Glass Kingdom is a collection of short stories, running the gamut of literary to speculative fiction. An overarching theme is inherent fragility, whether it is in a human life or a tyrannical government. These fragile objects are seemingly unbreakable and unyieldingly solid, but with the proper push, are as shatterable as glass. Even though one person alone may not seem comparable to a kingdom, the featured characters in my stories are usually resilient and dignified, which makes scenes where they break down all the more poignant. The purpose of my thesis is to explore the strength of the human character and continued hope even in the face of the characters’ “kingdoms” failing them. Even as their world or worldviews come tumbling down upon them, my characters still maintain their courage—despite some of them screaming, crying, and cursing along the way. All of the stories are inspired by East Asian culture and mythology, and either take place in China or a Chinese-inspired world. With this goal in mind, I first wrote “My Executioner’s Face,” a story about a former Communist Party member imprisoned in a Chinese jail. Despite the harassments of a sadist guard and the betrayal of his wife and the Chairman, the prisoner retains his sense of humanity throughout the whole ordeal. Like “My Executioner’s Face,” “The Miracle-Worker and the God-Emperor” is written as a series of vignettes from the main character’s perspective. A fantastical story, the miracle-worker is trapped in a palace, which includes a glass garden the Emperor enjoys forcing the miracle-worker to perform her magic in. Inspired by the lyricism but tight pacing of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, this story balances magical worldbuilding with in-depth character studies. Lastly, “Death Again” is perhaps the least traditional out of all the featured stories. Despite being another speculative piece like “The Miracle-Worker and the God-Emperor,” this story focuses more on internal than external conflict. It deals with existentialist dread and how to cope in a world when branded with a very unique scarlet letter. The protagonist is the youngest out of this collection’s heroes, but she still deals with her conflicts in a very mature, grounded way, despite the fragility of her situation.
Zhu, Mayee. (June 2020). Glass Kingdom (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/8637.)
Zhu, Mayee. Glass Kingdom. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, June 2020. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/8637. August 14, 2020.
Zhu, Mayee, “Glass Kingdom” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, June 2020).
Zhu, Mayee. Glass Kingdom [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; June 2020.
East Carolina University