I am looking for ways to distribute my creative work through book and/or recording. It is a historical and science fiction novel with some comedy. I hope this work helps people better understand some difficulties of people who take responsibilities. In addition, this book written in English also aims to assist non-Chinese readers, with optimism for people such as Donald Trump, better understand some of our Chinese customs.
Does anyone have any experience or ideas how I can get my work distributed? I am open to constructive criticism and sharing on this project. My email is ALJPAN@gmail.com
It is ancient China. The previous emperor has just been abdicated. So ends his four year rule. His greatest achievement was bringing more peasants from across the countryside to participate our capitol affairs. But he upset many of the old clans by breaking tradition and challenging their legacies and authority.
Traditionally, peasants had to pass our Public Service Examination to have a voice in our capitol. From there they could pursue civil service, military service, or diplomatic service. Unfortunately once a person selects their service they must continue their service for life, or face execution or worse, exile.
As for our old clans, the former emperor did not favor members of old clans participating in our capitol affairs, especially our celebrations and parties. “This food is from our land, yet you do not follow our land,” he said. What I believe he meant was that they did not take or pass our Public Service Examinations to attend our functions. I have heard others say he meant that they serve the head of their clans or someone else other than the emperor.
But what has passed is past. Now that we have no emperor, we are in the procedure of selecting a new emperor. Just like always, the royal guard occupies our palace and candidates who want to be emperor line up by eldest age to present a speech why they should be emperor and what they will do for our empire. Sometimes I wonder whether there is any point to this tradition because all of us civil servants always line up and speak of some great spectacle to be done while sitting on the throne. Anyone who doesn’t line up loses face, so we all line up.
Many of us civil servants share my opinion on service. It is foolish to become emperor because we share everything with the emperor with exception to control over resources. The military is its own organization and has its own leadership. So do diplomats. From being a servant to emperor, we become burdened with responsibilities and are put in life-or-death situations.
The first candidate steps up. This most senior of civil servants speaks of a butterfly’s dream. I think he is politely questioning whether there is any point in his life to be Emperor.
“What does it mean to dream? Do we even dream? Is this our dream or a butterfly’s dream? I present to you my dream. I dream of a butterfly dreaming dreams of our dreams. This butterfly dreams of dreams much grander than our dreams. Consider the butterfly, so small, so inconsequential compared to us civilized people. So the butterfly must dream some dream grander than ours, because the butterfly sees the same as we do! I will let the butterfly dream a grander dream than I could ever dream.”
The audience nods and awes in approval. “I completely agree.” “What this elder teacher says is absolutely correct.” “I tip my hat in reverence of his wisdom.” “There can be no greater wisdom than what was just said today.” The elderly gentleman walks out of the palace.
The second most senior civil servant steps up and speaks of disaster.
“We have a food shortage for upcoming winter! We do not have enough soldiers to patrol our towns! How is our stock of spears and bows? Harvest time is in a few months! Do I hear our women gossiping? We need more entertainment! Do we have enough materials to build new houses? Heaven knows there are things I need to be doing. And so I shall go.”
The audience remains silent. Some snickering can be heard from the guards.
The third most senior civil servant, the head of one of the largest clans, speaks of our glory.
“F-o-r h-u-n-d-r-e-d-s o-f y-e-a-r-s o-u-r E-m-pi-r-e h-a-s s-t-o-o-d u-n-d-e-r H-e-a-v-e-n f-o-l-l-o-w-i-n-g t-h-e d-i-v-i-n-e P-a-t-h. I-t i-s w-i-t-h g-r-e-a-t r-e-v-e-r-a-n-c-e t-o t-h-i-s P-a-t-h o-u-r S-i-m-a c-l-a-n w-a-s a-b-l-e t-o p-r-o-s-p-e-r. W-e b-r-o-u-g-h-t a-n e-n-d t-o t-h-e T-h-r-e-e K-i-n-g-d...” *rustle* *rustle* *slide*
Cheers and applause can be heard. The thundering of sticks on the ground cause me to shake. I open my eyes to the cheers of the audience. I find myself sitting on the Emperor’s throne. Crisis! I look to my side and see the clan head standing next to me. Behind him is a line of my colleagues gasping and in awe.
“May our Emperor live ten thousand years!”
I am now the new emperor.
My humble beginnings start in my hometown a few days from the capital. At the center of my hometown was a messenger from our capitol. His uniform glistened a bit and he was surrounded with several assistants tending to horses and a decorated wagon. Each of his assistants had a different looking face, his horses looked more for show than riding, and his wagon was decorated in a manner that made me curious what was inside.
I was hauling rice from the farmland to the town merchant when my name was announced by the messenger in the town square. All the villagers became excited. Gossip and whispers could be heard all over our small town. My family went on a spending spree and bought a lot of meat, to host a feast in my honor no doubt. I had passed my Public Service Examination.
