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Best-selling writers give sci-fi a growing universal appeal

By Yang Yang | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-02 09:06

Liu Cixin

Liu Cixin is a good start if you are interested in Chinese science fiction. His major novels have been translated into a number of languages, including Ball Lightning, The Supernova Era, and The Three-Body Problem trilogy.

Besides, there are also translation collection of his representative short stories To Hold Up the Sky and the fable Of Ants and Dinosaurs. Combining science, philosophy, history and imagination, Liu uses candid language to create thought-provoking stories happening in mind-blowing universes.

Wang Jinkang

Wang Jinkang is another representative sci-fi writer in contemporary China. His signature novella Sowing on Mercury won the Galaxy Award, the country's top sci-fi prize, in 2002. The story starts from 2032, when the protagonist receives a legacy from a distant aunt, a scientist who creates a metal life. The aunt asks the protagonist to send the metal life to Mercury, the most suitable planet for it to survive, reproduce and evolve.

After many struggles, a billionaire Mr Hong decides to support the project on one condition that he will go to Mercury together with the metal life. On Mercury, Hong decides to stay using a freezing device and wake up every 1,000 years to check the evolution of the metal life. After 1 billion years, the intelligent life on Mercury has established their religion and worships the god living in the north pole of Mercury. Some individuals decide to save the god.

He Xi

You should not miss the short stories by He Xi in books, such as Rensheng Buxiangjian (Never Meet Again in Life) and Shangxinzhe (Heartbreaker).

In his representative story Yiyu (Alien Land), in order to deal with a food crisis in a future overcrowded world, humans build a farm in which crops grow at a speed 40,000 times of that in a normal world. According to the conservation of time, to keep the balance, another farm's time almost stops. However, other creatures in the fast farm also evolve much more quickly and endanger the existence of humans.

The story collection by Han Song titled Yuzhou Mubei (The Tombs in Universe) contains excellent short stories that display this avant-garde sci-fi writer's profound reflection on science and humanity. In the short story of the same title, the meaning of human existence is condensed in the black tombs of early astronauts ubiquitous in the universe, solemn, weird but insignificant. Built with a material that can last billions of years, the tombs symbolize the roots of human civilization. However, one day all the tombs disappear mysteriously.

First published in 1998, the book fully displays Han's style — the absurd and reality mirror each other, nihilism and violence coexist, and it is highly symbolic which defies interpretation.

In addition to these veteran sci-fi writers, you can also try works by authors of younger generations, such as Shijian Zhixu (Ruins of Time) by Bao Shu, the short story collection by Zhang Ran, titled Qifeng Zhicheng (Where the Wind Starts), and the short story collection by Tang Fei, titled Aode Saibo (Odysscyber).

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