CULTURE Chinese sci-fi wows readers, critics in Japan

CULTURE

Chinese sci-fi wows readers, critics in Japan

Xinhua

21:33, July 30, 2019

Since the publication of The Three-Body Problem, the first installment of Liu Cixin's epic science fiction trilogy, the series has earned the Chinese novelist enormous acclaim and legions of fans worldwide.

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Liu Cixin, author of The Three-Body Problem, signs a book for a fan at a forum in Beijing in September 2018. (File photo: VCG)

This month, the Hugo Award-winning book was a massive hit in Japan.

Launched in the Asian country on July 4, the novel about humanity making contact with aliens reached the top of Amazon's chart of bestselling literary fiction.

On the following day, Nozomi Omori, the Japanese translator of the book, tweeted that Hayakawa Publishing Corporation, the book's publisher, was preparing for a third printing.

In less than a week, books from the 10th printing batch have been delivered to bookstores, bringing the number of printed copies to a total of 86,000.

"I bought the Japanese version as soon as it was published. I started to read after work at six o'clock and I finished reading the whole book at 12 o'clock at night. It's really wonderful," said Japanese reader Daichi Nakashima excitedly.

Nakashima, 27, said he was impressed by the "distinctive Chinese cultural characteristics" and "scientific details" of the book.

"In terms of theme, it is quite different from European, American and Japanese science fiction ... It's not about intuition or destiny. It's about humans' hard work and rational thinking that opens up the future," he explained.

The Three-Body Problem has not only charmed young Japanese readers like Nakashima, but has attracted readers of different age groups.

"Most of the readers are in their 30s, [but] there are also younger readers... Sci-fi readers aged 50 to 60 also buy it," Omori told Xinhua.

To understand why The Three-Body Problem has become so popular in Japan, Mao Danqing, a professor at Kobe International University, noticed an interesting phenomenon.

"Japanese people who grew up reading mobile phone novels are now in their 30s or 40s... When these people read literature, they can easily immerse themselves in the language of The Three-Body Problem rather than [in that of the] traditional style of writing," Mao said.

Apart from the enthusiastic reactions from Japanese fans, the epic has not only been exciting sci-fi fans, but also readers of various languages.

The trilogy sold millions of copies in all formats by the end of 2017 and has been translated into more than 10 languages including English, Spanish and German, according to China Educational Publications Import and Export Corporation Ltd.

Among overseas sci-fi fans, English-speaking readers revel in this intricate and imaginative novel and leave recommendations online.

"It (The Three-Body Problem) educated me about physics and really made me look at EVERYTHING through a new lens...I found this series to be totally original and mind-blowing," an Amazon customer named "BDW" wrote in a review.

Amazon subscriber Steven Anthony was impressed with Liu's "vision and the elements of human psychology and philosophy that he employs," while Marc Vermeir said, "The story is so rich in detail that it takes you way beyond pure SF (science fiction)."

Growing popularity

Thanks to blockbuster books like The Three-Body Trilogy, Chinese science fiction has grown in popularity among readers both at home and abroad in recent years.

Several other Chinese sci-fi writers have also become well-known. Chinese writer Chen Qiufan's debut sci-fi novel, The Waste Tide, is set to be published in Japan later this year, Omori said.

"Chen Qiufan is called 'China's William Gibson.' His works are cyberpunk and different from the Three-Body style. Coupled with Hao Jingfang's collection which has been translated by Ken Liu, people begin to find that there are many sci-fi writers in China," said Omori, who is also a critic and anthologist.

He added that in the future, Chinese sci-fi "will become a genre that will be remembered by science fiction fans."

Omori's words were echoed by Japanese writer and scholar Toya Tachihara, who said this is "the golden age" of Chinese sci-fi.

Chinese sci-fi "has the latest scientific knowledge and unique Chinese culture and history, which help produce a unique kind of science fiction that no other country has," Tachihara said.

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