Chengdu, 10 Oct (ZXS) -- Why do Chinese science fiction "roam the future"?

——Interview with Yang Feng, one of the founders of the Global Chinese Science Fiction Nebula Award

He Shaoqing, reporter of the China News Agency

In 1903, after Lu Xun translated Jules Verne's "Journey to the Moon Realm" from Japanese to Chinese, he wrote: "Therefore, if you want to overcome the shortcomings of today's translation world, you must start with science fiction to guide Chinese herds." "For more than 120 years, China has given birth to many excellent science fiction works such as "Cat City", "PHS Roaming the Future", "Flying to Sagittarius" and "The Three-Body Problem". When can China's earliest science fiction works be traced back to and what developments have they undergone? What sparks have collided with the sci-fi exchanges between the East and the West? Yang Feng, one of the founders of the Global Chinese Science Fiction Nebula Award, deputy secretary-general of the World Chinese Science Fiction Association, vice chairman of the 2023st World Science Fiction Convention in 81, and chief planner and editor-in-chief of "Chinese Science Fiction Oral History", was exclusively interviewed by China News Agency's "East-West Question".

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: What is the difference between science fiction and other novels? What exactly are people talking about when they talk about science fiction?

Yang Feng: Science fiction is a genre of literature born after the Industrial Revolution, and it is a novel that can only be bred in the scientific era. The biggest difference between science fiction and other novels lies in the basic definition of science fiction - as long as the core of the narrative is non-non-non-fiction popular literature based on scientific logic, it is science fiction.

Science fiction unfolds within the framework of science and technology, which not only optimistically envisions scientific and technological development, social change and the future of mankind, but also explores the ethical and moral challenges facing mankind in the era of science and technology.

The biggest charm of science fiction lies in the vivid display of various possibilities in the future, in the breadth and depth of imagination, which allows readers to shape reality from a new perspective, helps us transcend the boundaries of the known, opens up unknown areas, and allows people to understand the unknown with empathy.

When people discuss science fiction, they are essentially discussing the possibility and desirability of science fiction, but they are also discussing the future and destiny of mankind, although many people do not realize that they care about such a grand proposition.

Liu Cixin's "Three-Body Problem" was published in Science Fiction World. Photo courtesy of interviewee

China News Agency: In 1903, after translating Jules Verne's "Journey to the Moon Realm", Lu Xun wrote: "Guiding the Chinese group must begin with science fiction." "When can the earliest science fiction in China be dated? In the 120 years since Lu Xun translated "Lunar Travel", how did Chinese science fiction "fly to Sagittarius"?

Yang Feng: The earliest science fiction novels in China date back to the late Qing Dynasty. However, these novels were generally called "science novels" or "ideal novels" at the time. The term "science fiction" was translated from Soviet science fiction after the founding of New China.

In 1902, Liang Qichao published "The Future of New China", the first Chinese work with science fiction elements, the novel imagined that 60 years later Shanghai would hold the Universal Exposition, and even Pudong Chongming would become the venue of the exposition, which is almost like a prediction of the grand event of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

In 1904, "Lunar Colony Novel", serialized in the magazine "Embroidery Novel", is closer to science fiction in the modern sense. It is generally believed that this is the first true science fiction novel in China. However, the author only has the pen name "Arakajiang Fishing", and his identity cannot be verified, and the novel is also "chopped" halfway after <> consecutive times, which is very regrettable.

In 1905, China's first complete science fiction novel, "Mr. Tan of Xinfaluo" by Xu Nianci, was published. But strictly speaking, this work is a parody of the German writer Bilger (also translated as Bilger) "The Adventures of the Bragging King" "fan fiction" - "The Adventures of the Bragging King" was translated as "Mr. Fangluo Tan" at the time, and was published together with "New Mr. Fangluo Tan".

Of course, ancient legends around the world are full of legends featuring wise sages or skilled craftsmen. For example, in the Warring States period, "Liezi Tangwen" has legendary stories that are very close to science fiction, such as "Yan Shi creates people" and "Bian Que changes hearts", and it is also a cultural allusion often cited in the creation of contemporary Chinese science fiction.

