We caught up with artist and author, Laura Givens, and asked her about her role as author in a new book, Legends of the Dragon Cowboys.
SFT: What the heck is a Dragon Cowboy?
LG: In the Old West there weren't a lot of complimentary terms for Chinese who came to this country to help build the railroads and new lives for themselves. Dragons imply a certain strength of character and self determination that I hope my character, Chin Song Ping, embodies. The west was full of Chinese men and they weren't all former Shaolin priests, coolies and cooks. As Pete Townshend of the Who once noted, “All the best cowboys have Chinese eyes."
SFT: What's your story about?
LG: My half of the book is composed of short stories about the improbable life and crazy times of Chin Song Ping. They are strung together by the narrative device of having his grandson relate the stories to his comrades on the eve of their execution. The stories are humorous, and adventurous and meant to keep the reader, as well as his fellow prisoners, engaged at an impossible time.
SFT: So, two stories in one book? What kind of deal is that?
LG: The novelette length used to be a lot more common and is great for telling stories not padded out to a thousand pages like modern readers have come to expect. Ace Books used to put out "Ace Doubles" where you flipped the book over and got a whole new book in the back. Since getting a printer to go along with such a format might cause troubles, Chin Song Ping sits upside down on our cover as a show of respect for the tradition.
SFT: Why a Chinese character?
LB: Why not? I grew up in white bread western Michigan but I lived for a decade in San Francisco and came to love the weird hybrid that is Chinese/American culture. The only way to truly know a subject is to come at it from as many perspectives as possible. I love Westerns and this is a perspective not seen often.
SFT: Any more planned adventures for Chin Song Ping?
LG: The next time Ping's grandson relates a new adventure I'll be sure to pass it along to Science Fiction Trails readers.