Thursday, November 09, 2006

Aaron's Book of the Week :: The Daughter of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

The Daughter of Fu ManchuWe can hardly discuss the "yellow peril" subgenre without mentioning the most successful yellow peril writer of all, Sax Rohmer, and his most famous character, Fu Manchu. The Book of the Week is The Daughter of Fu Manchu, the first American appearance of Fu Manchu in paperback.

Sax Rohmer was the pen-name of Englishman Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward. Rohmer wrote a variety of types of fiction, including comedy, adventure stories, mysteries, and science fiction, but his most lasting contribution to literature is a dubious one, his absurdly stereotyped Chinese villains, particularly the sinister Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu's stories were written in the pulp style, but surprisingly he did not start out in the pulp magazines but rather in slick magazines like Collier's and in hardback books (although the pulps quickly imitated him with The Mysterious Wu Fang and Dr. Yen Sin). Fu Manchu was a hit from his first appearance in 1912, perhaps due to lingering anxieties from the Boxer Rebellion in China, then later found an even wider audience through paperback reprints and movies. Actors who played Fu Manchu on the screen included Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, and Peter Sellers. (Fu Manchu is the answer to the trivia question: What was Peter Sellers' last role before his death?)

As we have seen the past two weeks, any history of the pulp magazines must acknowledge the unfortunate racial stereotypes that were prevalent in the pulps. However, there were also occasions when the pulp magazines actively attempted to change prejudiced attitudes in society. Next in our tour of the pulp magazines is an issue of the most successful of the "hero pulp" magazines, in which our hero battles racial prejudice . . . with a pistol. But first, next week we will honor a recently departed pulp writer.

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