Short Story: Eight-step Kōan

Eight-step Kōan

Eight-step Kōan is a short story of mine that was published in the anthology Sword and Sonnet, a collection of short stories about battle poets. You can buy the anthology here (x). Check it out! It’s full of beautiful stories. And what a great idea for a theme. I have to admit I didn’t really think the short story would be accepted and it was a big surprise when it even got shortlisted. I’ve mostly gotten rejections from the editor(s) to date in other venues, and I guess I still don’t have much confidence in my own work. So happy that they gave the story a chance.

The short story was inspired by one of my favourite poems of all time, the allegorical Quatrain of Seven Steps by Cao Zhi. If you’ve studied Mandarin at all you’ve probably heard it, it’s that ubiquitous. It featured most famously within the Romance of Three Kingdoms, one of the four great classical novels. When writing Eight-step Kōan, I was inspired not so much by the politics and familial rivalry that is so central to the Quatrain, but by family bonds and by how powerful art can be created out of intensely catalytic life events. Some of my favourite modern examples of this can be seen in Ai Weiwei’s later works, in particular, his heartbreaking piece Remembering (x), the piece that made him “the most dangerous person in China”. I hope you’d buy the anthology (and enjoy my short story!).

Story Stats

Submitted: 27 Feb 2018
Shortlisted: 11 Mar 2018
Accepted: 8 Apr 2018
Contract Signed: 8 Apr 2018
Edits: 3
Published: September 2018