For a small protected town so close to the capitol such as mine, becoming a military officer was out of the question. I was terrified of barbarians and animals. And moving so far away from my family to our borders was out of the question. Not to mention the brutality of war legends such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms. War is horrifying.
And I have never met a foreigner before nor speak another land’s language. I could not bear to leave my family to travel lands so far away. Although the small trinkets and treasures seem interesting, and I could probably make a fortune bringing those treasures home, the uncertainty of who I would meet was too much to be a diplomat.
So I chose to be a civil servant. My new job started immediately with several of my fellow villagers pushing me away from my rice wagon and pulling my haul of rice to the merchant. Some girls in my town giddily grabbed my arms and escorted me to the messenger who announced the results. He announced my name again and I announced my presence. “Here.”
One of his nearby assistants handed me a civil servant hat on top of a set of neatly folded robes. “Get dressed immediately. Your work starts today.” The town is struck with awe and the girls around me were clearly impressed. I carried my uniform with my two hands toward my home until one of my fellow villagers directed me to his home. I removed my thick wool garments and put on my new robes. Silk.
It was a long walk back to the messenger in my silk robe uniform as a civil servant. I could feel the stares and glances from the entire town. Some familiar villagers inconspicuously felt my fabric as I walked by them. The girls seemed to have a personality change as they now seem friendlier and more girly to me. My family grinned with huge smiles as they pat my back while I walked by them. The messenger faced me the entire time while I navigated through the crowd in my hometown.
I finally returned to the messenger in my new silken uniform. The messenger bowed to me as I reciprocated my bow. His assistant presents him a scroll that the messenger takes and opens. He reads it in front of the entire town.
“Emperor Wang tasks you to reopen the complaints office in this town. You are to hear of any complaints, resolve those complaints, and report on your complaints-related activities every month. An amount of materials will be provided to you as long as you maintain satisfactory service on behalf of our emperor. Please use this amount of rice, gold, and scribe materials to get yourself started.”
“I humbly accept.” Everyone around me cheers. The messenger and his assistants pack up their decorated wagon and hitch their wagon to their horses. They walk out of the town. I am left with several items of food and gold. I can see some of my family members squeeze through the crowd toward me. My mother talks to nearby restaurant owners and is guided to the kitchen. My father puts his arm over my shoulder and has never seemed so gleeful and accomplished in his life. The townspeople move around the town center as if busy little bees gathering honey.
Some of my family members grab the food and move the rice to the restaurant kitchen where my mother started cooking delicious smells. Other family members haul my gold, paper, ink, and a box of imperial supplies to my new workplace in the office building in the center of town. The building has a small park outside its entrance and a long walkway. Compared to other buildings in town, it was one of the best crafted.
The walls are a bit gray, most likely from soot and ashes from firecrackers and outside barbecues, but much taller than ordinary households. The roofs of the wall are hedged, making it seem impossible to climb. There is only one entrance to the building, and that is to the front. In the center of the walled building I enter.
Mahogany seats, desks, cabinets, and shelves, with some artwork around the empty areas of the room. A bit dusty, but the villagers who entered with me are dusting the furniture with their rags.
This is to be my home for the next twenty or so years.
The first procedure I am tasked as emperor is to exile the previous emperor. Perhaps this is the reason our most eldest of civil servants avoid becoming emperor. Surprisingly in an uproar, the previous emperor cannot be found on palace grounds. This is not the first time the previous emperor was not exiled in ceremonial tradition.
Before the previous emperor, many emperors came before him. Emperors have been removed from power, dead of natural and unnatural causes, and, like this one, mysteriously disappeared. One of the first emperors was forcibly dethroned by his generals over a power struggle. The generals replaced the emperor with a much younger and less ambitious one. Another emperor got himself in trouble over mistresses and concubines. It was a massive web of sex scandals and who-loved-who-more when, in the end, the women decided to jointly revolt and assassinate the emperor.
Rarely, an emperor would live a long life and pass away peacefully of old age on the throne. The first emperor that I can remember who achieved a pass-away on the throne had a debilitating stutter and difficulty speaking. So his advisors, civil servants, and others would always speak for him and burden the blame for his failures. And failure meant exile… or death. It seems with every failure or mistake as emperor foreshadows ill omen and death.
It appears my predecessor is the type to mysteriously disappear. He was the one to resign himself, and for all I know he could be hundreds of miles from the palace by now. His wisdom clearly shows as he would rather impose himself into exile than face a risk of execution in the palace. I must learn more about that man. But more importantly, I am now emperor and my failure could mean death.
Perhaps I could fake a stutter like one of my predecessors. But all of us in the palace are well familiar with each other, and what could I say if one of my former fellows brought up my change in speech. Perhaps I could disappear like the slippery one. But my hometown is relying on me and the military could brand my family as traitors to the empire. Perhaps I could pull some magic and divination to elevate myself as a heavenly emperor. But what if I were wrong? I would be executed on the spot.
