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A tale of wonder beckons readers in a universe of imagination

Updated: 2020-02-05 08:23:08

( China Daily )

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People pass by a poster of Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth in Shanghai last February.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Sci-fi is on the verge of an exciting new world and the decade will see it make a mark in all industries and in the everyday life of people in China, says Ji Shaoting, founder of sci-fi business Future Affairs Administration, at a recent forum in Beijing.

"More people will join the audience of this genre in China in the coming decade," she says, adding that "people who watch movies, read books or buy toys won't mind whether it's sci-fi, but whether it's good or not".

Ji says 2019 was a breakout year for China's sci-fi industry due to movies such as The Wandering Earth directed by Guo Fan, Crazy Alien by Ning Hao and Gone With the Light by Dong Runnian. The Wandering Earth, the first Chinese domestic sci-fi blockbuster, saw historic box-office takings of 4.68 billion yuan ($669 million).

"These movies are different from each other, showing that sci-fi is a rich genre with many possibilities. It's not only about space. It can be deeply combined with Chinese local elements."

Sci-fi culture established itself deeply in many different sectors in China in 2019, including film, cartoons, video games, plays and radio shows.

This is not by accident but rather the result of long-term investments of time and love-which cannot simply be replaced by capital and technique-as well as the diversified audiences and a maturing industrial operation that is suitable for local productions, Ji says.

Despite these advancements, the coming decade will see a mixture of sci-fi works of different levels, Ji says.

"Not all works will be as good as those novels by renowned sci-fi writers such as Liu Cixin and Han Song, or films like the hit movie, The Wandering Earth, but all will add to a valuable experience," Ji says.

There are also many other challenges. That The Wandering Earth succeeded does not mean that sci-fi filmmakers can be equally successful simply by copying its formula, because a new generation of audience has grown up with different views of the world, under the influence of new scientific advancement, video games and technologies like virtual reality, according to Dong, director of Gone With the Light, at the forum. "These are what all sci-fi film and TV drama makers need to study," Dong adds.

Deng Yun, vice-president in charge of the film and TV drama section and branding at the FAA, says that another big challenge is that Chinese sci-fi stories are increasingly similar and mainly confined to three categories: alien invasion, dreams, and romance between humans and artificial intelligence.

"However, when related technology is developing so fast and people in the remotest villages use the same apps on smartphones as those in big cities, the challenge is how we can create new, convincing sci-fi content," she says.

Dong adds that existing Chinese sci-fi is not rich enough due to a lack of writers and artists.

"We should nurture more young, talented people, not only those born in the 1980s and 1990s," he says.

The situation is improving. The FAA says that it expects its published sci-fi works to triple in volume in 2020 over that of 2019.

Reviewing sci-fi literature in 2019, renowned sci-fi writer Liu says that some influential idiosyncratic writers have started to emerge.

"I hope in 2020, this trend will continue," Liu says.

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