao when their junk is attacked by bandits; Lirong kills the bandits with pellets shot from her bow, and later displays great hand-to-hand skill. There's Jinfeng (Flowering Maple), a young sea slug diver who is bought out of bondage by T'ang Ao and gives him in return a pearl which she won by fighting and killing a giant oyster. Jinfeng dives for sea slugs because her mother depends on them for nutrition. There's Yuchan (Jade Moonlight), a warrior who reluctantly fights against rebels and twice takes on great numbers of men single-handedly. There's Zixiao (Purple Silk), clad all in red with a flushed, red face, who is a flying swordswoman (and a good one). There's Ziling (Purple Caltrop), another skilled flying swordswoman.

And, finally, there is Yan Ziqiong (Purple Jade). She is a flying swordswoman, like Zixiao and Ziling, and like them her sword is of the highest quality. Yan is the fiancee of Songsu, the White Prince of the anti-Empress Wu rebels. Yan was trained as a fighter since childhood, and when Songsu is captured by the Empress' forces Yan and Zixiao fly to rescue him, and then set him up in a safe house. Yan works to stop the evil spells cast by Empress Wu's forces on the rebels; she retrieves the magic potion which will break the spell and then later another potion, which summons the spirit of the scholar Liu Xiahui. Eventually she is killed by a spell cast by one of Empress Wu's troops. (Zixiao, though, becomes a Taoist immortal and goes to live overseas). The Empress, though, is eventually forced to abdicate, her forces defeated by the rebels (who are Tang loyalists), and the proper order of things is restored, with the male Tang dynasty taking power once again.

Yan and the rest of the women warriors are exemplars of filial piety, loyalty, and the imperturbable spirit, as reflected in the colors of their outfits. They are far greater warriors than the men in Flowers in a Mirror, far more capable on the battlefield and far less flawed people. They always determine the righteousness of their cause, using Confucian principles, before acting. And despite their overt violation of Confucian gender roles they are chaste and pure, and once order is restored they return to their proper societal positions.

ellow Wallpaper. The Yellow Wallpaper was created by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and appeared in “The Yellow Wall-Paper” (New England Magazine, January 1892). Gilman (1860-1935) was a novelist, poet, lecturer, artist, and feminist theorist. “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is generally seen today as a classic of early feminist writing, and it certainly deserves that status, but it’s more than that. It is a genuinely creepy story, which well deserves the title of “classic.”

“The Yellow Wall-Paper” is about a nameless woman who is suffering from what John, her doctor husband, says is “temporary nervous depression–a slight hysterical tendency.” So they go to stay in a colonial mansion over one summer. The woman, the narrator of “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” does not like the house–she finds something strange about it, despite its beauty–and she feels that she’s actually sick, rather than simply high-strung, as her husband believes. She and her husband have very different beliefs about a number of things, actually. She believes that the house is odd, and that the yellow wallpaper in the room he has installed her in, a former nursery, is dull and irritating to look at, and that John is not treating her very well. John, on the other hand, believes that she is only a child, and a very mentally sick one at that, who must be treated as a child, and whose fanciful complaints must be ignored as a child’s are. As “The Yellow Wall-Paper” progresses the narrator’s distrust of her husband increases, as does her own discomfort at the wallpaper. She begins to see that the pattern of the yellow wallpaper is not just wrong (“when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide–plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions”) but Wrong (“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern...the faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out....). Toward the end of the story the narrator is convinced that there is a woman trapped inside the pattern, and that at night she shakes the pattern, but during the day she gets out and creeps under the trees and the vines by the side of the road near the house. At the end of the story the narrator creeps around her room, to the horror of John and his sister, and tells them, “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