In terms of translation, as early as 1898, during Liang Qichao's journey to exile in Japan, he began to translate the best-selling fantasy novel "The Adventures of Beautiful Men (Ji)" by Japanese writer Shiba Shiro. Mr. Lu Xun also translated the Japanese translation of Verne's famous book "From the Earth to the Moon" into Chinese and named it "Lunar Travel". In addition, Lu Xun also translated another masterpiece of Verne, "Underground Travel", but both of them have made a lot of cuts and even rearrangements to the original content, which can almost be regarded as a re-creation.

In terms of writing, Lao She's "Cat City" published in 1933 can be called the world-renowned masterpiece of Chinese science fiction, echoing another dystopian science fiction masterpiece "Brave New World" published by British writer Adolce Huxley, reflecting the universal crisis of an era.

In his early years, Liusha River also wrote science fiction works such as "The Flying Big Iron Ring" under the encouragement of Tan Kai, the first editor-in-chief of "Science Fiction World". Female writer Bi Shumin published the science fiction novel "The Professor's Ring" in the 1994th issue of "Novel Monthly" in 11. "Fairy tale king" Zheng Yuanjie has written many science fiction novels such as "Confession Before the Explosion" and "Biochemical Nanny".

On September 2016, 9, at the popular science products expo of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, the theme pavilion of Liu Cixin's science fiction novel "The Three-Body Problem" attracted the attention of science fiction fans. Photo by Chen Yuyu

The development and change of Chinese science fiction is almost a reflection of Chinese history. In the late Qing Dynasty, science fiction expressed the desire of intellectuals to save their lives. During the Anti-Japanese War, Mr. Lao She's "Tale of Cat City" denounced the corruption and passivity of the national government in the face of the invaders, and vigorously lashed out at that dark era and rotten and ugly social reality.

In the early stage of New China, influenced by Soviet science fiction, science fiction paid attention to the fun of science popularization among teenagers, and Ye Yonglie's landmark work "PHS Roaming the Future" was born. In the early days of reform and opening up, Chinese science fiction ushered in an explosive short golden period with economic take-off, and a large number of excellent works represented by "Flying to Sagittarius" and "Death on Coral Island" appeared.

After entering the new century, Chinese science fiction once again ushered in a period of all-round development, and began to carry out divergent exploration and thinking based on the reality of China's high-speed penetration of science and technology into life, and a group of outstanding science fiction writers with world influence emerged with Liu Cixin, Wang Jinkang, He Xi and Han Song as the leading figures, and Chen Qiufan, Jiang Bo, Baoshu, A Que, July, Liang Qingsan, Gu Shi, Wang Kanyu, Mu Ming, etc.

China News Agency: Are there any science fiction works in the West that contain Chinese elements? What sparks did Eastern and Western science fiction collide?

Yang Feng: As one of the translators of the English version of the Tao Te Ching, the famous American science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula Legune once added a setting with Taoist elements to her most famous "Legends of the Earth and Sea" series of novels. In the famous American science fiction writer William Gibson's masterpiece "Neural Mancer", one of the protagonists' final means to overcome the firewall is the computer virus "madness" made in China.

In Western science fiction film and television works, there are also many works that contain Chinese elements, such as the neon lights and Chinese character signboards in the film "Blade Runner", which have become essential elements of cyberpunk style; The American drama "Firefly" fictionalizes a future interstellar alliance, and in the future world, the official languages are only English and Chinese. In addition, Chinese-American science fiction writer and translator Liu Yukun has also written a number of science fiction novels with strong Chinese cultural characteristics, such as "Happy Hunting" and the "Dandelion Dynasty" series of novels.

