When Chinese science fiction and fantasy lovers heard in May that eminent science fiction and fantasy writers, including Neil Gaiman and Robert J. Sawyer, would come to China, they were so excited that they could not believe it. Chinese sci-fi and fantasy fans had their dreams come true when they spent last night together with the two writers. Later, in a local bookworm bar everyone discussed the world of imagination that brought people together to participate in the 2007 Chengdu China SF/Fantasy Conference.
The 2007 China (Chengdu) SF/Fantasy Conference hosted the event. The theme: “Science, Imagination and Future” is an ambitious Chinese effort designed to inspire public creativity toward future scientific and technological development as well as promote national insight for scientific exploration. The conference has been scheduled immediately before the World Science Fiction Convention in Yokohama, Japan.
The Chengdu gala, sponsored by the Sichuan Provincial Science Technology Association, will last from August 24 to 30. It has attracted the most creative people throughout the world. SF writers from home and abroad are attending the conference, also critics, artists and fans, as well as elite scientists working in science and technology.
Noted science fiction writers from US Nancy Kress (right) and Michael Swanwick
Neil Gaiman, author of the SF story American Gods, winner of the Hugo Award for the Best Novel 2002, (the Hugo Award, also known as the Science Fiction Achievement Award, is given every year for the best science fiction or fantasy work of the previous year in several categories) and Robert J. Sawyer, whose Hominids won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel, both participated in the conference, together with other noted writers.
Noted UK science ficition and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman with fans
The conference has designated August 25 as “China Imagination Day”. SF and fantasy lovers signed their names on a banner to commemorate this day during the opening ceremony.
“Imagination is an important premise for creativity. Science fiction literature plays an important role in inspiring people’s imagination and creativity,” said Li Xiuting, vice director of the International Department of the China Association for Science and Technology, at the opening ceremony on Saturday.
“Our (science fiction) words become the world and our words become places that you can visit. They become books and stories that inspire people. It is both surprising and reassuring to know by accident that the places have helped to make a future we are now living. Places like Microsoft and Google, Apple and places like MIT are packed with science fiction readers and fantasy readers,” Neil Gaiman said on Saturday.
"Ten years ago, the catchword of ‘Let science teach people, let people understand science’ was brought to the masses by the 97 Beijing International Conference for Science Fiction. For this year’s convention, banners bearing the inscription ‘Let science guide us, become scientific Chinese’ will be raised high. Through this idea we hope that the masses’ consciousness of science will be further evoked. On this platform we hope that a solid foundation for a thriving China will be laid. China’s science fiction, which shoulders so many heavy responsibilities, is looking forward to the eager participation and the great support of people from all walks of life,” said Lu Tiecheng, president of Sichuan provincial association of science and technology.
Certainly science fiction and fantasy literature has fostered a growing number of Chinese readers. Over five thousand fans have come to Chengdu to meet their long-term idols. They can feel the imaginative atmosphere here.
Hua Song, a junior student from Jiangsu Province and Jia Xu, a soon-to-be freshman from Xichang, another city in Sichuan, are both fans of science fiction stories. They traveled by train to Chengdu to take part in the SF and fantasy feast. The pair became friends as soon as they met due to their shared interest.
“We started reading science fiction stories several years ago. At first, we were just curious, but now we have fallen in love with this genre. We buy books as soon as they are published. After many readings, science fiction has changed our world view and our philosophy of life,” they explained.
Many fans also are serving as volunteers for the conference. Zhu Fengxue, an 18-year-old girl, flew to Chengdu from Beijing to act as a volunteer interpreter on Monday. She had to pay her own air tickets of almost 3,000 yuan, but she said that the trip was well worth it.
During the weeklong event, 23 lectures and an imaginative literature summit will be held as a platform for participants to exchange their views and ideas. Topics include: the anticipation of science and technology in the new era and the social function of science fiction; facing the 21st century and developing the new era’s science fiction; the tendencies of SF/fantasy literature in the new era; the role science fiction plays in resolving problems of population, resources, environment, and outer space exploration.
The conference also hosts a wonderful exhibition of SF and fantasy books, magazines, artwork and Internet games. University students will present drama, plays and DVD works.
During the week science fiction and fantasy movies will be shown as added entertainment for the SF fans.
Exhibition of books (original and Chinesee versions), paintings and collections
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Yuan Fang, August 26, 2007)