Symmetrism: Half of Heaven
My short story 'Half of Heaven', which is about two actresses living in Shanghai in the 1930s, was placed third in UBC Literature etc's short story competition. It has been an honour being part of the magazine, and this piece will appear in the 22nd issue of the LeMook magazine, 'Symmetrism'. It was an interesting experience writing the story, especially given the following prompt:
Encompassed within the realms of symmetrism is a discovery of asymmetry, of balance and imbalance, the pursuit of perfection and the inevitability of imperfection. Symmetry exists in multiple facets of the world, from physics to mathematics, music to fine arts. How you approach the tilted mirror of symmetrism is your choice; what you see in its uneven reflection is up to you. Submit to us your findings, recorded on a sheet of blank paper, created out of your minute observations of the world or the dynamic activities within your mind.
Although my story did not revolve around ideas and concepts of symmetry, I attempted to express it in the way the story was constructed. The lives of the main characters run parallel at first, their careers almost identical as they begin their lives as extras on a film set. Things go out of control after they go their separate ways which ultimately end in the both of them dying, in this case exhibiting the implications of asymmetry on their lives. I chose 1930's Shanghai as the setting of the story because of its metaphorical implications as the fault line of the 'Middle Kingdom', during a period when the order of Confucian ideals and the imperial system was in disarray, thus allowing an entirely unique society (including the film industry) to exist in what had once been a sleepy fishing town.
Also, I have used the theme of this competition in the construction of each sentence in the story. Each sentence is thematically reflected in another sentence, for eg.
First sentence:In the beginning there were only two of us.
Final sentence:In the end there were only two of us.
5th sentence:I was never really an actress; it was just one of those things I had to do to earn a living in those first few bitter years in Shanghai, but what I wanted was to tell my own grand stories, like how Tsao Hsueh-Chin had turned his life into art even when dying penniless in Peking.
5th-last sentence: In the end you were still an actress, your death as beautiful as the films you had filled with your smoldering stares, knowing the night you left Peking station that you would become an object of desire.