Experience the Magic of Wuxia

The Clock Man – the story, not the whole book – is a wuxia story set in another world and wrapped with a detective noir bow. Normally I hate referencing what I’ve written as it relates to something else but in this case it’s okay because reasons.

“What is wuxia?” you might be asking. For that matter, what is detective noir? We’ll save detective noir for another time because it’s much more common in the United States and focus on your new best friend: wuxia.


Wuxia, pronounced wu-she-ah, is a primarily Chinese genre of fiction and movies that incorporates martial arts and sorcery. Think of it as a Chinese version of the classical knights and magicians of the West. Perhaps the best examples in the West would be movies like A Chinese Ghost Story, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kung Fu Hustle. To a lesser extent, but no less important, would be Big Trouble In Little China.

Like most genres, wuxia has rules that define it. The protagonist must have certain characteristics.

  • altruism
  • justice
  • individualism
  • loyalty
  • courage
  • truthfulness
  • disregard for wealth
  • desire for glory

Wuxia stories tend to follow those rules, but the key point is the martial arts side of things. Anyone who’s ever seen a Kung Fu movie and enjoyed has enjoyed wuxia, even if all they were paying attention to was the martial arts side of things. The best Kung Fu movies had a solid plot that was chassis for the martial arts. The movies that were fairly plot-less were really nothing more than martial arts porn. Think of the differences between a pair of Van Damme classics: Kickboxer and Hard Target. Kickboxer was essentially martial arts porn – there was a story but it was really only there so Jean Claude could do the splits. Hard Target was a different beast entirely – there was a story and, over-the-top as it was, the story carried the movie rather than the martial arts carrying the movie. Hard Target was also special in that it was directed by the master of Hong Kong action cinema: John Woo. Woo’s movies tended to emphasize gun play, but he got his start directing some classic Kung Fu cinema.


The movies are fairly common in America, but the books are far less available. Most of the titles are written in Chinese and there’s simply not enough of a market to translate them and print them for a Western audience. There is, however, a group on the Internet that’s made it their goal to find, translate, and bring these stories to those of us who don’t read or speak Chinese.

And, of course, there are those of us who are taking the classic wuxia genre and importing it into the West. Oddly enough, it’s incredibly difficult to write and have it make sense. The action sequences in particular are tricky to block out in any kind of sensible way. I actually wrote a blog post about what it takes to put the martial arts into text. It’s a very different style of writing from gun play. With a gun the bullet hits someone and that’s pretty much it. With fighting the writer has to be very cognizant of positions, types of strikes, and the general outcome of those strikes. In other words, it’s either going to take a lot of research or a lot of experience.

What started out as Chinese swords and sorcery has expanded over the years. I’d actually argue the works of John Woo – even the gun play heavy movies like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled – are modern twists on classic wuxia tales. It’s the flexibility of the genre that makes it appealing to me as a writer. Well, that and a general love of martial arts. But it allows room to navigate and write a swords and sorcery fantasy story without having to rely on the common stories in the West. It also allows for some flexibility in the characterization. Much like Woo takes Chow Yun Fat’s character Ah Jong in The Killer and turns him into a kind of anti-hero, I took Felix Crow and turned him into a kind of anti-hero.

There’s also the magical side of classical wuxia that is ripe for play. I’ve used magical elements – well gods and demi-gods more than magic – in Henchmen and Arise – but never really referenced them as magic. In The Clock Man, I actually got to explore magic and make some use of it. In Greetings From Sunny Aluna I’ll get more of a chance to create a wuxia world. In the interim, The Clock Man was my take on wuxia and my first shot at blending martial arts and magic.

The result: kwan daos, magic, martial arts, a snarky dragon, and a hint of Steampunk make up the world of Felix Crow and Chan. Wuxia – Eric Lahti style.


The Clock Man

The Clock Man started with a single idea: what if you could meld the fantastic Chinese martial arts and mysticism with American steel? It would be kind of like Steampunk but without the Victorian underpinnings. Rather than brass and bronze and the analog details that make Steampunk so interesting, what if you had a world that was powered by magic? What if – like the stories in Kung Fu Theater – martial arts were an important part of that world?

Thus was born Aluna.

In all fairness, I think I should point out that Aluna (at least the name) was my son’s creation. He used to tell us stories of the wars and things that happened on Aluna; it was his planet and he was populating it with all manner of high technology and fantastic creations. I took the name and used it for a different world – with his permission, of course.

I like the way the story turned out. It’s rare that I’ll start editing one of my own stories and not be able to put it down, but the irascible Felix Crow still brings a smile to my face.

The book sort of snowballed from there. It was originally intended to be a short story collection but of the eight stories only a few fall into traditional short story parameters. Most of the stories fall into the novelette range and the Clock Man itself is toward the top end of the novella range. This must be just how I think about telling stories.

Some of the stories, like The Protectors, link directly back to the events of The Clock Man but take place outside of Aluna. Others have more tenuous links but Aluna is very much present. Other stories, Eve, The Hunt, and Awaken, are very much part of the Henchmen universe. Some flit back and forth between those two worlds.

The nice thing about giving Eve, Wilford, and Dreamer their own stories is it allowed me to answer questions left over from Henchmen and Arise without having to muck up the narrative of both of those books. Those two novels are told from the point of view of Steven and he doesn’t know everything nor is he really meant to.

Bar none the most difficult to write was Duérmete Niño. That started out as a simple look at the world through the eyes of Coco, but how do you make the bogeyman a sympathetic character? He doesn’t talk, he’s got a limited understanding of the world, and exists solely for the purpose of eating children. There’s not much you can do with that. I like to think I found a way to make him work, though.

Awaken was originally published as a stand-alone piece and was available online for quite a while. The sales were dismal – I think because no one wants to pay to read a short story that’s not erotica. Even as a free download it really didn’t go anywhere. I made some serious edits to it, added a bit of Dreamer’s point of view, and included it here because I think it’s an interesting story and does a pretty good job of setting up Dreamer’s motivations.

As an interesting side note – The Protectors was based on a dream I had. The story is almost a scene-for-scene retelling of that dream. Some embellishments were added (like the entire end scene). If you’ve ever wondered where stories come from, that’s definitely one place: an overactive dreamer.

At some point I need to figure out what to do with Jack and his devil girlfriend. She’s only referenced Zona Peligrosa, but she has her own story in the Holes anthology. I think they’re both interesting characters.

Without further ado, the Clock Man is now available on Amazon for $2.99 or you can read it on Kindle Unlimited.

Enter worlds of magic and dragons, martial arts and mayhem

  • A woman waits in a plain white room, wondering why she’s there and what’s about to happen.
  • A man and his talking gun hunt the bogeyman.
  • A family finds its house is haunted and sets out to trap the ghosts, but what if the ghosts aren’t the real problem?
  • Far underneath a city, the figure of a man rests. For decades he’s remained perfectly motionless. Last night he moved.
  • In a world of magic, martial arts, and dragons, one man controls the flow of magic. Now his daughter wants him dead.
  • Zapp Blander always dreamed of being a hero. When a man named Jack shows up, Zapp might just get his chance.
  • She was designed to choose which slain warriors got to go to Valhalla, but Kara has developed her own ideas.
  • The bogeyman of New Mexico is beaten and fed what should be a simple task: Kill the boy.


Get your copy here and spend the weekend curled up with some amazing stories.