Writer in Residence · 12/06/2010

The Rise of Dr. Fu-Manchu

JAMES TADD ADCOX’S ORIGINAL:

THE RISE OF DR. FU-MANCHU

Fu-Manchu has made the blunder common to all men of unusual genius.
“How are you, Phil?”
“You are just the one I want to meet. Didn’t you tell me once you would like to buy my gun?”
“Yes. Want to sell it?”
“No, I don’t; but I want the money it will bring. So I’ll sell it if you’ll buy.”

Dr. Fu-Manchu does not overlook such lapses.
“Bring the gun round to-night, and I’ll pay you for it.”
“All right. Do you know of any one who wants to buy a boat?”
“What? Going to sell that, too?”
“Yes.”

I set eyes, for the last time, upon Dr. Fu-Manchu.
“I think I ought to tell you that I’m going away to-morrow.”
“You are going away! Where are you going?”
“I think I shall go to New York.”
“What for?”
“Seek my fortune, as so many have done before me.”

I thought of Dr. Fu-Manchu and the severed fingers, and could not repress a shudder.
“Yes; it’s chiefly on account of what you told me yesterday. You said that I was dependent upon you.”
“So you are.”
“And that I wasn’t even entitled to the family name.”
“Yes, I said it, and it’s true.”
“Well, I don’t want to be dependent upon you. I prefer to earn my own living.”
“I am not prepared to say but that you are right. But do you know what the neighbors will say?”
“What will they say?”
“That I drove you from home.”
“It won’t be true. I don’t pretend to enjoy my home, but I suppose I can stay on here if I like?”
“Yes, you can stay.”
“You don’t object to my going?”
“No, if it is understood that you go of your own accord.”

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Dr. Fu-Manchu leaves for New York. Aboard the train he meets a generous-seeming young man who offers to sell him a ring for the price of five dollars. Fu-Manchu, seeking his fortune, takes the offer and, on the streets of New York, sells the ring for enough to buy two rings, and then sells those rings for enough to buy five… It is a hard life. “It’s good that I have no problem with difficult work,” Fu-Manchu tells himself. “In many senses the freedom that my work has granted me is reward enough.” He sleeps at night in a long room full of cots, row upon row of other men, scratching themselves, moaning. He worries throughout the night about diseases, miasmas, impurities in the air and water. Many men prefer to be homeless than to live in such conditions. He thinks, I must put my ingenuity to work, if I’m ever going to rise in society.

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Fu-Manchu, from Smith’s account, in no way resembled this crouching apparition with the death’s-head countenance and lithe movements.
“I am willing enough to take the blame of it, if there is any blame.”
“Very well; get a sheet of note-paper, and write at my direction.”

Dr. Fu-Manchu reached down beside the table, and the floor slipped from under me.
“Brought up in the country, perhaps?”
“Yes, in Planktown.”
“Oh, Planktown! I’ve heard it’s a nice place, but never visited it. Got any folks?”

The deathful hand of Fu-Manchu was stretched over Planktown, at any hour to loose strange, Oriental horrors upon its inmates.
“Well, I may be able to help you to a place. I know a good many prominent businessmen.”
“I should be grateful to you for any help of that kind.”
“Don’t mention it. I have had to struggle myself—in earlier days—though at present I am well fixed. What is your name?”
“Fu-Manchu.”

With all the forces arrayed against him, Fu-Manchu still eludes us, still pursues his devilish, inscrutable way.
“Who are you? What right have you to put in your oar?”
“As to who I am, I will answer you by and by. In reference to the boy, I have to say that his story is correct. I heard the whole conversation between him and the young man from whom he received the ring, and I can testify that he has told the truth.”
“At any rate he has received stolen property.”
“Not knowing it to be stolen. The young man was an entire stranger to him, and though I suspected that he was an unscrupulous adventurer, the boy has not had experience enough to judge men.”

I tell you, Fu-Manchu is omnipresent; his tentacles embrace everything. Dr. Fu-Manchu has employed an ally which even his giant will was incapable entirely to subjugate.

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Dr. Fu-Manchu has made his first attempt upon your life. Dr. Fu-Manchu cannot control your actions. Fu-Manchu sent that box! It is by no wit of mine that Dr. Fu-Manchu scores a double failure. Dimly, through its oily wreaths, I saw the immobile yellow face of Fu-Manchu. Was this the end of his gallant fight with Dr. Fu-Manchu and the Murder Group?

