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Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen: Interview with Peter Shiao

Ahead of the launch of our first issue of Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen, we sat down with the creative team that made it all possible. Here is our interview with one of the comic’s writers, and our own Founder and CEO, Peter Shiao.

In Peter's own words: "We are all living during a challenging time, and the enormity of the tasks and difficulties at hand can feel dispiriting and overwhelming. These are also EXACTLY the backdrop for the emergence of heroes. I believe that stories can be an ignition to help us meet the challenges of our lives with courage and grace – and that Wuxia, and its heroes of all sizes, shapes and colors -- are its vanguard.
In re-awakening my own hero to create a modern and elevated home for this timeless genre, we hope to awaken – and unleash – yours too. Here, I also dedicate Immortal to the memory of my father, who awakened my hero."

What made you decide to be a writer?
Peter Shiao: Even though I do function as a writer, I still have not made a decision to be a "writer," except in the case of Chronicles of Immortal Swordsmen. I felt very committed to my vision for the story and everything that I wanted it to be, and after trying for an extended period of time working with various writers, I ultimately decided to just put pen to paper myself.

What sort of stories inspire you?
Peter Shiao: Stories of people becoming the greatest version of themselves have always inspired me. For this reason, I have always been a fan of wuxia stories, because this thread is omnipresent in wuxia. The original Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen books inspired me a great deal when I first read them as a kid, and that inspiration has stayed with me through all the years since.

In Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen, we see Phil competing in his favorite video game. What was the last video game you played?
Peter Shiao: I am a bit out to lunch on this -- my latest, latest, video game was actually a game of Tetris, which I always enjoy.
You’ve said in the past that Shiao Yi’s Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen trilogy was your favorite wuxia story growing up, what made it your favorite?
Peter Shiao: I really liked Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen because it was the first book that introduced me to a world of Asian fantasy that so vast and awesome, and that was just really interesting to me. Behind all the great powers and cool energies was this simple idea that we all have this untapped potential in us, and that really resonated with me. There was something that was just so cool about the trials of Ironpond Du, and that feeling of being connected to a purpose that was larger than I had words for, and seeing everything come together for him…I really identified with his character, and that experience was a massive form of wish fulfillment for me.

What are some of the adaptations you’ve made from Shiao Yi’s original work?
Peter Shiao: As a lifelong Angelino, we moved the whole story to modern day Los Angeles. It was originally set in Yandang Mountains of ancient China, so that decision to bring it forward into the modern day was one of the major choices we made to the adaptation. The other very significant element is the introduction of technology, and especially the world of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) as a central element. We tied all of this together with the traditional immortal elements of the story, and that was another way that we tried to make Phil Du/Ironpond’s world in Chronicles of the Immortal Swordsmen uniquely relevant to today’s world.

Who is your favorite character in Chronicle of the Immortal Swordsmen?
Peter Shiao: Well, in my experience writing this, I have definitely developed a relationship with all these characters in many different ways. Ironpond Du would be much too easy of a pick (as I said earlier, I can certainly relate to him), but I would have to go with with our heroine, Ying Ying. She has the most intense and provocative arc, as both a human person and a character in the game. Her journey to ultimately join her heart and mind into one whole badass immortal is very different and fresh for comic books like this.

In wuxia stories, special techniques/abilities are often given names. If you had a special ability in real life, what would it be (and what name would you give it)?
Peter Shiao: One of my gifts is the ability to bring people together in common action - so how about something like the Unity Sutra or something like that?

Having grown up with wuxia stories, what’s your favorite part of the genre?
Peter Shiao: Haha that is an easy one. It is the underestimated underdog who ultimately becomes a hero.
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