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Sci-fi writer happy to break new ground

By GUI QIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-04-05 10:55

Tianrui Shuofu introduces his work. [Photo/China Daily]

Science fiction writer Tianrui Shuofu's fourth full-length work Guard the Nanshan Park is being serialized on the literary site qidian.com.

It tells how the four-dimensional "angles" take over Earth, leaving the Sichuan Basin as humankind's last shelter and for the giant mecha weapon to be invented for use on the frontline — Nanshan Mountain in Chongqing.

Each of the writer's previous three books were winners at China's top sci-fi event, the Galaxy Awards.

With these successes and a solid fan base that closely follows his work, the 26-year-old has become a leading figure among China's young sci-fi writers.

In his latest book, Tianrui Shuofu, who comes from Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, incorporates elements of super-high-technology and ancient martial arts.

Before turning to sci-fi, he wrote fantasy tales, romantic novels and stories about city life.

He said writing that crosses boundaries has become a trend for online sci-fi works by young writers. "This is a good thing. Cross-boundary means going beyond limits, which contributes to writing good stories and helps sci-fi reach more readers," he added.

His observations are supported by a white paper on the development of China's online sci-fi literature last year, which was published at the 33rd Galaxy Awards ceremony.

Compared to traditional sci-fi, the themes and elements used in today's works have been expanded significantly.

Popular themes for other online writing such as mecha (ancient martial arts), space farming and time travel have also been incorporated in sci-fi writing. The white paper states that the largest growth has been witnessed in the themes of evolution and super power, future world, and interstellar civilizations.

Tianrui Shuofu has crossed another boundary by using real place names. He said this is rarely done for online sci-fi works, as many writers try to avoid offending certain groups of readers.

"Some people think sci-fi is a literary genre that solely comprises ideas, but that alone is not enough for a full-length work," he said.

"Characters, plots and skills that matter in other forms of writing, such as martial arts novels, romantic fiction and detective stories, are also important in sci-fi, especially for full-length works. After all, a good story keeps readers reading."

By staying for several months in the cities he plans to write about, Tianrui Shuofu strives to give his readers a sense of immersion in his work.

He lived in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, to write We Live in Nanjing, and in Chongqing for Guard the Nanshan Park. He visited the neighborhoods in which his main characters live, counted the number of bus and subway stops, took pictures of landmarks, and even learned the local dialects.

Real-life details in Tianrui Shuofu's novels include numerous references to space engineering, radio communication and other technologies.

Although recognized as a hardcore sci-fi writer, he thinks this is just one style of the genre, and he may include more themes in future works.

"Many people argue about what constitutes real sci-fi. Some hardcore sci-fi fans look down on soft sci-fi, but that's just killing expansion of the genre in China," he said.

"Whether writers use sci-fi elements as the core of their work or just for background should not be a problem. For mainstream, online, hardcore or soft sci-fi, feeling superior or having a divisive mindset is not conducive to building a good environment for Chinese sci-fi."

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