Together, chained to the wall, two mediaeval captives, living mockeries of our boasted modern security, we crouched before Dr. Fu-Manchu. A marmoset landed on the shoulder of Dr. Fu-Manchu and peered grotesquely into the dreadful yellow face. Dr. Fu-Manchu recovered himself, took up the lantern and, turning abruptly, walked to the door, with his awkward, yet feline gait.

Some creature of Dr. Fu-Manchu is in the hotel! Since Fu-Manchu has dacoits in his service I might have expected that he would have Thugs. Therefore we see at once what commended the system to Fu-Manchu. Dr. Fu-Manchu may have discovered the part she played! I was an actor in one of those dream-scenes of the grim Fu-Manchu drama. You may have Eastern blood in your veins, but you are no kin of Fu-Manchu.

Will you tell me where to find Fu-Manchu? You ask me to fight against Fu-Manchu. For Fu-Manchu sat at the table. The game’s up, Fu-Manchu. Fu-Manchu slowly raised his hands, and a smile dawned upon the impassive features—a smile that had no mirth in it, only menace. Fu-Manchu moved his hand to caress the marmoset, which had leaped playfully upon his shoulder, and crouched there gibing at us in a whistling voice. Fu-Manchu kept his hand raised. Fu-Manchu smiled his evil smile again. Fu-Manchu avoids noisy methods. Upon whom now has Fu-Manchu set his death seal? I mean that the potentialities have attracted the attention of Dr. Fu-Manchu! Fu-Manchu is a profound chemist. But who is this Fu-Manchu, and how—how in the name of wonder did he get into my chambers?

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Fu-Manchu is already acknowledged by all European Powers to be himself a Power.

All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise the spectre of Fu-Manchu: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies. It is high time that Fu-Manchu should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish his views, his aims, his tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Fu-Manchu with a Manifesto of Fu-Manchu himself.

Fu-Manchu has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. He has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; he has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The need of a constantly expanding market for his products chases Dr. Fu-Manchu over the whole surface of the globe. He must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

Through his exploitation of the world-market, Fu-Manchu gives a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

Fu-Manchu, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of his commodities are the heavy artillery with which he batters down all Chinese walls, with which he forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. He compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt Dr. Fu-Manchu’s mode of production; he compels them to introduce what he calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become Fu-Manchu themselves. In a word, he creates a world after his own image.

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THE REMIX:

The City of Barbarians

In New York there arises a world literature. In New York, a deathful, strange hand. In New York, Oriental horrors. In New York to earn a living. In New York, devilish, inscrutable ways. In New York, impurities in the air, the water. In New York, awkward, yet feline. In New York to stake a claim. In New York, products of distant land. In New York, rooms full of cots. In New York to sell a gun. In New York, rooms full of yellow faces. In New York, row upon row of yellow men, scratching themselves. In New York to sell a boat. In New York, wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts. In New York, Gothic cathedrals. In New York, seeking his fortune. In New York men prefer to live homeless rather than—In New York, the whistling, gibing, of distant lands and climes. In New York, an evil smile. In New York, a dreadful yellow face. In New York, this nursery tale. In New York, the barbarian civilization. In New York, a world after his own image. In New York, pains of extinction. In New York, in the midst of the known world. In New York, his tentacles. In New York, the Spectre of distant lands and climes. A manifesto of Fu-Manchu himself.

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Remixer’s process: For many of the reasons I found “The Rise of Dr. Fu-Manchu” a delightful story to read, I also found it a difficult story to remix: the complex and amusing mingling of different tones, voices, and perspectives forced me to consider a series of plans, all of which I quickly abandoned. As I read and reread what really impressed me about the story was how well Mr. Adcox was able to make so many elements cohere. I took this as my motivation to compress “Fu-Manchu” even further. As a former-country-kid-turned-city-dweller, I liked the idea of the city itself as the new focus, and not Fu-Manchu. I was curious to see how much of the story would change with Fu-Manchu and his rise replaced by the destination of many young would-be risers.

Of further note: Throughout the remixing process, I was mostly ignorant of who the chracter Dr. Fu-Manchu referred to. Had I read this story for “reading pleasure” alone I would have corrected this blindspot immediately. However, I figured my ignorance would prove helpful in reshaping the text.

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posted by Robert Kloss