This is an interview with Regina Kanyu Wans, SFF Author, Promoter and Professional, about the SFF in China.
Interview questions: Darius Luca Hupv.
Regina, please present yourself to our readers
Dear Romanian friends, my name is Regina Kanyu Wang, or in Chinese, 王侃瑜（Wang Kanyu.） I’m a sf writer, fan and industry practitioner from China.
As a writer, I write both in Chinese and English. I am a graduate of Fudan University’s MFA program, member of Shanghai Writers’ Association, Shanghai Popular Science Writers’ Association and World Chinese Science Fiction Association, vice secretary-general of Asia Science Fiction Association. My writing has been supported by Shanghai Writers’ Association, Shanghai Culture Development Foundation and Writing Downtown in Las Vegas residency. My short story, “Back to Myan,” won the SF Comet international short story competition. My novella, “Of Cloud and Mist” won the Xingyun Award for Global Chinese SF. My stories in Chinese can be found in Mengya, Harvest, Science Fiction World, Southern People Weekly, Shanghai Literature, Hong Kong Literature, West Late, and forthcoming in Fiction World and Flower City. My stories in English can be found in Galaxy’s Edge, Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation and etc. I have published a science fiction story collection, Of Cloud and Mist 2.2, with a second one, Seafood Restaurant forthcoming.
Besides writing, I have also been a fan and dedicated to science fiction culture promotion for years. I have co-founded SF AppleCore, the largest and oldest fan organization in China with a history of 10 years, as well as Asia SF Association, a young and vigorous association targeting at enhancing mutual communication within Asian countries and between Asia and other parts of the world. I have initiated and chaired events like Shanghai SF & Fantasy Festival, monthly gathering for sff fans – AppleCore Party and annual Christmas Party for sff lovers in Shanghai. SF AppleCore has won the Gold Award for Best Fan Organization of the Xingyun Award for Global Chinese SF.
Now I am working as Overseas Market Director for Storycom, and promote Chinese science fiction internationally. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency China. We focus on science fiction story adaptation into movies, series, comics and others from literature. We also collaborate with international publishers like Clarkesworld, Future Fiction and Kapsel to introduce Chinese science fiction to more readers. Meanwhile, we have established the Worldcon Attending Fund that support Chinese fans to attend and staff for Worldcons every year and the Shimmer Program Mutual Communication Fan Fund that invites foreign fans coming to China and visit Chinese fandom.
Please try to make a brief introduction on the Chinese SF history.
The first text with a science fiction genre in China can be found as early as BC 450-BC 375. In one of the classics of Taoism, Liezi (《列子》), we can find a story called “Yanshi (《偃师》)” in the chapter “The Questions of Tang (《汤问》) The automaton in the story can be seen as a prototype for an early robot.
Science fiction as we know it today first came to China in the Late Qing dynasty. Chinese intellectuals like Lu Xun (鲁迅) and Liang Qichao (梁启超) emphasized the importance of science fiction as a tool to help the country prosper. Works from Jules Verne were translated into Chinese. The earliest original Chinese science fiction novel is known to be Colony of the Moon (《月球殖民地》), written by Huangjiang Diaosou (荒江钓叟, penname of an anonymous author, which means the “Old Fisherman by a Deserted River”), serialized in a journal called Illustrated Fiction (《绣像小说》) in 1094 and 1905.
Wars and political turmoil lasted from the late Qing Dynasty (1833-1911) to the Republic Era (1911-1949). Lao She (老舍)’s Cat Country (《猫城记》) came out in 1932. It may be the best-known Chinese SF around the world before the new era.
After the establishment of People’s Republic of China in 1949, the first tide of new-era Chinese SF came in the 1950s. Some of the big names at that time were Zheng Wenguang (郑文光) and Tong Enzheng (童恩正). Contemporary SF writers of the period were largely influenced by SF from the former Soviet Union.
After the reform and opening-up policy, the golden age of Chinese SF finally arrived in late 1970s. A large body of work emerged along with a growing number of fandoms and magazines specializing in SF. During this time, Ye Yonglie (叶永烈) was one of the most prestigious writers. His Little Know-all Travels around the Future World (《小灵通漫游未来》, 1978), has sold more than 1.5 million copies, and its comic adaptation sold another 1.5 million copies..
In 1983, the anti-spiritual pollution campaigns wiped SF from the map again. It wasn’t until late 1980s and early 1990s that Chinese SF recovered from the attack and flourished again. And authors who are still writing and whom we are familiar with today began to publish.