“The Yellow Wall-Paper” is similar to Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” (see the Governess entry) in a number of ways. Both stories masterfully use ambiguity and a possibly unreliable narrator to leave the reader wondering how much, if anything, should be taken as literally true. Both stories can sustain quite varied interpretations. And both are equally unnerving whether read as a supernatural story or as an account of a deranged mind.“The Yellow Wall-Paper,” however, is the superior of the two stories. What in James is either authorial incompetence or a bad writing decision–the annoying excesses of the governess’ narration–become in Gilman a harrowing account of the deterioration of a mind or the increasing possession of a woman by a possibly insane spirit. Where James is irritating, Gilman arouses our sympathy, because regardless of the truth of the supernatural, it’s clear that the narrator is treated very badly by her husband. Where “Turn of the Screw” is full of endless breathy blather, every word of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is carefully chosen to produce the cumulative, frightening effect. James’ narrator is either an empty, vain figure modeling herself on the heroines she’s read about or a shrill, delusional psychotic or an unconscious battery of evil. Gilman’s narrator is a sad, sympathetic victim of a heartless, sexist husband and/or cursed wallpaper and/or a sinister supernatural being. James brings on the individual frightening moments in an almost off-handed manner, without any kind of lead-up or warning; this does not make the moments more frightening, but less. Gilman, on the other hand, builds the mood of scary ambiguity early in the story and sustains it throughout, so that the individually frightening moments are made more frightening.

I’ve tried, on this site, to act as both critic and reviewer. As a critic I find “The Turn of the Screw” inferior (though still well written) to “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” As a reviewer I find “The Yellow Wall-Paper” more enjoyable than “The Turn of the Screw.”

The feminism of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is obvious. Sadly, Gilman based the story on the rest cure prescribed for her after she grew severely depressed following the birth of her daughter in 1885. It is hardly a stretch of the imagination, however, to believe that the attitudes which Gilman and her narrator character faced from their husbands were common in the 1880s–which is the truly frightening aspect of the story.

The Yellow Wallpaper is “a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.” The pattern grows horribly on the mind the more it is contemplated: at different times it seems to contain “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design;” it is a thing of “bloated curves and flourishes–a kind of ‘debased Romanesque’ with delirium tremens” in which “sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror;” the “outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions–why, that is something like it;” and the prison for a woman who creeps around, trying to get out by night.

en How, Dr. Dr. Yen How was created by M.P. Shiel and appeared in a primitive form in “The Empress of the Earth,” a magazine serial in Short Stories in 1889, before being revised and published as The Yellow Danger (1898). Shiel (1865-1947) was born in Montserrat but came to England as a child. As an adult, he was a professional writer, and a successful one, although today he is best known for Prince Zaleski.

Shiel has his adherents, even now, and when someone (like me) writes something negative about him (as opposed to his writings) they can usually be guaranteed of a response. Shiel himself is a somewhat controversial figure in critical studies of sf. My own original entry for Dr. Yen How and The Yellow Danger was intemperately written and–well, let’s be frank, full of bile. So I was determined, when I reread The Yellow Danger, to be particularly fair to Shiel. And I read and enjoyed (albeit with reservations) Shiel’s Prince Zaleski stories, so I went into The Yellow Danger with an open mind.

The end result was that I did change my evaluation of The Yellow Danger. I now think that it is a vile work, comparable to Taras Bulba in its moral sickness. Whether Shiel was or was not an anti-Semite or a racist aren’t, ultimately, relevant to the evaluation of his work. But the despicable morality of The Yellow Danger is.

The Yellow Danger begins with a racist snub and ends with an apocalyptic slaughter. Yen How is a half-Japanese, half-Chinese doctor, educated at the University of Heidelberg and practicing for years as a specialist in diseases of women and children in San Francisco. But when he meets Ada Seward, an English domestic, he is smitten with her, and tries to arrange a tryst with her. She rejects him, and when he persists she makes it clear that it is because he is Asian: “The girl did not listen to him, and reject him; she rejected him without taking him into consideration at all. It was as though a mule, or a cat had asked her to be his.” Some months go by, and she continues to sneer at him, and he continues to approach her, and finally he goes to her while she’s on a date, and she rejects him again (“Oh, don’t be a stupid little goose of a Chinaman! Just fancy!”) and her date shoves Yen How, leading to an exchange of blows. When Yen How recovers consciousness, he secludes himself in his home and then leaves for Japan. In the space of a few months he ascends to positions of power in both Japan and China.

