“Science fiction and the Spring Festival seem completely disconnected. But there were sparks after we combined them,” said Ji Shaoting, founder of the Future Affairs Administration, a company that produces and promotes sci-fi works and supports new sci-fi writers in China. In 2016, the company launched the Science Fiction New Year Gala and has held five editions of the gala so far.
“Sci-fi means the future and possibilities, and in that regard it’s really like Spring Festival, which is a time when we make new wishes for more possibilities. The feelings match,” she said.
This year, the Future Affairs Administration will publish short stories relating to the Chinese Lunar New Year by 13 renowned writers from four continents. The stories will be published daily from Feb. 7 and be available on Sina Weibo, Bilibili, Douban, Toutiao, Zhihu and more. The international cohort of writers include Chinese writers Han Song, Fang Zeyu, Luo Lingzuo and Su Xuejun; South Korean writer Kim Ju-young; Australian writer Samantha Murray; Japanese writer Taiyo Fujii; American writer Alex Shvartsman; and Nigerian writer Innocent Chizaram Ilo.
Ji noted that the stories will touch upon issues including the Chinese national college entrance exam, the left-behind elderly, migrant workers, education, pop idols, and many of the hot topics of last year.
Previous sci-fi writers to participate include domestic heavyweights like Liu Cixin, Han Song, Hao Jingfang and internationally renowned writers like Ken Liu, Alex Shvartsman and Ian Watson. During the past five years, a total of more than 60 writers from eight different countries and regions have published more than 90 sci-fi stories for the gala, earning over 100 million clicks.
“It is very interesting every time to observe our own traditional Spring Festival via the perspective of foreign writers,” Ji said. “The cultural differences make for interesting surprises. I believe that warm stories about universal human emotion and the longing for reunion will attract more foreigners to learn about Chinese Lunar New Year.”
As the world tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Spring Festival will witness a lot of people staying put and not returning to their hometowns for family reunions in order to reduce travels and gatherings. Ji believed that the stories will help inspire readers. “We hope that after all the bad experiences of the past year, we can deliver a spring full of budding hope. People all over the world can connect with each other with similar yearnings and wishes during the season.”
As a promoter of Chinese sci-fi culture and literature, Ji said she is optimistic for the rise of the Chinese sci-fi industry and the emergence of new talent. “Considering China’s huge population, the number of Chinese science fiction writers is still not enough,” she said. “As a country of 1.4 billion people, we only have a dozen science fiction writers who publish books. We need more.”
Aside from literary talent, the Chinese sci-fi industry also needs more technicians for sci-fi movies, video game designers and toy designers. “We need more people who really understand the concept of sci-fi,” added Ji.
The Science Fiction New Year Gala 2021 will feature a new podcast. A total of ten special episodes will be broadcast, in which writers and editors from the previous five editions of the gala will share behind-the-scenes insights, fun facts and performances. The Future Affairs Administration is also working with Polish video game developer CD Projekt Red to launch a campaign to solicit sci-fi writings based on the popular videogame “Cyberpunk 2077.” What’s more, renowned sci-fi writers such as Liu Cixin, will release exclusive videos on the eve of the Spring Festival.
Ji said they are also planning to publish a collection of the best stories in a book, and exploring possibilities to make films. Her intention is to build the Science Fiction New Year Gala into a long-term tradition for decades to come.
She added that she would love to do more events to promote sci-fi culture and international exchanges. “I hope contemporary sci-fi creators can help us more deeply understand the great changes that science and technology are driving in our era. The relationship between humanity and technology is the core of science fiction. How writers reflect the present will inspire the future.”
Meng Qingshu, senior professor of Northeast Normal University and scholar on Sino-Japanese cultural studies, stated that the Spring Festival is constantly evolving. “People’s expectations for the Spring Festival have been evolving. Science fiction literature is an expressive form that can reflect the humanistic spirit and blend contemporary science and technology with traditional culture. In this sense, science fiction is an indispensable part of mainstream culture, and the Science Fiction New Year Gala can make a unique contribution.”
Source: china.org by Zhang Rui