So here I am back from the excellent Archipelacon where Regina Kanyu Wang gave a video-report on Chinese fandom to a packed room, followed by a Skype chat between us in Finland, and her in Shanghai. Which is kind of awesome.
I’ll blog more about Archipelacon soon. There was so much interest in what Regina had to say I thought I’d re-post my interview with her for Vector, the critical journal of the BSFA, from late last year.
Chinese SF and fandom is having a renaissance – growing steadily from a small start. A few things have happened since my interview. Significantly, Applecore, than fan group Regina is part of, now has that English-language side to its website she mentions below. I’m sure interesting things are coming, so watch that space!
Meanwhile – here’s our interview:
I met Regina at EuroCon in Dublin. She was also at LonCon3 as part of the Beijing WorldCon bid team. Regina was on a couple of panels at EuroCon, and later on we were part of a group that collected at the bar and chatted into the evening. I asked Regina which mythic heroes existed in Chinese culture, equivalent to, say, King Arthur or Robin Hood. She reminded us of what we already knew – the Monkey King (Sun Wukong) – and also told us a story of a white serpent that fell in love and wished to be human. The differences and similarities to our own stories were fascinating and left me wanting to know more. I also asked Regina if she’d be willing to do this interview, and I’m happy to say she agreed immediately.
Thank you again for agreeing to answer a few questions about Chinese SF and fandom. First, please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became involved with clubs and conventions.
Well, my name is Wang Kanyu in Chinese and to make it easier for my foreign friends, I chose the western name Regina for myself. I live in Shanghai.
I have been reading science fiction and then later on, fantasy, since primary school. But I couldn’t find many friends who share the same interest with me before I entered university. I joined the university science fiction club as soon as I found it. At that time, our club was small and we usually went to neighbouring university to attend their events. Then we got the idea of founding an association of university sf clubs and holding Shanghai Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival annually.
Later on, I met Finnish sf fans as well as scholars in my university and started to have the contact with the Finnish fandom. That’s how I managed to attend Finncon 2013 and visit the Nordic and Baltic fandoms last year. And this year, to meet more friends, I attended Loncon3 and Shamrokon.
I understand there was an earlier SF movement towards the end of the Qing dynasty (Late 19th & early 20th century). Can you explain a little about the history of SF in China?
You are very knowledgeable! Yes, in the Late Qing dynasty, science fiction was introduced into China as a way to prosper the country. Literature has been regarded as something to carry social responsibilities in China for a long time. Learning advanced science as well as democracy from the west was the basic role that science fiction was supposed to play at that time. Most of the western sf translated into Chinese was kind of rewriting.
After PRC (People’s Republic of China) was established, the first wave of modern Chinese sf came in Late 1950s. During that period, the stories were mostly optimistic and limited.
Then came the Cultural Revolution, leaving little space for science fiction. After late 1970s was the second wave. Not only large amounts of works emerged, but also four magazines and one newspaper specialized in sf appeared, as well as fandoms started to grow.
In 1983, the anti-spiritual pollution movement wiped sf from the map. Not until late 1980s and early 1990s did sf recover from the attack.
After 1991, when Science Fiction World held the annual conference of World SF, was the third wave, contemporary Chinese sf writers who are still active today started to emerge.
When and where did the current Chinese SF fandom begin, and how big is it now?
The first Chinese SF fandom appeared in Shanghai in 1980 and immediately in other cities as well. But shortly after came the anti-spiritual pollution movement and all the fandoms were silent during these years.
The first fanzine in China was Nebular (Xingyun), edited by Yao Haijun, who is now editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World magazine. It was published from 1989-2007, 40 issues in all. It helped the forming of Chinese SF fandom.
Regional sf clubs and university sf clubs started to grow after 1990. Then a lot of online community emerged.
It is hard to tell how big the current Chinese SF fandom is now, because it is widely dispersed and diverse. The largest national (or global!) fandom, World Chinese Science Fiction Association has around 180 members and most of them are “professionals” like writers, translators, editors, researchers, etc. There are regular sf events in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, organized by different organizations and without registration system sometimes. The fandoms in different cities do have contacts, but mostly online.
Please tell us more about AppleCore.
In 2009, SF Clubs in four universities in Shanghai decided to organize a big event together. During the preparation of Shanghai Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival (SSFFF), we founded SF AppleCore as an association of university sf clubs in Shanghai.
SSFFF was held in 2009 and annually from 2011 till now. It is more based in universities. Most of the organizers and attendants are university students. During the weekends in a certain month, different events are held in member universities, organized by university sf clubs. A single event can attract 30-200 attendants, depending on the guests.
Since October 2013, AppleCore started the monthly gathering AppleParty, targeting at graduated fans. Usually we have movie screening, topic lecture, panel or short talks in the afternoon and have dinner together in the evening. 30-60 audience show up in the afternoon and 5-20 stayed for the dinner usually.
I thought a WorldCon 2016 in Beijing was a wonderful idea, a great way for fans to reach out and discover, in both directions. How was the whole experience for the bid team? Are there any plans for future bids?
Thanks! To be honest, I am more playing a supporting role in the bid team since I live in Shanghai and the core bid team is in Beijing. We lacked experience for the first time and were not very prepared, but we wish to learn! And I was amazed by the help and will to help offered by foreign fans as well as their interest in Chinese SF. It’s so warm and inspiring!
I cannot speak for the Beijing team, but Shanghai might plan a bid after 2020. I also know an American fan who has been living in Haikou for years want to start a bid in Haikou.
Is there a regional SF convention in your part of the world, similar to EuroCon for Europe? Do you have much contact with SF fandom outside of China?