What happened with Ada Seward is the catalyst but not the cause of what happens next. All along he has “cherished a secret and bitter aversion to the white race,” and he feels (as he explains to a high-ranking Japanese official) that in a few hundred years there will be a race war, “the white man and the yellow man in their death-grip, contending for the earth,” and that the white race are very far ahead now, and that by the time the two races clash, the white race will utterly destroy the yellow race. So Yen How, thinking in the long term–he fashions himself a statesman, someone who thinks in terms of centuries and millennia–decides that “if we don’t eat them all now, at once, they all will swallow us whole some day, soon–soon.” So Yen How sets out to initiate the inevitable race war, but on his terms. He enters the Chinese civil service and through his natural ability rises to become the second-in-command to the Emperor of China, while also having the ear of the highest Japanese officials. Yen How then uses his superior intellect and cunning to first set the European countries at each others throats and then reorganize Chinese and Japanese societies so that they are purely military in nature. Yen How does the former by cleverly playing the European countries off each other, through ceding each country control of various Chinese territories, which excites that country’s greed and makes the other countries envious. Yen How does the latter by ordering the complete militarization of Chinese society and putting them on a war footing.

Europe goes to war on itself, and many long battles follow. Luckily for Britain, a plucky and dashing young British naval officer, John Hardy, has been one of only three men in Britain to see what Yen How has been doing, and more fortunately still for England he is in a position to do something about it. Through good fortune, guile, and his innate superiority, Hardy is almost solely responsible for beating back an invasion of the Home Islands by those vile Continentals and then winning three naval battles in which the Royal Fleet was badly outnumbered. After Europe has temporarily exhausted itself, and the armed forces of all the Great Powers are greatly diminished, Yen How puts his plan into motion. He first orders the slaughter of all the whites in Asia and begins preparations for the invasion of the West. John Hardy, investigating the status of the European militaries, stops in China and is caught by Yen How’s men. Yen How interrogates Hardy, and on discovering that Ada Seward had once kissed Hardy (for Hardy is a nationally-known war hero) Yen How orders Hardy to be tortured to death. Weeks of gruesome torture follow, and Hardy escapes only through the petty plot of his torturer. He returns home to warn Britain that Yen How’s forces are set to invade the West.

And so they do, by the tens of millions–over four hundred million in all, nearly the entire population of China. They sweep across the Continent, devastating Russia and then Europe, committing genocide as they go and leaving few white men or women alive. They reach the Channel, taking Paris and turning it into their headquarters. Their invasion fleet is on its way to England, with Yen How at the bridge of one of the battleships, when Hardy leads the British counterattack. A series of torpedo attacks starts a chain reaction of explosions which destroys the massed Chinese and Japanese ships, including Yen How. British sailors and fishermen seize the invasion barges of the invading fleet, containing 20 million Chinese troops (yes, you read that correctly, 20 million men) and tow them into the Maelstrom, where they are sucked down to the bottom of the North Sea. Hardy then has 150 Chinese men injected with cholera and released into various cities on the Continent. The ensuing plague kills millions, but the Japanese armies kill all those suspected of having cholera, and when the plague burns itself out there are still 100 million Asians on the Continent. They are defeated by the combined surviving armies of Europe, Britain, and America, and at story’s end the white race is the undisputed ruler of the world. Hardy, meanwhile, is killed in a duel.

