‘Police-fantasy’ novel mixes genres, eras and cultures
Steve Bein, professor of Asian Philosophy and Ancient History at SUNY Geneseo, has written a first novel titled Daughter of the Sword.
The novel is at one level a police drama taking place in modern Japan. However, the story departs from its contemporary setting with historical interludes and fantastic elements related to the essence and powers of ancient samurai swords.
Bein is in his third semester of a two year visiting professorship. He is currently teaching an undergraduate course in Eastern Philosophy, an honor seminar in the History of Japanese Religions, and a senior comparative philosophy seminar in Confucius and Aristotle.
Bein grew up in Chicago and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii. His academic specialty is Japanese philosophy and its basis in India and Chinese Buddhist philosophy. He is versed in Japanese and to some extent in classical Chinese. His home institution is Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester, Minn., where he has taught for the previous eight years.
Bushido — the Samurai tradition — was the first Japanese philosophy to engage Benin’s passion, so, as he says, it is no accident that his first novel revolves about that tradition.
Bein revealed that ‘Daughter of the Sword’ was initially composed chronologically, with the Samurai parts, the World War II part, and then the modern day police part written in that order. However, the novel’s final form opens in contemporary Japan, if for no other reason than to introduce the protagonist, police investigator Mariko Oshiro, in the early part of the story.
Mariko’s modernity does not prevent her from embarking on a duty-bound path mirroring that of a samurai. Mariko enters the story as a skeptic, completely dismissive of legends of samurai prowess as they might be connected with any sort of supernatural essence. She — and the reader — will grasp the magic of the fated blades as the story progresses, Bein hopes.
“This is the only police fiction I’ve ever written,” Bein said. “Mariko sort of forced her way into the book because I needed someone in the modern day who could gain a perspective on the historical things to know what happened how it ended up.”
Daughter of the Sword concludes leaving Mariko equipped for further adventures, while the intrigue and legacy of the fated blades likewise remains intact. That is, everything is poised for a sequel.
In fact, Bein has just submitted the fully written sequel to the publisher and is now working on Book Three of the series.
“I didn’t envision ‘Daughter of the Sword’ that way, but when I started getting the attention of editors, they wondered about the potential for a series,” Bein confided, adding, “And it’s really tough for a first time author to tell a publisher, ‘No, I don’t want to write another book.’”
Bein, whose interests lie in several areas of fiction, sees the series as a good way to gain the kind of name recognition and readership which would make other, later works more marketable, were he, for example, to shift his writing into areas of pure fantasy, historical fiction or science fiction. Bein has in fact had several short stories — one fantasy and three sci-fi — published prior to Daughter of the Sword.
Bein is also engaged in works of a more academic nature, including an already-published Japanese-to-English translation and a work on the subject of compassion. While the latter is written strictly for an academic and student audience, Bein is contemplating a version directed towards popular readership.
Bein does make a point to keep his scholarly and popular endeavors separate. His author’s fiction listings make no mention of his scholarly, philosophic work. Conversely, when Bein applies for a position in the world of academia, he makes no revelations of his fictional works.
“I wouldn’t want a potential employer to think I couldn’t tell the difference!” he laughs.
Bein’s fictional excursions are, in his own view, no more or less consequential than any hobby or leisure time pursuit. He nonetheless has no qualms about drawing from his very specialized, professional knowledge to lend authenticity to the content of his fiction.
As a combination police thriller, with elements of historical fiction and fantasy, Bein hopes that ‘Daughter of the Sword’ and its successors will appeal to a wide audience.
Daughter of the Sword is published by New American Library division of Penguin Group and can be purchased in soft cover format for $16.