Sci-fi anthology explores female perspective

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 26, 2023
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A collection featuring works by 33 female sci-fi writers has been garnering widespread attention and praise ever since its release in 2021. Its chief editor Cheng Jingbo told she will continue to promote the cause and compile similar books to shine light on women's contributions to the genre.

Cheng Jingbo, renowned sci-fi writer and chief editor of "She: A Collection of the Classic Works of Chinese Female Science Fiction Writers," poses for a photo holding the best book award from the first Fishing Fortress Science Fiction Awards, June 11, 2023. [Photo provided to]

Cheng Jingbo, a renowned new-generation sci-fi writer, was invited by her fellow sci-fi writer Ling Chen in 2020 to serve as chief editor of "She: A Collection of the Classic Works of Chinese Female Science Fiction Writers." The two-volume book was produced by Jiujie Literature, a subsidiary of Power Time, and published by China Radio, Film & TV Press. 

Cheng agreed without hesitation. The purpose of the book is to gather works by some of China's most influential female sci-fi writers spanning three decades from 1990 to 2020, including Zhang Jing, Peng Liurong, Zhao Haihong, Hao Jingfang, Gu Shi, Zhou Wen, Gu Bei, Count E, as well as Cheng and Ling themselves.

"Since we have this identity as women, why not perceive, understand, empathize and express the world from this perspective? The aesthetic standards of sci-fi were almost created and have long been dominated by male authors," Cheng said. "As a female writer, I don't think we need to change this. But more importantly, I think what we need to do under the current aesthetic standards and visible situations of sci-fi development is not to adapt to them, but to find our own language."

Cheng found working on the project to be very meaningful, as she believes that female sci-fi writers in China deserve an opportunity to shine together. As chief editor of the work, she aimed to provide a more layered perspective to show the bigger picture of Chinese sci-fi.

The two-volume book "She: A Collection of the Classic Works of Chinese Female Science Fiction Writers." [Photo courtesy of China Radio, Film & TV Press]

The book features not only the writers' works but also their reflections and analysis of their creative process. As such, it offers valuable textual material and holds significant academic research value, making it an important reference book for studying Chinese sci-fi.

Just a week after winning the best book award on June 10 at the Fishing Fortress Science Fiction Awards, a symposium was held on the book in Beijing. The event was guided by the Social Liaison Department of the China Writers Association and the China Science Writers Association, and sponsored by the Science Fiction Creation Research Base of the China Science Writers Association and the China Science Fiction Research Center. Literature heavyweights, scholars and experts gathered to examine the development of sci-fi and contributions by female authors.

During the symposium, Xu Chenliang, the editor-in-chief of Contemporary magazine, praised "She" as a science fiction anthology that also combines oral history. The selection of works presents more social concerns and has a realistic tone, with female sci-fi creators often pioneering exploration practices and breaking free from existing frameworks to express themselves through new structures and literary forms.

Gu Shi, an urban-planner-turned-sci-fi-writer whose work was included in the book, reflected on the changes in women's consciousness throughout her creative career. She believes that contemporary female writers are now representing and contributing to the rise of Chinese sci-fi on the world stage.

Experts and industry professionals pose for a group photo at a symposium on the book "She: A Collection of the Classic Works of Chinese Female Science Fiction Writers" at the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature in Beijing, June 17, 2023. [Photo provided to]

Ling Chen pointed out that generations of young female sci-fi writers born in and after the 1990s have more platforms to publish their works and contribute to the global rise in sci-fi's popularity. They have received better education, which has brought more diverse styles and agile thinking to the creation of Chinese sci-fi.

This prompted the chief editor of the book to develop ambitious new plans. Cheng Jingbo revealed to that she has two directions in mind: presenting representative works of female sci-fi writers from around the world to Chinese readers, while also introducing representative works of Chinese female sci-fi writers to global audiences. 

She emphasized the ever-evolving cultural industry, changing trends in writers' creations, evolving reading demands, new publishing forms such as audiobooks, digital publishing and metaverse publishing, as well as more innovative publishing concepts and creative trends. All of these factors contribute to creating exciting possibilities for women in the science fiction genre.

"My original aspiration remains unchanged," Cheng said. "I believe that women's voices deserve to be heard, and I'm willing to spare no efforts to promote Chinese female sci-fi and its writers."

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