Which are the most popular SF magazines and fanzines (printed and online) in China?
The most popular SF magazine in China is undoubtedly Science Fiction World, which began in 1979 with the name of Science and Literary. In 1980, Science and Literary sold about 200,000 copies of each issue, while after the anti-spiritual pollution campaigns, the number dropped as low as 700 copies. By 1999, an essay question in China’s National Higher Education Entrance Exam, “What if memory could be transplanted,” was the same as the title of an article published in Science Fiction World that year. This partly pushed sales of Science Fiction World to its peak: 361,000 copies of each issue in 2000.
As the 21st century drew closer, another important Chinese SF magazine came to life in the Shanxi Province. Science Fiction King (《科幻大王》) started to publish in 1994, changing its name to New Science Fiction (《新科幻》) in 2011. The peak sales were around 12,000 copies per issue in 2008. Unfortunately, at the end of 2014, New Science Fiction stopped publishing due to its relatively low sales. Science Fiction Cube (《科幻Cube》) is the youngest member of the current existing SF prozine market in China. Its first three issues only came out in 2016, and each issue sold about 50,000 copies.
It is also worth notice that some of the magazines are published in the format of series books in recent years, like the Chinese version of Galaxy’s Edge published by Eight Light-Minute, Non-Existent published by FAA, and the forthcoming Chinese version of Clarkesworld published by Storycom.
China’s first fanzine was Nebula (《星云》), edited by Yao Haijun from 1989 to 2007. During these years, 40 issues were published. During all those years, different fanzines come and go. Another big one is New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction (《新幻界》）published 32 issues from 2009 to 2013, which seems like a miracle, since all the issues are of very high quality and could be downloaded online for free. They even published two printed anthologies.
Which are the SF&F Clubs that have regular meetings?
In China, many of the SF&F Clubs are in universities. There are dozens of university sf clubs and they all have their regular meetings. The majority of the readers of Science Fiction World are middle school, high school and university students. In comparison, adult fans read more foreign SF works, either in English or in Chinese translation. So the Chinese fandom tend to be rather young.
If you go to cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, or others, you may be able to find small or big gatherings of those clubs from time to time, but most of them are held inside or surrounding the universities.
Which are the most important local and national SF&F associations?
There are two associations that I want to introduce here, both welcoming its 10th anniversary this year, which is a relatively long history in China.
The first one is SF AppleCore. In 2009, SF clubs in four universities in Shanghai decided to collaborate and organize a big event. During the preparation of Shanghai Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival (SSFFF), AppleCore was founded as the association of university SF clubs in Shanghai.
AppleCore has grown to be more than a university SF club association. Now with 7 member universities, it also organizes reading group, writing workshop, gatherings and other events.
The other organization is World Chinese Science Fiction Association (WCSFA), our largest national association, established in 2010. AppleCore is more fan-driven and works as the regional association in Shanghai, while WCSFA is an official organization and works as the national organization in China.
World Chinese Science Fiction Association has a few hundred members and most of them are “professionals”: writers, translators, editors, researchers etc. WCSFA has been organizing the Chinese Nebula Award (the Xingyun Award for Global Chinese SF) every year since 2010. With the aim of nurturing Chinese SF, the organizing committee work hard to improve it year by year. The award ceremonies have been held in Chengdu, Taiyuan and Beijing, Chongqing, and expect to travel to more cities.
Which are the printing houses that publish mainly SF and Fantasy?
The largest printing house that publishes mainly SF and Fantasy is Science Fiction World. It is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Now Science Fiction World publishes four magazines: one focuses on Chinese science fiction, one focuses on foreign science fiction translated into Chinese, two focuses on science fiction and popular science for kids. Besides those magazines, Science Fiction World also publishes books, both from China and abroad. Many readers get to know those authors from Science Fiction World.
Storycom publishes both Chinese science fiction written by its own signed writers like Xia Jia, A Que and Nianyu, and bilingual anthologies of Chinese science fiction based on its collaboration with Clarkesworld. Over 40 Chinese SF short stories were translated into English by now. Storycom is also planning to publish the Chinese version of Clarkesworld. What should also be mentioned is The Film Production Handbook of The Wandering Earth, which documents process of how the film was made. It has sold over 100,000 copies in China, which is definitely a best-seller in the genre.
