“Marilyn, what did you do?” The email screamed at me through the ether of the internet. “Your web site is blocked by the Chinese government!”
My friend was in China on business and was seriously concerned by the censorship. What evil person had she befriended? I wracked my brain to discover what possible reason the Chinese government had to block my site.
At the time I had featured a posting on a heritage breed of pig. These are special animals, intelligent, streamlined and curious. Did the Chinese government not like pigs, I wondered? But their cuisine features plenty of pork, so that couldn’t be it. And I have never bad-mouthed Chinese food. Why I’ve never met a fried dumpling I didn’t cherish.
Did the Chinese government fear my rebellious writing? Well, I write historical mysteries but they are set in colonial Boston in the late 17th c., well before the New England clipper ships and the China trade. My detective, Hetty Henry the nosy Puritan, has traveled but not as far as China. She is a rebel, but against a government based in London that forces taxation without representation upon its colonies. Surely the rulers of the Middle Kingdom aren’t threatened by an uppity broad? Yes, in my first book Royal Governor Andros gets arrested, thrown in chains and transported back to London by the people, but that’s history, not my imagination.
My second book was based on land fraud in upstate New York by the head of the First Family of the state. Unless the Livingston’s have long memories and longer connections I don’t see why the Chinese government would object. The third book was based on the Salem witch trials and not one of the accused witches was Chinese. The fourth and latest of my books, Death of a Dancing Master, deals with a romantic rogue but he’s hardly sword-fighting in swaying trees like in the movie, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.” My dancing master sways in bed; that’s what gets him in trouble, but he’s no threat to the Chinese film industry. Also, I’m for the people in my work, not the aristocrats. My short stories of Big Bill Heyward and the IWW (Wobblies) praise the workers, not the Fat Capitalist Owners. The Chinese government should like that, I should think.
So what have I done to earn their enmity? If we go back about 25 years, I did belong to the League of Women Voters and we did overthrow two governments…. OMG that’s it! 25 years ago I joined the League on a campaign to replace a four-member appointed school board for an elected one with eleven members. With that experience under my belt — and the City of Albany, NY was the oldest political machine in the country at that time — I was the leader of a coalition of groups to press for a charter form of county government. True, these were small branches of local government but the fact is, I had advocated and brought about the overthrow of two governments.
My past has caught up with me. I am a dangerous person. I even DANCE, and we all know how decadent dancing is, even though I’m nowhere near as good as the guy in the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer,” who defected to the Houston Ballet. (Note to Peter Martins of the New York City Ballet — I’m available on a guest artist basis….) My Puritans knew how seductive dance is, and that’s why the dancing master in my book gets murdered. As usual, I based my story on history, although in real life Boston’s dancing master was merely driven away, not killed. But then I wouldn’t have had a murder mystery, would I?
Oh well, so I’m blocked in China. Now if I can only get “Banned in Boston” maybe my book will hit the best-seller lists! ###
M. E. Kemp is the author of an historical mystery series featuring two nosy Puritans as detectives. She grew up in Oxford, MA, the town her ancestors settled in 1713. She lives now in Saratoga Springs, NY with her husband Jack H. Rothstein and two kitties, Boris and Natasha, who are her severest critics — they literally shred her scripts to pieces.