Chi­nese sci-fi wows read­ers, crit­ics in Ja­pan

Global Times US Edition - - FOCUS -

Since the pub­li­ca­tion of The Three-body Prob­lem, the first in­stall­ment of Liu Cixin’s epic sci­ence fic­tion tril­ogy, the se­ries has earned the Chi­nese nov­el­ist enor­mous ac­claim and le­gions of fans world­wide.

This month, the Hugo Award-win­ning book was a mas­sive hit in Ja­pan.

Launched in the Asian coun­try on July 4, the novel about humanity mak­ing con­tact with aliens reached the top of Ama­zon’s chart of best­selling lit­er­ary fic­tion.

On the fol­low­ing day, No­zomi Omori, the Ja­pa­nese translator of the book, tweeted that Hayakawa Pub­lish­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, the book’s pub­lisher, was pre­par­ing for a third print­ing.

In less than a week, books from the 10th print­ing batch have been de­liv­ered to book­stores, bring­ing the num­ber of printed copies to a to­tal of 86,000.

“I bought the Ja­pa­nese ver­sion as soon as it was pub­lished. I started to read after work at six o’clock and I fin­ished read­ing the whole book at 12 o’clock at night. It’s re­ally won­der­ful,” said Ja­pa­nese reader Daichi Nakashima ex­cit­edly.

Nakashima, 27, said he was impressed by the “dis­tinc­tive Chi­nese cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tics” and “sci­en­tific de­tails” of the book.

“In terms of theme, it is quite dif­fer­ent from Eu­ro­pean, Amer­i­can and Ja­pa­nese sci­ence fic­tion ... It’s not about

in­tu­ition or destiny. It’s about hu­mans’ hard work and ra­tio­nal think­ing that opens up the fu­ture,” he ex­plained.

The Three-body Prob­lem has not only charmed young Ja­pa­nese read­ers like Nakashima, but has at­tracted read­ers of dif­fer­ent age groups.

“Most of the read­ers are in their 30s, [but] there are also younger read­ers... Sci-fi read­ers aged 50 to 60 also buy it,” Omori told Xin­hua.

To un­der­stand why The Three-body Prob­lem has be­come so pop­u­lar in Ja­pan, Mao Dan­qing, a pro­fes­sor at Kobe In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity, no­ticed an in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non.

“Ja­pa­nese peo­ple who grew up read­ing mo­bile phone nov­els are now in their 30s or 40s... When these peo­ple read lit­er­a­ture, they can eas­ily im­merse them­selves in the lan­guage of The Three-body Prob­lem rather than [in that of the] tra­di­tional style of writ­ing,” Mao said.

Apart from the en­thu­si­as­tic re­ac­tions from Ja­pa­nese fans, the epic has not only been ex­cit­ing sci-fi fans, but also read­ers of var­i­ous lan­guages.

The tril­ogy sold mil­lions of copies in all for­mats by the end of 2017 and has been trans­lated into more than 10 lan­guages in­clud­ing English, Span­ish and Ger­man, ac­cord­ing to China Ed­u­ca­tional Pub­li­ca­tions Im­port and Ex­port Cor­po­ra­tion Ltd.

Among over­seas sci-fi fans, English­s­peak­ing read­ers revel in this in­tri­cate and imag­i­na­tive novel and leave rec­om­men­da­tions on­line.

“It (The Three-body Prob­lem) ed­u­cated me about physics and re­ally made me look at EV­ERY­THING through a new lens...i found this se­ries to be to­tally orig­i­nal and mind-blow­ing,” an Ama­zon cus­tomer named “BDW” wrote in a re­view.

Ama­zon sub­scriber Steven An­thony was impressed with Liu’s “vi­sion and the el­e­ments of hu­man psy­chol­ogy and phi­los­o­phy that he em­ploys,” while Marc Ver­meir said, “The story is so rich in de­tail that it takes you way be­yond pure SF (sci­ence fic­tion).”

Grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity

Thanks to block­buster books like The Three-body Tril­ogy, Chi­nese sci­ence fic­tion has grown in pop­u­lar­ity among read­ers both at home and abroad in re­cent years.

Sev­eral other Chi­nese sci-fi writ­ers have also be­come well-known. Chi­nese writer Chen Qi­u­fan’s de­but sci-fi novel, The Waste Tide, is set to be pub­lished in Ja­pan later this year, Omori said.

“Chen Qi­u­fan is called ‘China’s Wil­liam Gib­son.’ His works are cy­ber­punk and dif­fer­ent from the Three-body style. Cou­pled with Hao Jing­fang’s col­lec­tion which has been trans­lated by Ken Liu, peo­ple be­gin to find that there are many sci-fi writ­ers in China,” said Omori, who is also a critic and an­thol­o­gist.

He added that in the fu­ture, Chi­nese sci-fi “will be­come a genre that will be re­mem­bered by sci­ence fic­tion fans.”

Omori’s words were echoed by Ja­pa­nese writer and scholar Toya Tachi­hara, who said this is “the golden age” of Chi­nese sci-fi.

Chi­nese sci-fi “has the lat­est sci­en­tific knowl­edge and unique Chi­nese cul­ture and his­tory, which help pro­duce a unique kind of sci­ence fic­tion that no other coun­try has,” Tachi­hara said. Xin­hua

Photo: VCG

Liu Cixin, au­thor of The Three­body Prob­lem, signs a book for a fan at a fo­rum in Bei­jing in Septem­ber 2018.

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