Chengdu wins bid to host world's top sci-fi event

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 20, 2021
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China's sci-fi industry and fans were excited to hear news from the U.S. that China's Chengdu city won its bid to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in 2023.

Chen Shi, secretary-general of the Chengdu Science Fiction Society (CSFS), makes a final push during DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington D.C. for Chengdu to bid for hosting the 81st World Science Fiction Convention, Dec. 18, 2021. [Photo courtesy of CSFS]

The news broke as midnight approached in China on Saturday, with many who stayed up late hugging each other and shedding tears of joy. "It is a dream come true for generations of Chinese sci-fi writers," Yang Feng, founder and CEO of Chinese sci-fi brand Eight Light Minutes Culture, told She believed the event will further promote the popularity of science fiction culture in China, and write a new chapter in the history of science fiction globally.

Chengdu, known for its food, ancient Shu culture and giant pandas, won the bid at DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington D.C. The other three bidders were Nice, France; Memphis, USA; and Winnipeg, Canada, but Nice and Memphis had withdrawn before the final voting.

Worldcon is the premier international sci-fi cultural event. It's also when the Hugo Award, the world's most prestigious sci-fi honor, is awarded to the best sci-fi and fantasy works of the year. Chengdu will become the first city in China and the second in Asia to host Worldcon, following Yokohama, Japan in 2007. 

"After looking forward to this for so long, Chengdu finally won, which is a moment worth writing in the history of China's sci-fi industry," said Liu Cixin, one of the country's most prolific sci-fi authors. "In 2023, the name card of Chengdu as 'sci-fi metropolis' will resound all over the world. "

It's full circle for Liu, as his most acclaimed sci-fi novel "The Three-Body Problem" was first published in the Chengdu-based Chinese sci-fi magazine, Science Fiction World, in 2006. Then in 2015, he became the first Chinese and Asian author to win the Hugo Award for the English translation of the book. Aside from Liu, many other sci-fi writers have published work in the city's flagship sci-fi magazine – which also happens to be the world's best-selling sci-fi periodical – and gone on to become titans in the field. The city is also pushing for developments to its hi-tech sector, as well as sci-fi culture, industrial chain and various other mediums besides literature. 

Wang Yating, co-chair of the bidding committee and deputy secretary-general of the Chengdu Science Fiction Society (CSFS), noted how big a reward it is after having promoted Chengdu at various domestic and international sci-fi events over the past three years." It is not only a victory for Chengdu but also a victory for Chinese culture."

Bidding committee members, including sci-fi writers, publishers, entrepreneurs, experts, and fans, celebrate in Chengdu, Sichuan province, as they hear the news of Chengdu winning the bid to host the 2023 Worldcon, Dec. 18, 2021. [Photo courtesy of CSFS]

However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still poses concerns for how foreign participants will join the fest. Wang said they will look to the upcoming Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games, which had been postponed to 2022, for guidance. "We will make a resolution plan, and at the same time we have great confidence in the future, hopefully in 2023 we will not be disturbed by the pandemic."

Yao Haijun, deputy editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World magazine echoed the sentiment, and said there will always be other options, such as a mix of online and offline events. Moreover, he urged young writers to continue creating solid work in the two years leading up to Worldcon 2023 and to shine on the world stage. "It is a rare opportunity, as Worldcon has only traveled to non-English-speaking countries a few times."

Founded in 1939, Worldcon, which is the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), has generally been regarded as a Western event with U.S. cities hosting the most editions at 57. Meanwhile, U.K. cities and those in Canada follow with seven and five respectively. The 2023 Worldcon will be held in August 2023 at Chengdu Century City New International Convention & Exhibition Center, located in the southern urban district. The venue consists of 17 halls measuring a total of 120,000 square meters.

"It is quite significant as there are anti-China sentiments in many areas in recent years. But this time many foreign voters were fair with China. Some foreigners have said they saw Chengdu's openness, tolerance and hospitality as well as its huge charm through the bidding process, and some even said if you want to understand the future of China, you must know about China's sci-fi," China's preeminent sci-fi writer Han Song said. 

According to him, the world is eager to learn about China and its sci-fi culture, and that in recent years a wave of enthusiasm for the genre has swept the country. Typical examples include "The Wandering Earth," China's highest-grossing sci-fi film which earned 4.69 billion yuan ($734.71 million). 

In 2020, China published 650 sci-fi novels, while 220 Chinese sci-fi works were translated for foreign territories, mostly in the West. In the past two years, the pandemic has caused a certain division in the world, however, sci-fi is well suited to healing those divisions. "Sci-fi is a good international language. It can transcend many things, and help clear up some misunderstandings and gaps in hearts. The inspiration I've gotten from sci-fi through years is that the human race can still come together," Han said.

Wu Yan, a sci-fi scholar, writer, and professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology agreed, "Science fiction is a borderless bridge to the future, allowing us to gather for a better world."

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