I try to reminisce my small town roots decades ago managing a complaint office for the empire. How peaceful my work was and how relaxing my life was. Even though it was dirt and rags compared to living in the imperial palace, at least my days with my family, my town, and passerby was with smiles and no responsibilities compared to living in the palace.
With how close my hometown is to the capital, there was no way for me to escape and disappear like the wise one. I am set. I have no choice but to follow through procedures to become the new emperor. I sit up straight on the throne and ready my commanding presence. My civil servants are waiting behind me in the corner and my royal guards are ever attentive.
“Because the previous emperor could not be found on palace grounds, we shall consider him missing and dead and burn a straw doll of him for his funeral.”
“Do unto others what you want done unto yourself,” once said Confucius, our great teacher.
The palace crier parrots my order and the message is spread as far as my ears could hear. Most of the royal guards ceremonially leave the palace and my civil servants line up on palace grounds. The second procedure as emperor is to select my royal advisors. There is nothing special about these advisors except for show and security outside palace grounds. In the past, some advisors emperors listened to most were found savagely beaten or killed when journeying outside the palace. So a ceremonial procedure was put in place to let the guards know who the emperors would listen to the most.
It was a tough decision. If I selected any one of my former colleagues as a royal advisor, they would gain an immense amount of credibility and influence in the palace. This includes their families and hometowns outside the palace. One time an emperor-selected royal advisor built a fortress in one of the empire’s bordering towns and it became a bandit camp. I’m not sure whether it still exists or not, but for certain it is no longer part of the empire. It has become either a trader’s town or razed to the ground.
With that thought I carefully prepare my answer.
“With a bag of rice, one could feed an entire village for a month. Rather than split the bag of rice for all the towns in our empire that could hardly feed a village for a day, let us keep the bag of rice together so at least one of our towns may flourish.”
I hope that appealed to enough people to not startle this lion cage as my first day as emperor.
Across the palace I could hear iron and steel dropping and clanging on the plaza floor.
“No way. There is no way we can do that.”
A man brazenly stood. There are exactly ten people consisting of five men and five women sitting around a circular conference table participating in an all-too-common meeting. The latest hardware, the latest gadgets, the most recent trend in contemporary art decorated the meeting room. Each person had a stern look on their face as if fully confident and determined that their life has been an accumulation of the right course of actions.
Exactly one half of the people sitting on one side of the table nodded in agreement. Exactly one half of the people in the room sighed with frustration, split right down the middle of the table. One person on each side of the table jots scribbles on sheets of paper. One person on each side of the table reviews a packed of stacked documents. One person on each side of the room operates a computer like a duck swimming in water. One person on each side of the room stares at the people sitting on the other side of the room. One person on each side of the room glances at others sitting on the same side of the table. Office supplies and decorations are almost perfectly symmetrical from one side of the table to the other side of the table.
“This proposal submitted by one of my very ambitious subordinates claims that every person in this nation has forgotten who they are and where they came from.”
“But think of the consequences. If our business is caught squatting and extracting resources from this nation, it will be scandal, scandal, scandal for the next several years.”
Suddenly, the split opinions of people in the room changed to different table sides. But it was still a five to five opinion on the decision.
“The nation is completely isolated. They do not communicate, they turn away all outside visitors, and are completely self reliant. The only scandal there will be is the discovery of a nation bearing strong resemblance to ancient China completely isolated from the rest of humanity.”
“My subordinate can take all the blame if something goes wrong. He was the first to distribute the document through our communication channels and spread the idea to my executives.”
“We can’t expect our higher level leadership to be compensating to us if we use the idea of one of our subordinates. Our decision is still our decision.”
“I completely agree. Even if our subordinate takes all the blame, that will not make a difference in our performance reports. In the end it will be our jobs and careers on the line.”
Another shift in balance subtly occurs, again one-half agreeing on one side and one-half disagreeing for another side.
“With everything said and done, who is this subordinate that you mention?”
“I haven’t even shook hands with her. Or him. How can I trust your subordinate?”
“Me neither. Can your subordinate properly dress for the occasion?”
It seems this group rhetoric could go on forever.
“How about we invite this subordinate of ours for lunch? We have been meeting since morning.”
“I missed out on breakfast. But we are covering very complicated and hard-to-make decisions.”
“I say we test this subordinate of ours over lunch. How good of a plan maker is he?”
“We should consider further talking about this nation your subordinate discovered. How does extending the deadline for our decision sound?”
“I am not so sure. I do not want to seem indecisive to our superiors.”
“The only indecision we would be concluding here is a young executive’s brash mistake for making a decision without being fully informed. Who will be the first to blame? That would be us, her or his superiors. As this young executive’s seniors, we must properly guide her or him and serve as their role models.”
“No one expects us to lead our juniors toward high-risk and low-gain activities. And yet, that could be an advantage for our situation as our competitors might not be entirely informed of this opportunity. We should seize this opportunity and make this advantage ours.”
“An advantage or not, might our competitors seize this opportunity if presented in the same manner as us? Should we delve into the possibility?”
Alan Pan <email@example.com>