Prospects bright for China’s sci-fi in­dus­try

China Daily European Weekly - - Cover Story - Wa­ter­drop, Three-Body The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of hu­man­i­ties and di­rec­tor of the new Re­search Cen­ter for Sci­ence and Hu­man Imag­i­na­tion, South­ern Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

In­ter­na­tional au­di­ences are be­ing tar­geted as train­ing is strength­ened for do­mes­tic au­thors and cre­ators

be sta­ble. Be­cause of the pop­u­lar­ity of sci-fi read­ing and high ex­pec­ta­tions for the nascent Chi­nese sci-fi film mar­ket, sci­ence fic­tion copy­rights have risen sharply in re­cent years. How­ever, such busi­ness has cooled down since last year, since it is dif­fi­cult to make some works into films or tele­vi­sion pro­grams, and there is a short­age of fund­ing.

In 2016, the to­tal box-of­fice of sci-fi films in China was 7.64 bil­lion yuan, an in­crease of 13 per­cent over the pre­vi­ous year. Of this amount, do­mes­tic sci-fi movies ac­counted for 3.5 bil­lion yuan.

Im­ported sci­ence fic­tion films con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate Chi­nese cin­ema screens, but do­mes­tic films be­gan to show a strong per­for­mance, with some Chi­nese orig­i­nal sci-fi films achiev­ing suc­cess at the box of­fice. Chi­nese mi­cro sci-fi films, such as be­gan to win peo­ple’s at­ten­tion and trig­ger hot dis­cus­sion and philo­soph­i­cal re­flec­tion. Some orig­i­nal fantasy films, the sub­ject of huge in­vest­ment, be­gan to com­bine with scifi films to form a new genre — sci­ence fic­tion-fantasy.

A to­tal of 235 on­line drama se­ries were launched in 2016, with views reach­ing 500 bil­lion, and users’ on­line pay­ments rose to 11.7 bil­lion yuan. On­line sci-fi dra­mas, es­pe­cially those with big bud­gets and in­vest­ment, were highly wel­comed by new me­dia plat­forms and web­sites. How­ever, even though the num­ber of new sci-fi dra­mas was huge, the qual­ity of some was not ex­cel­lent.

There were no sta­tis­tics avail­able on video games in China, but global sales of video games stood at more than $444 mil­lion (377 mil­lion eu­ros; £332 mil­lion) in 2016.

Startup en­ter­prises re­lated to sci-fi pro­duc­tion also de­vel­oped well. Newly started busi­nesses were try­ing to find their places through com­pe­ti­tion and co­op­er­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, many en­ter­prises were try­ing to re­cruit and at­tract more sci­ence fic­tion cre­ators and au­thors through so­lic­it­ing ar­ti­cles or host­ing awards cer­e­monies. Fa­mous events such as the Galaxy Award and the Xingyun Award have showed strong brand ef­fect and re­ceived much at­ten­tion in the sec­tor.

In ad­di­tion, some do­mes­tic publications and or­ga­ni­za­tions are ded­i­cated to in­tro­duc­ing ex­cel­lent Chi­nese sci-fi to in­ter­na­tional read­ers, pro­mot­ing in­ter­na­tional ex­changes and train­ing cre­ators. For ex­am­ple, Sci­ence Fic­tion World and China Ed­u­ca­tional Publications Im­port and Ex­port Corp have co­op­er­ated to pro­mote Chi­nese sci-fi au­thor Liu Cixin’s tril­ogy to the world. The tril­ogy has been pub­lished in 13 languages, with to­tal global sales of 800,000 copies. More Chi­nese works are be­ing pre­pared for in­ter­na­tional read­ers.

Fu­ture Af­fairs Ad­min­is­tra­tion, a tech­no­log­i­cal and cul­tural com­pany, pro­duces orig­i­nal con­tent with a fu­tur­is­tic vi­sion for Chi­nese sci­ence fic­tion. Its core busi­ness is de­vel­op­ment of sci­ence fic­tion writ­ing, and it has be­gun co­op­er­at­ing with the Univer­sity of Kansas in the United States to pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­changes be­tween Chi­nese and US sci-fi writ­ers.

Al­though China’s sci­ence fic­tion in­dus­try has just started, the prospects for fur­ther growth are bright as train­ing is strength­ened for do­mes­tic au­thors and cre­ators. The coun­try, busi­nesses and read­ers are all op­ti­mistic about the genre of lit­er­a­ture and ea­ger to see more im­pres­sive sto­ries.

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