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Chinese sci-fi eyes world market

(Xinhua)

08:41, August 16, 2012

SHANGHAI, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- The editor who has brought more than 200 foreign science fiction novels to China has decided to introduce the most popular Chinese-language sci-fi trilogy of the last three decades to English readers.

Yao Haijun, deputy director of Science Fiction World (SFW), the world's most popular science fiction periodical in terms of circulation, signed a contract to make award-winning author Liu Cixin's "Three Body" trilogy the first full-length sci-fi work to be translated for an overseas audience, marking a giant leap for the Chinese sci-fi industry.

After selling 400,000 Chinese-language copies, the three-part saga will be translated into English within six months and jointly published in both print and digital forms by China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation Ltd. and SFW.

Publishers hope modern Chinese culture might reach a broader Western audience via the spread of sci-fi literature, which has been a hot topic at the 2012 Shanghai Book Fair being held from Aug. 15 to 21 in Shanghai.

With new publishing plans for sci-fi novels, booksellers at the fair said the Chinese sci-fi industry is embracing a new era led by the growing popularity of the "Three Body" trilogy, which tells of centuries of contact and war between an alien civilization and mankind, and has great opportunities for going abroad.

"WALKING FROM THE EDGE TO THE CENTER"

"Anything is possible in the global literary field. We should look at the development of Chinese sci-fi from a sci-fi perspective," said Liu, China's most prolific and popular sci-fi writer who once worked as a computer engineer in a remote power plant in Yangquan, a city in north China's Shanxi Province.

Science fiction has existed in China much longer than people realize. Elites introduced the genre to China during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) as a form of enlightenment for ordinary Chinese people, inspiring a few writers to pen their own sci-fi stories, said Yao.

The genre became a way to popularize science following the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and more sci-fi writers emerged, Yao said, pointing to Ye Yonglie, whose novel "Xiao Lingtong's Travels in the Future" was published in 1978.

Short story collections from the top 10 Chinese sci-fi writers published by the Posts & Telecom Press are being exhibited at the fair. These writers are considered to be the most influential in the genre since 1949.

Some Chinese sci-fi works have been translated into other languages since the 1980s, some have appeared in foreign magazines and some have been anthologized abroad, but these have all been short stories, Yao Haijun said.

Chinese sci-fi work published in other languages has generally been published in small quantities, suggesting that only those curious about Chinese sci-fi were attracted to the titles and the genre had not made a great impact, he said.

Yao and the publishing company believe the "Three Body" trilogy will be a milestone in sending Chinese sci-fi abroad, but Liu remains unsure about how Western audiences will receive the trilogy.

"Whether Americans can understand Chinese sci-fi remains a big question. America is still the center of the world's sci-fi writing, and we are actually trying to walk from the edge to the center," Liu said.

"It's more to demonstrate that the image of the Chinese people as an agricultural nation facing the land and turning their backs to the sky is changing, and that our view of the universe is expanding," he said.

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