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London Chinese Sci-fi Group


We are a monthly meet-up that read, share and discuss Chinese language sci-fi and speculative fiction in translation - from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the diaspora
🚀 Based in London (UCL) and online 🛸

Here is a summary of our last session, news about our next one, and links to our growing Chinese SF bibliography! 

Remember to follow our social media and WeChat accounts linked in this newsletter.
Catch up on a previous newsletter with our 1st birthday round-up here.


Previously: May session

'The Language Sheath' / 《语膜》(2020) by Regina Kanyu Wang / 王侃瑜
Translated by Emily Jin and Regina Kanyu Wang 
Sunday 31st May - Online

"Thinking about the monotonous world after his mother’s “revolution” terrified him. With the new language sheath and the voice synthesizer, everyone in Kemor would be speaking in Mother’s language, the graceful and noble language of sterile perfection."
'The Language Sheath' takes the starting point of an in-ear automatic translation system built to dissolve language barriers, and even nurture minority languages on the brink of extinction. When a teacher becomes the sole language localisation model for the Kemorean language, she hopes to dispel her teenager's reluctance to speak his mother tongue. However, linguistic precision turns into obsessive perfectionism, as unsettling trauma defines a wholly different understanding of the term 'mother tongue'. Regina Kanyu Wang compounds globalised language supremacy with a compelling narrative, that shows how deeply frustrating and isolating misinterpretation can be. 

We had an extremely stimulating session with author Regina Kanyu Wang and translator Emily Jin for our May online meeting. They covered their collaborative process of co-translating, as well as the story's rich complexities of what language means to us. The conversation began with readers pointing to how uses of more than one language, and more broadly multiculturalism, influence parenthood and childhood in dealing with the hybridity of cultures and conflicting family bonds. Regina explored how the intense mother character in 'The Language Sheath' conveys a certain protective anxiety that needs to be reconsidered more healthily, as young people find their own pace to negotiate their own cultural identities. (It was lovely to see mothers in our group share details about local Chinese-speaking nurseries too!) 

Regina revealed that the story's presentation of language supremacy touches on the concerns of losing minority languages such as Shanghainese, in addition to the need to bounce between languages when working abroad. Emily seconded this notion, further commenting on the internalised and overt colonial attitudes that permeate language supremacy, such as English in school systems internationally. This resonated with our readers in attendance, who spoke of their native sinophone, diasporic and non-native experiences of 'immersive language learning' both as students and teachers. This returned to the story's themes of rigidity of learning and the difficulties of making mistakes that can melt discipline into resentment, as more problematic power imbalance can be revealed. 

Following this, Regina and Emily discussed how multilingual speakers present different elements of their selves across their languages, and how the protagonist's struggle to speak for himself offers an insight into the inner and outward conflicts of authenticity, expression and communication. With an example in action, this point led into how Regina and Emily's co-creation of the translated story, such that Regina's own translation formed the collective project to convey the narrative to the anglophone reader, whereby their translation stayed very true to the author's intent.

A huge thanks to Regina and Emily for joining us from Beijing!

If you would like to read further about our session, a transcription of all the questions and answers is available to read on our WeChat account here - you can run this though your 'language sheath' technology (translator) of choice if you don't read Chinese. You can also listen to another of Regina's stories 'The Story of Dǎo' through Angela Chan's arts exhibition Climate Knowledges here

'The Language Sheath' can be found in its English translation in Clarkesworld issue 164, published on May 1, 2020 here. (CW: self-harm, alcoholism).

Regina Kanyu Wang is a bilingual writer from Shanghai who writes both in Chinese and English, graduate of Fudan University's MFA program, member of Shanghai Writers' Association, Shanghai Popular Science Writers' Association, World Chinese Science Fiction Association, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association of America. She has won SF Comet international short story competition and multiple Xingyun Awards for Global Chinese SF.
Her stories can be found in Harvest, Mengya, Shanghai Literature, Hong Kong Literature, West Late, Flower City, Fiction World, Science Fiction World, Southern People Weekly, Galaxy's Edge, and various anthologies in China, UK, US and Canada. Her stories have also been translated into English, Spanish, German, Italian, and Finnish. Her work has been collected in Of Cloud and Mist 2.2 and second volume of stories, The Seafood Restaurant, is forthcoming.