As a narrative The Yellow Danger has its flaws. It is readable and entertaining, to a limited degree; Shiel was trying to combine the Future War story (a genre which I’ve decided I have to in good conscience include here, and so I’ll be reading The Battle of Dorking in the not so distant future and summarizing it here) with a more straightforward adventure story, and the combination is an uneasy one. Those of us who don’t care for the trappings of the Future War story will be bored by the extended descriptions of battle scenes, down to the black-and-white illustrations of naval formations, while Future War fans will likely be bored by the character bits, including the putative love story of Ada Seward and John Hardy. Shiel tells the story in nearly the exact opposite style that he used in the Prince Zaleski stories; the narration is simple, brisk and even conversational, with only a very occasional image. (One wonders if Shiel wrote The Yellow Danger only for money and if Prince Zaleski was a project closer to his heart, which might explain the obvious level effort in the Prince Zaleski stories and the lack of same in The Yellow Danger).  Shiel has a number of real-life figures make cameos or deliver speeches, including Emile Zola as the leader of an anti-English mob which nearly kills John Hardy. And there is a brief passage of unexplained spookiness in which the skies dim for a week and the sun is only seen as a “garish blotch of leprous lavender.”

But it’s in the content that The Yellow Danger becomes truly objectionable. Shiel was writing during a time of cultural paranoia, when England’s isolation seemed to be dangerous rather than splendid. England seemed to be surrounded by enemies–political, military, and economic. The general mood among British leaders and opinion-makers in 1898 was pessimistic. France was re-emerging as a world power and expansionist European rival, newly-united nations like Germany and Italy were disturbing the familiar world order, British exports were falling, the country no longer maintained a trade surplus, and the supremacy of the British manufacturing and commercial empire was being threatened by Germany and the United States. Britain’s diplomatic isolation, which Lord Salisbury approvingly called the “splendid isolation” in 1896, had grown increasingly uncomfortable. Britain had no reliable allies in 1898, and it was disliked by many in Europe and America, not least for its actions in maintaining the Empire, such as the Jameson Raid in South Africa in 1895, which was a failed attempt to overthrow the Afrikaner government.

It was in this context that the Future War stories were written, as calls to arms against the threat of the European Great Powers and against the perceived weaknesses of the British military. Oppenheim’s Mysterious Mr. Sabin was a product of this viewpoint and a statement of it. So, too, is The Yellow Danger. Shiel inveighs against the threat of France, Germany, and Russia:

It is true that the Russian hated the German, and the German the Russian and the French; but their hatred was the hatred of brothers, always ready to combine against the outsider. This had been begun to be suspected, then recognized by the British nation. Alone and friendless must England tread the winepress of modern history, solitary in her majesty; and if ever an attempt were made to stop her stately progress, she was prepared to find that her foe was the rest of Europe.
But the European powers are not Shiel’s ultimate target. The “yellow danger,” the threat of a faceless horde of decadent and sexually rapacious barbarians overwhelming the West by sheer weight of numbers is what Shiel is finally aiming at. The Yellow Danger is a classic and even archetypal example of this. (It was argued in later years that Shiel was responsible for coining the phrase “the yellow danger”). The constant refrain of The Yellow Danger is that “the East” really is different from “the West,” that the Chinese are innately vile, and that the Japanese are little better: “The principal points of this character are an immeasurable Greed, an absolute Contempt for the world outside China, and a fiendish Love of Cruelty. It is impossible for the vilest European to conceive the dark and hideous instincts of the Chinese race.” Whether Shiel believed it or not, the message of The Yellow Danger, the preferred inscribed narrative (to use litcrit jargon), is not just of the necessity of a race war, but of the moral virtue of one.

