In Huang’s Burning Roses (Tor.com, Sept.) Little Red Riding Hood, recast as a riflewoman, teams up with Hou Yi, an archer from Chinese mythology.
Your previous work has been contemporary sci-fi. What inspired you to branch out into fairy tale retelling?
I’ve always loved both fantasy and science fiction. And I adore fairy tale retellings... especially the way I’m doing it here, where I’m reclaiming these fairy tales that I grew up with: the Western ones, like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and the Chinese ones, like the story of Hou Yi and Chang’e. And also making them a lot queerer because I’m a queer writer. So Burning Roses is all about Little Red Riding Hood and Hou Yi as queer middle-aged women having adventures and angsting about their families and shooting at things. It’s very much me refracting my childhood and the cultural elements that shaped me into this new story that’s uniquely in conversation with my history and culture.
Tell me more about how you integrated the elements from Western fairy tales with the elements from Chinese mythology.
I started with the Western fairy tales. That was a bit easier for me, because I grew up in the U.S. and those stories were part of the environment. So I thought, “How can I make these stories more culturally my own?” I knew I wanted to make Little Red Riding Hood a markswoman, because we always see her as this eight-year-old girl who’s helpless and trying to fight against the wolf. So I thought, “What if I make her not only an adult, but an older adult, and she’s now a reformed assassin and an ace shot with a rifle!” And then I thought, “Who would pair well with her, from Chinese mythology?” Hou Yi the Archer is an extremely famous character in Chinese folklore, and I thought, “Perfect! I can put these two people together and they’re both expert markspeople who can shoot at things together!” I wanted to make it so that it would connect with audiences who knew the story from Chinese mythology, and also introduce that story to people who might not be as familiar with it.
Did your background as a Hollywood stuntwoman and weapons expert influence how you approached the fight scenes?
Oh yes, absolutely! I know how all this feels in my body, which allows me to grab pieces of that texture. So, for example, some of the stuff that you don’t necessarily see people talk about or see in movies or whatever are little things like breathing. Or the very specific ways that you can miss your target if you do something with your hands that makes the rifle move in a certain way. I don’t get really deep into the weeds of the technical elements of firearms in this one, but I like putting in those details that people might not know if they haven’t done extensive work with rifles.