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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.

 

Upcoming: July session

 
'Wu Ding's Journey to the West'《无定西行记》by Tang Fei / 糖匪
Translated by Andy Dudak
Video call with the author Tang Fei and the London Chinese Science Fiction Group
Sunday 26th July - London: 14:00 = Beijing 21:00, lasting about 1hr30
Online: Zoom - reply to this email with "Count me in for LCSFG's July meeting!" and we'll send you a video call link and password a day before the session.
 
"The Second Law of Thermodynamics: In the natural course of things, the chaos (or “entropy”) of a closed system can only decrease. Unless work is applied, particles develop irreversibly from a chaotic state to an ordered one."

"The vehicle’s main fuel was people’s exhaled breath, mixed with some other gases that weren’t so reactive. This mix automatically condensed in the tank, actuating pistons that provided the vehicle’s motive force, while generating diesel oil that drained through a tube into a vat."


Tang Fei's speculative short story 'Wu Ding's Journey to the West'《无定西行记》imagines a world of "counter-entropy". Here, infrastructure, technological advancements, perhaps even societal developments, all suddenly appear miraculously without any prior groundwork. For this to happen, all anyone needs to do is simply wait for an unknown duration.

With this, there is a disconnect between the protagonists' determination to innovate and pave their own path (quite literally, a Trans-Siberian road), and their society's overwhelming attitude of complacency, which just sits back and awaits its prescribed future.

In a world where cause and effect are sequentially reversed, what actions can one meaningfully take to prompt desired states of change? What if ambitions are nullified to a multi-generational waiting game? 

Here are some themes that may guide your reading for our discussion: 
  • globalised civilisation: growth and degrowth
  • ambitions and patience
  • absurdist fiction
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 chat with us and Tang Fei about the story in this upcoming session!
 
'Wu Ding's Journey to the West'《无定西行记》by Tang Fei / 糖匪 can be found in its English translation by Andy Dudak for Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 154, July 2019 here, and in its original Chinese please email us for an e-copy.  

Tang Fei is a speculative fiction writer whose fiction has been featured (under various pen names) in magazines in China such as Science Fiction World, Jiuzhou Fantasy, and Fantasy Old and New. She has published a short story collection, The Person Who Saw Cetus, and a novel, Nameless Feast. She has written fantasy, science fiction, fairy tales, and wuxia (martial arts fantasy), but prefers to write in a way that straddles or stretches genre boundaries. She is also a genre critic, and her critical essays have been published in The Economic Observer. In English, her works have appeared in Clarkesworld, The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 Edition, The Apex Book of World SF 4, SQ, and Paper Republic.

 

Previously: 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

Last month, we had a great session with our guest A Que! He joined us from China and talked in depth about the themes and origins of his story. Thank you A Que, all our readers for your participation, and our LCSFG's Guangzhao for excellent translation and moderating!

You can read the write up of the session and group conversation between our readers and the author A Que on our WeChat here (zip it through a translate tool if necessary). 
 
"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. 

'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.


Bibliography


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! 

 


科幻研究在伦敦

WeChat ID: sfinlondon

什么?你也喜欢读科幻?那现在,我们是同志了。

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

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