While working on the Hughart I was struck by a brief* biographical account he wrote that I hadn't noted before, in which he discusses his struggles with depression, experiences setting mines in the Korean DMZ (with resultant flashbacks), and his love of the Far East. The BRIDGE OF BIRDS, he says, came about because
"I decided . . . to create an alternate world
into which I could creep on dark and stormy nights
and pull over my head like a security blanket."
After sharing his revelation that the story had to be 'about love' rather than just a string of exciting incidents (giving as an example Miser Shen's love for his dead daughter), he ends his account with the wish
"I most particularly hope that on dark and stormy nights
some of those readers will be able to crawl into my alternate
world and pull it over them like a security blanket"
This shows how in its inception Hughart's China that never was is an unusually pure example of Escape in the Tolkienian sense.
*it fits on the inside front and inside back dustjacket flaps of the 2008 Subterranean Press Master Li/Number 10 Ox omnibus