Unfortunately, we do not have regional SF convention yet. But I hear the voice of starting one. It is kind of hard because China itself is so large as you see.
Fandom in mainland China has much contact with Hong Kong and Taiwan fandoms.
We also have much contact with the Japanese fandom and we are planning a Sino-Japanese SF research seminar in 2015 or 2016 in Shanghai.
I have got some contacts from south-east Asia at Worldcon.
More work needs to be done!
And what Chinese SF conventions or other events could a foreign visitor attend in the next two or three years?
We don’t really have regular conventions in China. Equivalently, we have events like festivals, awarding ceremonies and carnivals.
The most recent one is the awarding ceremony of Chinese Nebular in Beijing on Nov 1 and 2, 2014. International guests as Ken Liu (the brilliant Hugo and Nebular winner), Pierre Gévart (editor of the French SF magazine, Galaxies), Toya Tachihara (Japanese researcher on Chinese SF) and all the names you can think of in Chinese SF will come. You may find other information here: http://www.guokr.com/xingyun2014/index/ (Well, in Chinese… if someone happen to be interested in coming, feel free to contact me.)
One major problem for Chinese SF events is that they do not settle the exact date until just months before. But you can expect the awarding ceremony for Chinese Nebular and Galaxy every year. Around the two awarding ceremonies, there will be different activities. The former is usually in October or November and the latter in August or September. Sometimes they are bound together. It really depends…
As for Shanghai Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival, it’s usually in May. It is also quite easy to organize a meal for foreign visitors in Shanghai, although we do not have a settled plan for cons yet.
What different, new, or familiar things might we expect to see at Chinese conventions?
Different from the cons I have attended, the Chinese conventions are very “Chinese”…Yes, almost all the events and info are in Chinese since we do not usually have foreign visitors.
Unfortunately, I missed the past three international conventions in China, annual conference of World SF in 1991, 97′ Beijing International Conference on Science Fiction and 2007 International SF & F Convention just before Nippon 2007. They seemed to be very successful. So English service is definitely possible.
During the recent awarding ceremony of Chinese Nebular and Galaxy and their surrounding activities, there are red carpet, late night roadside BBQ and beer instead of masquerades and room parties. You may also expect signing session, seminars and lectures. The awarding ceremony of the Chinese Nebular this year will be a stage play, written by Liu Cixin (author of Three Body). That will be a brand new experience.
Which Chinese SF authors would you like to see in translation for us to read? Apart from cost of translation and rights, are there any other big obstacles to translation?
Jiang Bo and Chen Qian. Jiang Bo works in semiconductor area and writes excellent hard sf. Chen Qian is a librarian and is good at composing stories from a small and special angle, and she is a female writer!
The big obstacle I see is that Chinese SF authors are not so good at promoting themselves in the western world. So it is hard for them to be known by the English readers and editors. But now we have the Chinese SF project* on ClarkesWorld, which will help a lot!
(* The ClarkesWorld Chinese SF Translation Project, now fully-funded on KickStarter.)
Please tell us about some Chinese authors whose work we can already read.
Liu Cixin, Han Song, Chen Qiufan, Xia Jia, Zhao Haihong, Hao Jingfang, Fei Dao, Bao Shu, Tang Fei…
Actually a lot of Chinese authors have already been translated. Most of the translated ones are short stories. Do not miss the first modern Chinese SF novel translated into English, Three Body by Liu Cixin.
The online magazine and small press scene in thriving here. Is the same true in China? I’m also wondering if traditional literary culture feels superior to SF, as it can do in the UK, or if it embraces it?
Online magazine and online publishing is thriving here, too. It gives more writers the opportunity to publish their works. I do not see many small press emerging in China, maybe because of the strict publishing regulations here.
In general, traditional literary culture does feel superior to genre literary culture in China. SF has long been put under the branch of children’s literature in China. But in recent years, I see some trend of embracing SF in traditional literature. SF has been included into traditional literature anthologies and magazines. More researchers choose SF as their academic interest or SF authors and fans start to do SF related research in universities.
There have been various movements or styles in English language SF and Fantasy, such as Cyberpunk, GrimDark, and SteamPunk. What are the current theme or style movements in Chinese SF?
Umm, we had Silkpunk and Carpentrypunk, but they failed to become a trend. Only a few related stories.
What can be regarded as movements are Science Fiction Realism proposed by Chen Qiufan in 2012 and Science Fiction Futurism proposed by Wu Yan in 2014. Science Fiction Futurism advocates that SF reflects reality in a way that realism fiction cannot do. Science Fiction Futurism advocates that SF should construct the future.
SF can be used to examine the world as it is today, and can be optimistic or pessimistic about the future. Do you see similar things in Chinese science fiction?
That’s exactly what the two current movements in Chinese SF are about!
Sometimes today and future are combined. Most of Chen Qiufan’s works, setting in the near future, discusses the problems we can see or foresee today.
And of course you can see a lot of Chinese SF writing optimistically or pessimistically about the future. Numerous examples!
The Future! It feels the story of SF fandom in China is just beginning. What’s coming next?
We are trying to show more presence on the international stage!
I have already persuaded my friend to volunteer at the coming Windycon in November in Chicago.
AppleCore is building a bilingual website.
Official website of World Chinese Science Fiction Association (www.wcsfa.com) also has the plan of adding English contents.
I am going to keep a blog about Chinese fandom on Amazing Stories.
We have a lot to learn from the international fandom and we want to be part of it!
I have a dozen more questions, but also think I have taken up enough of your time. Thank you!
Thank you for asking all these insightful questions and give me the chance to tell about Chinese SF!