Emily Xueni Jin is a translator of science fiction and fantasy, translating Chinese into English and the other way around. She graduated from Wellesley College, Massachusetts in 2017, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literature at Yale University. She is one of the core members of the Clarkesworld-Storycom collaborative project on publishing English translations of Chinese science fiction. Sometimes independently and sometimes in collaboration with Ken Liu, she has worked with various prominent Chinese writers including A Que, Bao Shu, Chen Qiufan and Xia Jia.


Upcoming: June session

'Song Xiuyun'《宋秀云》by A Que / 阿缺 
Video call with the author A Que and the London Chinese Science Fiction Group
Sunday 28th June - London: 14:30 = Beijing 21:30 
Online: Zoom
- reply to this email with "Count me in for LCSFG's May meeting!" and we'll send you a video call link and password a day before the session.
"There was a time when she went to a party of five where three of the attendants had robots come in their stead. The two humans and three robots had a wonderful meal-and-conversation together. Of course, the robots did not need to eat. After the party, they packed some food to go for their respective owners. Wu Huang also heard that you could put the robot on auto-follow mode: wherever the owner goes, the robot tails behind." 

"“It’s different now. You can make friends online, live with robots and still have fun when you’re old. A lot of married couples don’t want kids; many more people are living alone. We have the freedom to do whatever we want! Mom, I’m not asking you to understand, but please don’t impose your values on me!”"

Our growing use on remote communication technologies in these times of activating social collectivism, whilst protecting from the pandemic, brings us to consider to what extent we may extend ourselves with the correct balance of proximity and distance, intimacy and shielding. 

In A Que's 'Song Xiuyun' (2018), we witness how brain-controlled devices, vehicles and bodies (robots) allow urban dwellers to socialise and work without leaving their smart apartments. However, the emergence of the human double complicates the social fabric of work-life (im)balance and dismantles heteronormative nuclear family concepts. The story insinuates a touching interpretation of 'post' in the term 'post-human'. 

For a mother who journeys far from her rural home to the capital city, it is a startling obstacle course of materially and ideologically different infrastructures. She seeks out her son, who has refused for years to return home for New Year celebrations, after being denied a safe and loving welcome on the grounds of his sexuality. He works tirelessly on his career, alone from his home study - with a brain-controlled workstation. A Que illustrates the characters' longing for mutual openness, understanding and acceptance, whilst harbouring difficulties in communication, which are amplified by the stark socio-economic and personal disparities across families split by rural to urban migrations. 

Here are some themes that may guide your reading for our discussion: 
  • communication in seclusion 
  • nuclear family and sexuality 
  • nonhuman and the brain
Please read ahead for this month's London Science Fiction Group online video call session, but if you don't get a chance to do so, you are still warmly welcome to join in. Share your thoughts and questions, engage with others, and hear from A Que himself on the story in the upcoming session!

'Song Xiuyun'《宋秀云》by A Que / 阿缺 can be found in its English translation by Emily Jin for Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 157, October 2019 here, and in its original Chinese for Science Fiction World / 科幻世界, May 2018, here

A Que was born in 1990 in Hubei province, and now lives in Chengdu. His work is regularly published in top magazines like Science Fiction World. He has won both Chinese Nebula and Galaxy Awards for his short fiction. His collection Travel With My Dear Android was published in 2015.


We are gathering our primary titles together with collectively suggested ones on an online database here

If you mentioned a reference like a book, article, film or podcast during our session, please navigate the tabs at the bottom of the link page to add your suggestion to the relevant month's reading.

You may add to this at any time to enhance our engagement with the stories' themes and the wider literary and cultural analyses. 

Alternatively, if you cannot make our meetings, you are also welcome to add your recommendations and catch up with the reading offered. 

We hope for this to be a useful and informative documentation of our activity, as well as a resource for everyone involved! 



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London Chinese Sci-fi Group · 1 · A Street · London, London SE14 6DN · United Kingdom

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