The disgusting ethos of The Yellow Danger does not end there. Shiel indulges his anti-Semitism by aligning the Jews with Yen How. And the grotesque torture scenes with John Hardy cap off Shiel’s orgy of turpitude. John Hardy may or may not have been Shiel’s Me character; Shiel might well have suffered from sufficient racial self-loathing that he, a man born in Montserrat and at least partially of non-White ancestry, projected himself into the figure of John Hardy, the lad from Hampshire. Shiel may or may not have identified with the ubermensch Hardy (see below). But it is clear from The Yellow Danger that there was an element of hero worshiping going on. Hardy is Fortune’s darling. Everything goes John Hardy’s way, at least initially. Every move he makes turns out splendidly, every action he takes rebounds to England’s salvation and his own glory. John Hardy is celebrated by all of Britain. Hardy is the epitome, in Shiel’s world, of the British ubermensch, and it can be argued that he was Shiel’s Me character.

So Shiel not only has Hardy tortured by Yen How, but Shiel describes the torture at much too great a length, to the point that only a sadist or masochist could enjoy it and most other readers, revolted, will skip ahead. What this says about Shiel–what conclusions can be drawn from Shiel’s submitting his Me character to such grotesque, extended tortures–I leave it to you to decide.

Hardy, as mentioned, is an ubermensch. One of the underlying themes of the novel is that Yen How is the Asian equivalent of an ubermensch, and Hardy is his British counterpart. The Yellow Danger firmly believes in the Great Man school of history, with Hardy and Yen How as the greatest of Great Men. So the clash between Asians and Europeans (America is essentially an afterthought in The Yellow Danger, sending troops only to the final battle) and between Hardy and Yen How is not just military but also moral and spiritual, with differing races of humans fighting for supremacy. This is another aspect of the racism of The Yellow Danger, the aforementioned moral virtue of the race war: if the white race does not defeat the yellow race, evil will triumph.

Yen How is the son of a Japanese father and a Chinese mother, “of noble feudal descent.” “In China he passed for a Chinese, and in Japan for a Jap.” He is cosmopolitan; “no European could be more familiar with the minutiæ of Western civilization.” He has a brilliant mind; “nothing equaled his assiduity, his minuteness, his attention to detail.” He has an intimate knowledge and great empathy for the lower classes; “he was unable to sympathize with either Eastern or Western distinctions of class and rank.” When The Yellow Danger begins, he is “perhaps forty years of age, but seemed anything between sixteen and sixty; a hard, omniscient, cosmopolitan little man, tough as oak, dry as chips.” His one real failing is his overwhelming desire for Ada Seward, which drives him to a most un-Yen How-like statement toward her and then compels him to have John Hardy tortured when a quick execution would be wiser. Other than that, he is a superman, a military prodigy and a ruthless antagonist to all white men. In personality he appears as a mix of conversational amiability and vengeful schemer. And while he hates all things white, he is quite aware of the racism is not one-sided. (There's a telling exchange with John Hardy in which Hardy says that the English and the Chinese have always been good friends. Yen How asks Hardy if he will give Yen How a cousin for his wife. Hardy is offended by the suggestion. Yen How's response: "Ah, you say no, you see. Englishman and Chinaman are not such very good friends, then"). In terms of the continuum of Yellow Peril (see Kiang-Ho and Quong Lung and Yue-Laou below for some others) characters, he is the first Yellow Peril military leader whose threat is global, not local.

ue-Laou. Yue-Laou was introduced in Robert W. Chambers' "The Maker of Moons" (1896). Chambers (1865-1933) was a popular and prolific writer in his lifetime and remains well-known today. During his lifetime, however, he was best known for his "shop-girl" romances and historical novels, but today he is best-known for his horror and fantasy stories. His greatest work, and the one he is best-remembered for, is the King in Yellow, which greatly influenced H.P. Lovecraft. "The Maker of Moons" is the lead story from The Maker of Moons (1896), an entertaining collection of stories combining horror, action, and romance in the vein that Rohmer, among others, would later popularise. Yue-Laou is a sorcerer; he is the leader of the Kuen-Yuin,