The Chengdu University Science Fiction Club watched "The Wandering Earth" privately. Photo courtesy of interviewee

As early as the 20th century, Chinese science fiction spread sporadically to the West. In 1989, Wu Dingbai's "Selected Chinese Science Fiction" was translated into English and published in the United States; Published in 1997, the American scholar Professor Gunn edited "The Road to Science Fiction (Volume VI)", which introduced and analyzed Chinese science fiction, and included Zheng Wenguang's "Earth Mirror" and Ye Yonglie's "Corrosion".

However, most of this cultural dissemination belongs to social welfare activities promoted by scholars. In recent years, the "Three-Body Problem" trilogy has achieved great success in the market with its own super strength, conquering the vast number of readers in the West. Most famously, former US President Barack Obama also became a big fan of "The Three-Body Problem", sending an email to Liu Cixin to "urge changes".

In August 2015, "The Three-Body Problem" won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at the 8rd World Science Fiction Convention, the first science fiction novel in Asia to win this award. In June 73, "The Three-Body Problem 2017: Death Eternal" won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. In November 6, Liu Cixin herself won the 3 Clark Imagination Prize for Serving the Society.

After Liu Cixin opened the breakthrough, more and more other Chinese science fiction authors such as Han Song, Chen Qiufan and other works began to spread to the West, allowing more European and American readers to appreciate the unique charm of Chinese science fiction. In the process of promoting Chinese science fiction to the outside world, more and more individuals and new platforms have played an active role in it.

Taking the American version of the science fiction electronic magazine "Galaxy Edge" introduced by Baguangfen Culture as an example, this science fiction mook (periodical-type book) published bimonthly in China, each issue consists of half translated novels and half original novels, and Chinese of which original novels have the opportunity to be translated and published by the American "Galaxy Edge" magazine. Up to now, many authors such as Cheng Jingbo, Baoshu, Wang Nuonuo, Wanxiang Fengnian, Fu Qiang and so on have appeared on the US version of "Galaxy's Edge" through this platform.

Eastern and Western science fiction novels are different in terms of cultural background, theme, narrative style and social significance, and cannot be generalized. In general, the objective differences between Chinese and Western science fiction are based on their time and regional culture. For example, science fiction in the late Qing Dynasty placed great emphasis on political theory, actively fantasizing about China's prosperity and strength after its transformation; Western science fiction in the era of the industrial revolution praises the progress and prosperity brought about by the rapid development of human scientific and technological productivity, and at the same time expresses hidden concerns about the class, morality and other issues caused by this scientific and technological upheaval.

Contemporary European and American science fiction is deeply influenced by cyberpunk thought, paying a lot of attention to personal dilemmas and boundary deconstruction under the scientific and technological society, while China pays more attention to the friction and contradiction between scientific and technological idealism and the resistance of social reality.

Of course, as science fiction, Eastern and Western science fiction still has a large number of universal commonalities that transcend times, regions and cultures: they all explore the spiritual realm and unknown areas of human beings from an artistic perspective, examine the emotions and conflicts faced by human beings in the rapid development and drastic changes of science and technology in modern society, show universal humanistic care across countries and cultures, pay attention to the interaction between science and technology and human relations, explore the future world, and think about the fate and meaning of human existence.

Mascot of Chengdu Science Fiction Convention. Photo courtesy of interviewee

On October 10, the 18st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023 will open in Chengdu, providing an important opportunity for the exchange and collision of science fiction between the East and the West. This platform will enable science fiction writers, scholars and enthusiasts from different cultural backgrounds to have the opportunity to communicate with each other, share their creative experiences and thoughts, and will further promote the prosperity and development of global science fiction culture. (End)

Respondent Profile:

Yang Feng. Photo by Zhang Lang

Yang Feng, one of the co-founders of the Chinese Science Fiction Nebula Award and one of the initiators of the Cold Lake Science Fiction Literature Award. Member of the Science Fiction Special Committee of China Science Writers Association, the first batch of special experts of China Science Fiction Research Center, deputy secretary-general of the World Chinese Science Fiction Association, vice chairman of the 2023st World Science Fiction Convention in 81, and chief planner and editor-in-chief of "Oral History of Chinese Science Fiction".