​$1.1B deals signed at Worldcon's 1st industrial development summit

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 23, 2023
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Investment deals valued at approximately 8 billion yuan ($1.09 billion) were signed during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Chengdu, Sichuan province, last week at its inaugural industrial development summit, marking significant progress in the advancement of sci-fi development in China.

The first Industrial Development Summit was held during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Oct. 20, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Chengdu Worldcon]

The deals included 21 sci-fi industry projects involving companies that produce films, parks, and immersive sci-fi experiences. Others were related to the development of melodramas, games, and the metaverse. Additionally, various service platforms for sci-fi franchise incubation projects and sci-fi cultural and creative funds will be developed.

For example, with a 2-billion-yuan investment, the "Chinese Stories - Sci-fi Situation Drama Incubation Base Project" aims to establish a platform using a program-park-base-academy model, consolidating top resources in the sci-fi industry chain. Moreover, with a 1-billion-yuan investment, the "Three-Body Universe Global Headquarters" project plans to develop games, films, TV shows, brands, and merchandise. Works by renowned sci-fi writer He Xi are also set for commercialization, facilitated by a strategic partnership between the author, Eight Light Minutes Culture, and Shanghai Film Group.

"Chinese science fiction is evolving from a solely text-based medium to a diverse range of formats encompassing comics, movies, games, VR, XR, toys, and film merchandise," said Ji Shaoting, the founder and CEO of the sci-fi cultural company Future Affairs Administration. "As the genre integrates into daily life and attracts a younger audience in China, it signifies a potential upsurge in its future influence. This rise also reflects a more inclusive approach, drawing inspiration from sci-fi from around the world."

Xu Jian, founder and CEO of MoreVFX, which has headed visual effects for blockbusters such as "The Wandering Earth" and "Moon Man," emphasized the talent crunch in the sci-fi film industry. 

"We've been involved in these projects from the outset and recognized a primary challenge: the lack of talent. Why Chengdu? Chengdu offers a significant talent pool, particularly for the visual effects needed in sci-fi films," Xu said. He added that the growing synergy between technological advancements, notably in AI and cinema, emphasizes the promising potential for collaboration between the tech and film sectors.

Richard Taylor, co-founder of Weta Workshop, showcased the company's visual effects work on "Avatar: The Way of Water" during the first Industrial Development Summit of the 81st Worldcon in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Oct. 20, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Chengdu Worldcon]

The 2023 Chengdu Science Fiction Industry Report was unveiled at the summit, highlighting how in recent years Chengdu has actively fostered the growth of a sci-fi creative ecosystem, marking significant strides in sci-fi empowerment and innovation-driven development. From 2018 to 2022, the total revenue of Chengdu's sci-fi industry reached 127.63 billion yuan, boasting an average annual growth rate of 19.11%. In 2022 alone, the revenue from Chengdu's sci-fi industry (excluding equipment manufacturing) stood at 20.02 billion yuan, making up 22.81% of the national total. Chengdu has firmly established itself as a leader in China's urban sci-fi industry development.

During the event, the Science Fiction Industry Chengdu Consensus was also released, emphasizing cultural leadership, technological empowerment, and industrial progression. Canadian sci-fi luminary Robert J. Sawyer believes that, as a pivotal component of future global economic evolution, the sci-fi industry is showcasing its boundless potential and value. This consensus seeks to harness the expertise and insights of sci-fi professionals, propelling the industry's development and furthering its international expansion.

Organizers and guests launch the Tianwen Program during the first Industrial Development Summit of the 81st Worldcon in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Oct. 20, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Chengdu Worldcon]

"To me, science fiction is no longer just words on paper, but a broader world and space," said renowned Chinese writer Liu Cixin. "The development of the era and industry has allowed yesterday's imaginations to be expressed in more modern ways today. This has given me a new understanding and feeling towards sci-fi, and I've also become curious about the direction of scientific and technological advancements. As a sci-fi author, I look forward to the present-day possibilities of showcasing sci-fi imaginations using a variety of means and advanced technologies."

Richard Taylor, co-founder of Weta Workshop, stated that science fiction, whether conveyed through novels, radio dramas, films, or TV, seeks to transport its audience to futuristic realms. Such narratives, ranging from everything from dystopias to utopias, prompt reflection on our current lives and actions. With the rise of robots and AI, what was once restricted to sci-fi imagination is swiftly becoming reality, indicating rapid entry into a new era. "And for the future, as we swiftly stride into it, we need to be prepared for quite a wild future," Taylor said.

In the backdrop of China's burgeoning sci-fi landscape, the summit was also used to unveil the Tianwen Program. Spearheaded by the China Writers Association and the Worldcon organizing committee, this program aims to discover new sci-fi talents and bolster the sector. The Chengdu-based Tianwen Awards, which focus on budding sci-fi authors, will serve to complement Worldcon's Hugo Awards. Alongside these awards, the program will roll out IP roadshows, exhibitions, and other events, facilitating the seamless integration of Chinese science fiction into the global sci-fi community.

Sci-fi entrepreneurs and experts convene for a panel discussion about opportunities for Chinese sci-fi development in the new era during the first Industrial Development Summit of the 81st Worldcon in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Oct. 20, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Chengdu Worldcon]

"We deeply appreciate Chengdu's initiative in establishing the Tianwen Awards. It is not just for China but also for the world," said Dave McCarty, the administrator of the Hugo Awards.

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