the sorcerers of China and the most murderously diabolical sect on earth....I've seen them at their devilish business, and I repeat to you solemnly, that as there are angels above, there is a race of devils on earth, and they are sorcerers...I tell you that the Kuen-Yuin have absolute control of a hundred millions of people, mind and body, body and soul. Do you know what goes on in the interior of China? Does Europe know,--could any human being conceive of the condition of that gigantic hell-pit?
Yue-Laou, among other things, runs a counterfeiting operation, using his sorcery to produce gold and enrich himself. ("The Maker of Moons" is an entertaining story, anticipating Lovecraft without giving in to H.P.'s indulgences and weaknesses, but it must be said that Yue-Laou's motivation in the story is...well, absent. The Maker of Moons is a good collection, as it happens, and the stories are a nice mix of horror and romance, but they, like Chambers himself, are not without flaws) He is from the city of Yian, "where all the gardens are sweet and the river flows under the thousand bridges...sweet with perfume and the sound of silver bells all day long." Yian is "across the seven oceans and the river which is longer than from the earth to the moon," which is to say that this city, the capital of the Kuen-Yuin, is somewhere in the middle of China. Another description of its location is said by Barris, the tough, greying Secret Service agent friend of the narrator:
I have seen the dead plains of Black Cathay and I have crossed the mountains of Death, whose summits are above the atmosphere. I have seen the shadow of Xangi cast across Abaddon. Better to die a million miles from Yezd and Ater Quedah than to have seen the white water-lotus close in the shadow of Xangi! I have slept among the ruins of Xaindu where the winds never cease and the Wulwulleh is wailed by the dead.
Just what this means is never quite explained, but it's entertaining in its Lovecraftian way.

But I was writing of Yue-Laou. He is the "maker of moons," a sorcerer and ruler of Yian and the Kuen-Yuin. He is also known as Dzil-Nbu. His daughter (who is good, albeit innocent and naive, and wholly unlike Yue-Laou), describes him this way:

Yue-Laou is Dzil-Nbu of the Kuen-Yuin. He lived in the Moon. He is old--very, very old, and once, before he came to rule the Kuen-Yuin, he was the old man who unites with a silken cord all predestined couple, after which nothing can prevent their union. But all that is changed since he came to rule the Kuen-Yuin. Now he has perverted the Xin,--the good genii of China,--and has fashioned from their warped bodies a monster which he calls the Xin. This monster is horrible, for it not only lives in its own body, but it has thousands of loathesome satellites,--living creatures without mouths, blind, that move when the Xin moves, like a mandarin and his escort. They are a part of the Xin although they are not attached. Yet if one of these satellites is injured the Xin writhes with agony. It is fearful--this huge living bulk and these creatures spread out like severed fingers that wriggle around a hideous hand.
The satellites are "something soft and yellow with crab-like legs all covered with coarse yellow hair" and are quite repugnant. The Xin itself makes an appearance at the end of the story, emerging from an upstate New York lake; it is "a shadow, a nameless shapeless mass, headless, sightless, gigantic, gaping from end to end."

As for Yue-Laou himself, his powers are ill-defined, and he has no lines in the story, but the cumulative effect of the story is of creeping menace, and it's well worth searching out. (Oh, and Yue-Laou appears to die in the end of the story, but it's ambiguously-enough written that there is some doubt)

uki-onna. Yuki-Onna (this particular version) was created by Lafcadio Hearn and appeared in “Yuki-Onna” (Kwaidan, 1904). Hearn (1850-1904) is a fascinating character, perhaps more so even than his fiction. He moved to Japan in 1891 as an American correspondent and became fascinated with Japan and the Japanese; he then settled there as a citizen and wrote a number of stories in the style of Japanese folklore, many of them based on Japanese myths. He did much to introduce Japan to the West through his work. He also gained fame as a translator of French writers, including Théophile Gautier (of the  Cleopatra and Arria Marcella entries).