Eight-Light-Minutes and Future Affairs Administration are two young and vigorous publishers entering the business but doing well. Both of them publish books (domestic and international) and also magazines in book format. Eight-Light-Minute publishes the Doctor Who novels, and the Chinese version of Galaxy’s Edge. Future Affairs Administration publishes Non-Existent both electronically and on paper.
Which are the most popular SF&F conventions in China? What are their main attractions?
The were three large conventions in China in the past month, which are the largest three in SF&F community.
The Chinese Nebula Conference is organized by World Chinese Science Fiction Association. It targets more on “professional” and award the Xingyun Award for Global Chinese SF every year. There’s red carpet walking every year.
The China SF Con is organized by China Association of Science and Technology, co-organized by companies like Tecent, Storycom and others. It gives out the Waterdrop Award. The con itself can be run in different formats in different places every year.
The Chengdu International Science Fiction Conference is organized by Science Fiction World and Chengdu. It gives out the Galaxy’s Award. Chengdu is bidding for Worldcon 2023, so the con is organized every two years since 2017. It tends to be very international and invite many foreign guests.
Some of these cons merge together at certain years. Besides them, there is also APSFCon organized by Future Affairs Administration.
Who are the main author names in today’s Chinese SF&F?
Liu Cixin (刘慈欣) is the biggest name in contemporary Chinese SF thanks to his grand universe-spanning imagination. His Three Body Trilogy (《三体》三部曲) is extremely popular and is due to be adapted into a six-part movie series. The English translation of the first book was published in November 2014—the first contemporary Chinese SF novel translated into English—and won a Hugo. The next two books were published in English in 2015 and 2016 respectively.1
Wang Jinkang (王晋康), who spent his 20th year of writing SF in 2014, is another heavyweight in Chinese SF. His stories are deeply rooted in the tradition of realism and usually with a focus on biology. Some of his representative works include the short story “Adam’s Regression” (《亚当回归》, 1993) and the novel A Song for Life (《生命之歌》, 1998).
Han Song (韩松), who works for Xinhua News Agency, is known to have said that the news pieces he writes during daytime are more science fictional than the science fiction stories he writes at night. His stories, influenced by Kafka, are unusual and surreal, and his pioneering writing style garners him special attention. Some of his representative works are the short story “Gravestone of the Universe” (《宇宙墓碑》, 1991) and novel Red Ocean (《红色海洋》, 2004).
He Xi’s (何夕) stories are effective at exploring emotions and feelings, which really touch the reader. “The Sad One” (《伤心者》, 2003) is his most famous short story, about a lonely mathematician figuring out a theory that cannot be understood by his era, and a mother always having faith in her son. He Xi published his first novel, The Doomsday Year (《天年》) in 2015.
Arguably, these are the “Big Four” of Chinese SF today.
Younger writers like Chen Qiufan (陈楸帆), who leads science fiction realism, Fei Dao (飞氘), who applies skills and concepts from literary fiction to his SF writing, Bao Shu (宝树), who is good at telling interesting stories with a focus on philosophy, Zhang Ran (张冉), who benefits a lot from his earlier experience as a journalist, Jiang Bo (江波), who has deft control of large scenes, and A Que (阿缺), who is a master of storytelling born in 1990s—they are all from the most well-educated group in China.
Apart from male writers, there are also quite a few prestigious female writers in China: Zhao Haihong (赵海虹), Ling Chen (凌晨), Chi Hui (迟卉), Xia Jia (夏笳), Hao Jingfang (郝景芳) and Chen Qian (陈茜). They approach the genre with their unique perspectives. Zhao Haihong’s stories feature an emphasis on emotion and romantic atmosphere; Ling Chen takes good control of hard SF elements; Chi Hui is very prolific, making it hard to conclude her style; Xia Jia is good at creating fantastic scenes and dreamy atmospheres, and recently has started to focus on near future scenes in China; Hao Jingfang regards her own writing as “non-genre” as she cares about what happens in real space but set her stories in imaginary space; Chen Qian’s stories have simple language but hard SF cores. Among them, Xia Jia is probably the most well-known writer, and after her Hugo win, Hao Jingfang is also receiving a lot of attention.
Give us some names of SF&F Chinese graphic artists.
Shark Dan, Butu, Guo Jian are some of the artists that have been nominated for best arts in recent years.
What makes Chinese SF original?
This is a complicated question. Fortunately, Xia Jia has a good article on this. You can find “What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?” here:
1 The first and third books in the series were translated by Ken Liu, and the second book was translated by Joel Martinsen.