With a second Chinese bagging theHugo prize, expectations from the country’s sci-fi writers are rising. Xinhua reports.
On Sunday, a second Chinese author received a prestigious Hugo Award for science fiction, this time in the category of best novelette. Hao Jingfang, author of Folding Beijing, won the award at the 74thWorld Science Fiction Convention in the United States following Liu Cixin’s 2015 Best Novel award for The Three-Body Problem, the first part of a trilogy.
Established in 1953, the Hugo Awards acknowledge the best works in science fiction or fantasy and, along with the Nebula Awards, are seen as the top prizes in the genre. They are named after Hugo Gernsback, founder of the American science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. The best novelette prize has previously been won by such acknowledged greats as Isaac Asimov, UrsulaK. Le Guin and George R.R. Martin.
The news was received with great delight at the Shanghai Book Fair that closed yesterday.
Folding Beijing tells of a father’s struggle to send his daughter to school in the Beijing of the future, alluding to the difficulties that some Chinese parents face today to ensure their children receive a quality education. Hao herself graduated in physics from Tsinghua University in 2006.
“Chinese sci-fi is embracing unprecedented opportunities today,” said Liu Cixin at the Shanghai fair.
Liu believes China is witnessing the beginning of sci-fi “industrialization” and the environment for sci-fi writers has greatly improved from the previous decades.
Death’s End, the third part of Liu’s trilogy, is to be released in the United States on Sept 20. The English translation of the entire trilogy made its debut at the Shanghai fair on Sunday.
“Following the success of The Three-Body Problem, we noticed an increase in Chinese material in sci-fi all round the world,” said Yao Haijun, chief editor of Science Fiction World, China’s leading sci-fi magazine.
“It may also be associated with the rise of the Chinese economy in general.”
The Three-Body Problem has sold more than 160,000 copies since it was published in November 2014, and has been reviewed in The New York Times andWall Street Journal.
As to why the work has been Liu Cixin, so widely welcomed in the West, Yao believes the excellence of the translation is a major factor.
“It has also set up a link between China and the West, through which foreign readers can attempt to hypothesize about the future of the country,” he said. His viewis shared by Liu. “Science fiction is becoming a key to the world’s understanding of China,” he says.
In China, demand for science fiction is on the rise. Audiences have become interested in such movies and many high-profile figures from beyond the literary world — Li Yanhong, head of internet giant Baidu, and Lei Jun, co-founder of smartphone maker Xiaomi — have heaped praise on Liu’s work.
Despite these accolades and a certain amount of financial success, science fiction in China is still in its infancy and in dire need of a nurturing system.
Liu recalls attending a writ- ers’ conference in the US.
“Before stepping in the room, I thought it was a roundtable meeting with twenty plus people,” he said.
But when the door opened, Liu was shocked to see thousands of participants.
In contrast, Chinese fans struggle to name 30 domestic science fiction writers, among whom less than 10 are making a living from their craft.
“We need to create an environment that allows more writers to develop their talent and the genre to prosper,” Liu said.
To increase the number of science fiction writers in China, Beijing’s Future Affairs Administration, a startup that mainly deals with science fiction copyright business, plans an incubator for talents.
“How to attract the young generation is the biggest challenge for sci-fi,” said British science fiction writer Ian McDonald at the Shanghai fair.
Liu echoed his views, suggesting that it will be increasingly difficult for science fiction writers to write satisfying works in an era when people have instant access to the latest developments in technology, such as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, dark-matter detection satellites and so on.
At the same time, however, Liu sees a new opportunity in every development.
“New technology would provide a knowledge foundation for writers.”
Chinese sci-fi is embracing unprecedented opportunities today. ...Science fiction is becoming a key to the world’s understanding of China.” winner of the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel
A view of the Shanghai Book Fair held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center from Aug 18 to 23.
Liu Cixin spoke at a readers’ meeting that introduced Hao Jingfang (right)’s sci-fi works in July in Beijing.