“Yuki-Onna” is about Minokichi, a young wood cutter. He and Mosaku, an old wood cutter, are caught by a great snowstorm one night; they are on the wrong side of a river and the ferryman had gone home. So Minokichi and Mosaku take shelter in the ferryman’s hut. The storm is terrible and blows through the cracks in the walls of the hut. Minokichi wakes up to see a beautiful woman all in white blowing a white breath on Mosaku and then leaning over him. She tells him “I intended to treat you like the other man. But I cannot help feeling some pity for you, because you are so young.... You are a pretty boy, Minokichi; and I will not hurt you now. But, if you ever tell anybody–even your own mother–about what you have seen this night, I shall know it; and then I will kill you.... Remember what I say!” She then leaps through the door of the hut and is gone. Minokichi can’t tell whether he was dreaming or not, and when he turns to wake Mosaku he finds that his friend is frozen dead. Minokichi is a long time recovering from his night out, but he never tells anyone about the woman in white. The next winter he meets a beautiful young woman who calls herself O-Yuki. He is very attracted to her, and their conversation as they walk turns to marriage, and they find that neither one is married. When they reach Minokichi’s village he asks O-Yuki to rest at his house, and she hesitatingly accepts. Minokichi’s mother makes a meal for O-Yuki and takes to her, and so O-Yuki ends up staying with Minokichi as his wife. She is a wonderful daughter in law and wife, always very handsome despite bearing Minokichi ten children, all handsome and very fair like her. One night, after the children have gone to sleep, Minokichi reminisces about the time he was trapped out in the snow, and tells O-Yuki about the “Woman of the Snow” he saw. O-Yuki shrieks, “It was I-I-I! Yuki it was! And I told you then that I would kill you if you ever said one word about it!...But for those children asleep there, I would kill you this moment! And now you had better take very, very good care of them; for if ever they have reason to complain of you, I will treat you as you deserve!” And then she melts into a mist and floats through the roof and is never seen again.

“Yuki-Onna” has the feel of folklore, but it is Hearn’s work. (He claimed, however, that it was told to him by a Japanese farmer and that it was a legend in the farmer’s native village). The figure of Yuki-Onna is authentic to Japanese folklore, however; the yuki-onna is a female snow demon who misleads travelers. Hearn tells “Yuki-Onna” in a very simple and straightforward style which works very effectively for this subject matter. A complaint of predictability would be pointless, for we all know how most folktales will end. What should be valued about the story is the imagery, the way in which Hearn so wonderfully captures the tone and cadence of Japanese folktales, and the way in which even very alien (i.e., non-Western) folklore can seem very familiar to us.

The Yuki-Onna, in her native form, is a beautiful woman, but her eyes are frightening and the breath she blows on men to kill them is like bright white smoke. In her “O-Yuki” form she is tall and slim and quite good-looking, properly demure and shy, and well-liked by all those who know her. Until, of course, someone breaks their promise to her....

A. Abällino to Axel
B. Hajji Baba to Amelia Butterworth
C. Cahina to Inspector John Cutting
D. The Damned Thing to Dyson
E. Robert Easterley to Pedro Arbuez d'Espila
F. Fantomas to the Fulgurator
G. "G" to Dr. Ginochio Gyves
H. Les Habits Noir to the Hypnotist
I-J. Ichor to Rob Joslyn
K. Kai Lung to Kreuzgang.
L. Lady Detectives to Arsène Lupin
M. Madame Koluchy to Dora Myrl
N. Nameless Man to Alice Nutter
O. Jack O'Halloran to Ozmar the Mystic
P. Pan to Psammead
Q. Dr. Jack Quartz to Quong Lung
R. A.J. Raffles to Lord Ruthven
S. Mr. Sabin to Count Szémioth
T-U. Adrian Temple to Undine
V. Vaila to Vril
W. Hilda Wade to Wung-Ti
Y. Yákoff to Yuki-onna
Z. Zaleski to Zoe

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