Asian horror appears to have been on the rise in recent years with literary events and awards lists featuring both indigenous writers and people of the diaspora—those living beyond Asia in other countries. These creatives are bringing old lore and fresh perspectives to the horror genre, addressing topics such as gender, tradition, racism, poverty, war, and oppression through the lens of their lived experience. And Asian horror stories run the full gamut from terror to triumph, from epic adventure to ethereal ghost tales, and from bloody battles to quiet suffering. Yet as rich and vibrant as they are chilling, Asian stories always present a challenge, told as they are at the intersection of cultures, languages, landscapes, and generations.
Throughout Asian Heritage Month, Kendall Reviews is celebrating Asian horror creatives, culture, and folklore in this exclusive interview series with contributors from Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror edited by Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith (Black Spot Books, Feb 2023)
Today, we welcome Tori Eldridge, who is the author of the Lily Wong thriller series—THE NINJA DAUGHTER, THE NINJA’S BLADE, THE NINJA BETRAYED—Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards finalist, 2021 Crimson Scribe winner for Best Book of the Year—and the acclaimed Brazilian horror standalone, DANCE AMONG THE FLAMES. Her shorter works appear in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales and numerous horror, literary, and crime fiction anthologies. Born and raised in Honolulu of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent, Tori currently resides in Los Angeles, where she earned a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninja martial arts. Learn more about Tori at www.torieldridge.com.]
Her essay in Unquiet Spirits is [“The Agency of Modern Kunoichi: Women of Ninja Stealth and Perseverance”] and is a personal reflection on [her Chinese heritage, her training in the Japanese ninja martial arts, and key moments in history of women’s empowerment in China and Japan.]
Kendall Reviews: What is it about horror that appeals to you?
Tori Eldridge: Horror taps into the core terrors we all share and empowers the reader to explore the darkest corners of humanity, vengeance, and fear from the relative safety of words on a page. I resonate most strongly with stories and characters that challenge perception and expand awareness of our world.
KR: What do you hope readers will take away from your essay?
TE: The beauty and power of UNQUIET SPIRITS is in the journey and exploration of themes of otherness, identity, expectation, duty, and loss, and leading, ultimately, to understanding and empowerment. My essay comes toward the end. I hope readers are fascinated and empowered to learn about female ninja, the trials and accomplishments of historical women in China and Japan, and my own experiences training in the ninja martial arts and growing up with a forceful Norwegian father and an enigmatic Chinese, Hawaiian mother.
KR: Does your other horror work feature Asian myth and folklore? Do you consciously decide to include Asian experiences/characters in your writing?
TE: Regardless of genre or length of work, I enjoy diving deeply into diverse cultures, Asian and otherwise. My recent horror novel, DANCE AMONG THE FLAMES, takes an unflinching look at poverty, privilege, and power through the journey of a desperate mother who rises from the slums of Brazil to become a fearsome wielder of Quimbanda spiritualistic magic. My “Ace of Wands” short story in the NEVER FEAR: THE TAROT anthology is a horrifying tale of Balinese Hindu occult set shortly after the infamous Indonesian massacres of 1966. I’m currently writing a short story for the COMBAT MONSTER horror anthology (Fall 2024) that will feature monsters from Hawaiian and Japanese lore.
KR: Here is an excerpt from Tori’s essay in Unquiet Spirits:
“The lives of Asian women have and, to some extent, continue to be shrouded in female-diminishing limitations, expectations, and stereotypes. We are seen as pliable, accommodating, and self-effacing; women who understand their place and will put up with unpleasant conditions out of duty and obligation—women who persevere, often in stealth or behind the scenes.
Although my white American father taught me to speak out and expect equality from men, his relationship with my Chinese-Hawaiian mother reflected ingrained perceptions and attitudes he wouldn’t have recognized or been able to admit.
The same could be said for my mother who was far more Chinese in her thinking than she ever believed. While she hid her resentments behind a gracious façade, her true feelings erupted in bursts of anger and, more typically, through inscrutable silence. It wasn’t until my adulthood that I realized the cultural significance of her grudging acceptance for the path her life had taken.”
KR: Finally, what’s on the horizon for you. Any news you’d like to share?
TE: My fourth Lily Wong thriller, THE NINJA’S OATH, will be released in hardback on September 12, 2023 from Agora Books. I’m especially excited about this international action thriller because it weaves “Uncle’s” family triad history with the history of Shanghai and brings Lily’s ninja teacher to Osaka in a dramatic and emotional battle of morality. All of this resonates very personally for me since my granddaughter was born in Shanghai and my parents met and married in Japan. It is my honor and joy to share these cultures, my heritage, and my experience in the ninja martial arts with my readers.
KR: Thank you for dropping by!
Catch up on Kendall Reviews Asian Heritage Month Exclusive Interviews and content please follow the links.
Kendall Reviews talks to…
Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror
From hungry ghosts, vampiric babies, and shapeshifting fox spirits to the avenging White Lady of urban legend, for generations, Asian women’s roles have been shaped and defined through myth and story. In Unquiet Spirits, Asian writers of horror reflect on the impact of superstition, spirits, and the supernatural in this unique collection of 21 personal essays exploring themes of otherness, identity, expectation, duty, and loss, and leading, ultimately, to understanding and empowerment.
Website and social media links.