21 sci-fi writ­ers fan­ta­size about fu­ture fes­tive travel in cy­berspace

Global Times - - Life - By Huang Tingt­ing

Abusy sta­tion fills with anx­ious trav­el­ers await­ing trans­port back to Earth in Alex Sh­vartz­man’s story. A white-col­lar gent swipes his iden­tity card, boards a plat­form and mo­men­tar­ily is home, via a seam­less plat­form of land, sea and air, is how twenty-some­thing au­thor Teng Ye sees it. Teng’s vi­sion of a space train ca­reen­ing into the uni­verse might re­mind read­ers of the Fal­con Heavy rocket launch a few days ago, a “dan­ger­ous and ro­man­tic” mo­ment in Teng’s own words. “When I first heard the theme, I pic­tured a mas­sive ma­chine, blurt­ing out crispy Bei­jinghua, spin­ning across the Milky Way, spit­ting out trains and peo­ple,” says Han Song, a vet­eran au­thor

par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sci­ence fic­tion fes­tive gala’s third year.

Since the on­line de­but of the first story on Fe­bru­ary 5, this year’s gala has al­ready put nine sto­ries on­line and amassed more than 5 mil­lion views, a rather sat­is­fac­tory read­er­ship for a niche lit­er­ary genre.

This year’s theme “Spring Fes­ti­val is ap­proach­ing; here is Bei­jing West rail­way sta­tion,” of­fers the writ­ers an op­por­tu­nity to de­liver fresh­ness from the fetid, age-old Chi­nese travel rush.

With the theme de­cided, Non Ex­ist Daily, an on­line plat­form of the Chi­nese sci-fi brand Fu­ture Af­fairs Ad­min­is­tra­tion, dis­patched in­vi­ta­tions to the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar writ­ers.

Within 48 hours, a feast of around 20 sto­ries was re­turned to be edited and up­loaded on­line once a day for the ap­prox­i­mate two weeks of Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­days.

This year three over­seas sci-fi writ­ers par­tic­i­pated in­clud­ing US au­thor Sh­vartz­man, Chi­nese-Amer­i­can trans­la­tor Ken Liu and au­thor Kim Bo-young from South Korea.

Their sto­ries, care­fully proof­read by ex­pe­ri­enced Chi­nese sci-fi trans­la­tors be­fore be­ing up­loaded on­line, lent an ex­otic ether to the an­nual on­line ex­plo­sion of fes­tive fan­tasy.

Bei­jing West

“The sci-fi gala brings peo­ple a spe­cial fes­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, cre­at­ing a sur­re­al­is­tic at­mos­phere,” Han tells the Global Times. Yes, but... Bei­jing West train sta­tion? “It’s old. It’s a clas­sic, uniquely Chi­nese mem­ory at Spring Fes­ti­val – wit­ness­ing the com­ing and go­ing of trav­el­ers from all walks of life,” Ji Shaot­ing, head of Fu­ture Af­fairs Ad­min­is­tra­tion, tells the Global Times.

The 20-year-old con­crete be­he­moth be­comes a Feng­tai district fan­ta­sia, a time­travel hub, a por­tal con­nect­ing the cap­i­tal to shock­ing fu­ture Shang­hai.

In the sto­ries crafted by the na­tion’s most cre­ative minds, the long road home is per­haps more po­etic and com­fort­able than the stress­ful crowded re­al­ity. In her opin­ion, the story gala sim­ply

pro­vides an emo­tional out­let for those yearn­ing for a dif­fer­ent world un­at­tached to ev­ery­day work and life, Ji says.


The topic last year gar­nered edgy rein­ven­tions of pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment in­spired by the an­nual China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion Spring Fes­ti­val Gala, a clas­sic fes­ti­val mem­ory for older Chi­nese but in­creas­ingly lost on to­day’s de­mand­ing youth au­di­ence. Han’s es­say was in­spired by the Spring

Fes­ti­val Over­ture, a tune that ap­pears fre­quently in school mu­sic text­books and is widely played at ma­jor Chi­nese fes­tive oc­ca­sions.

Com­posed by Li Huanzhi in the 1950s, the over­ture sum­moned for Han a gloomy cave hos­pi­tal op­er­ated by ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent doc­tors where all mean­ing­ful en­ter­tain­ment is banned. Read­ers voted it one of the best sto­ries of the year.

The new pop­u­lar pas­sion for the genre seems re­flected by global recog­ni­tion for au­thors Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award in 2015 and Hao Jing­fang, who fol­lowed him in 2016.

Both in­ter­na­tion­ally feted au­thors have writ­ten, and are writ­ing for the story gala.

Pop­u­lar­ity is nice, but not the prime pur­pose of the gala, say the or­ga­niz­ers.

“We started it sim­ply be­cause we wanted to read more good sto­ries,” Ji says.

“Hope­fully the story gala will be­come an in­dis­pen­si­ble rit­ual for sci-fi fans in the fu­ture.”

Pho­tos: Courtesy of Douzi

Top: Ji Shaot­ing, head of Fu­ture Af­fairs Ad­min­is­tra­tion Writer Teng Ye

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