The Fish of Lijiang by Chen Qiufan – selection #1 of Deal Me In 2018

img_1299The Card: ♠8♠ of Spades

The Suit: For 2018, ♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠ is my Suit for horror, sci-fi, or fantasy stories

The Selection: The Fish of Lijiang, from the anthology “Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese a Science Fiction in Translation.” I’ve become interested in Chinese Sci-fi of late, mostly due to the astounding Li Cixin Novel, “The Three Body Problem” translated by Ken Liu, who also did the translation for the stories this anthology. He has also made a Deal Me In appearance in the past, with his story The Paper Menagerie. As of the time of this blog post, the story is available to read online, thanks to Clarksworld Magazine.

The Author: Chen Qiufan – A new-to-me author, he wrote his much-praised debut novel, “The Waste Tide” in 2013. (Pic above from his twitter account). There were three of his stories in “Invisible Planets” and this one was easily my favorite.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Fish of Lijiang

“Ten years ago, I had nothing and no cares. Ten years ago, Lijiang was a paradise for those who liked to exile themselves from civilization.”

And right out of the gate in Deal Me In 2018 I already have a candidate for favorite story of the year! I’ve read a few other stories over the years that gave me a similar feel to this one, most notably, Premendra Mitra’s “The Discovery of Telenapota,” which I read during a 2016 Readathon. Both tell of a city benighted by fantastic imagery and events. Our protagonist in this story is a businessman who to falls victim to his company’s “damned mandatory physical exam” which leaves him diagnosed as “PNFD II (Psychogenic Neural-Functional Disorder II).” The prescribed cure? A getaway sojourn in the town of Lijiang.

After “drifting around” following his arrival in Lijiang, he begins to wonder, “Is this how you get better? Without any physical therapy, medication, special diet, yoga, yin-yang dynamics, or any other kind of professional care?” Eventually, though, he meets a woman. A very interesting woman. It turns out she’s a “special care nurse,” in town for her own rehabilitation. After getting acquainted they begin to explore the town together, though they have been there before. Both lament how the town has changed and lost its magic, with nothing being “real” anymore but instead soaked in a feel of consumerism.

Only the schools of red fish that live in Lijiang’s waterways retain the magic of the old Lijiang.

“Whether it’s dawn, dusk, or midnight, you can see them hovering in the water, facing the same direction, lined up like soldiers on a parade ground, ready for inspection. But if you look closer, you’ll see that they aren’t really still. In fact, they’re struggling against the current in order to maintain their position.”

I don’t think I can say too much more without “revealing” the whole story, but when it turned really interesting for me is when we learn that both “patients” are suffering from a “time-related” illness, but not the same illness. Maybe they can help each other? Read the story for yourself at the link in the header for this post.

So, how was YOUR first story of Deal Me In 2018? Will it be among your favorites?

(Below: Lijiang is a “real” place in the world. It looks quite beautiful, and it’s easy to see how it could inspire a story…)

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