SF Short Fiction Markets in China: An Overview of 2016
In 2010, the Chinese science fiction market was heavily dominated by a small number of magazines that published mostly short fiction. Science fiction has since become a hot theme in multiple cultural and creative industrial areas such as book publishing, movies and television, games, comics and animations, and theme parks. For instance, in 2016, there were a total of 198 science fiction titles published in China’s book market—a 150% increase from 2011.
What is going on with magazines then? It is a little bit complicated as many outside forces are simultaneously shaping the landscape of short fiction markets.
Four professional print Science Fiction magazines existed on the market in 2016, i.e. Science Fiction World 科幻世界, Science Fiction World for Kids 科幻世界少年版, Science Fiction World Translations 科幻世界译文版, and Science Fiction Cube 科幻立方. Science Fiction World Group publishes the first three magazines listed and Science Fiction Cube is published by Tianjin Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House.
The thirty-seven-year-old Science Fiction World is no doubt, the most prestigious print science fiction magazine in China. Currently, it runs about 50,000-60,000 words (hereinafter words mean Chinese characters unless otherwise specified) for original short fiction and about 7,000-15,000 words for translated short fiction (usually one story) each issue. The editor-in-chief is Yao Haijun.
In 2016, Science Fiction World published twelve regular issues, plus one supplemental issue, all of which contain sixty-seven original science fiction stories by authors such as He Xi, Yang Ping, Baoshu, and Xia Jia. The circulation of Science Fiction World is currently estimated to be slightly below 100,000 sales per issue which is around one third of its peak circulation back in the early 2000s.
Launched in 2001, Science Fiction World for Kids was on hiatus between 2004 and 2015. The publisher decided to relaunch it in 2016 as a “science fiction literature magazine dedicated to children aged seven to thirteen.” The editor-in-chief is Yao Haijun, and the executive editor-in-chief is Huang Rui. In 2016, it published twelve issues, containing thirty-seven original children science fiction stories, most of which range between 3000 and 6000 words in length. Science Fiction World for Kids authors include Cheng Jingbo, A Que, and Peng Liu Rong, among others. A key feature of these stories is that the protagonists are all boys and girls.
Science Fiction Cube was launched as a “fashionable and cutting-edge” bi-monthly book-sized science fiction magazine whose target readership is supposed to be adults. The debut issue was published in February 2016. The guest editor-in-chief is science fiction writer Zheng Jun, and the executive editor-in-chief is Chen Quan. In 2016, it published five issues with five distinctive themes of Star Wars, Mars, oceanic science fiction, Robotech, and superheroes. It published twenty-seven original stories with more than 500,000 words written by authors like Hao Jingfang, Huang Hai, and Jiang Bo.
Additionally, there are reports of another print science fiction magazine that will launch in early 2017 by Chengdu Eight Light-minutes Culture Company. The tentative name of this book-sized magazine is Extraordinary Imagination 非同幻想 and will be edited by Yang Feng, who used to be the editorial director of Science Fiction World. It will mainly run science fiction novelettes with 20,000 to 40,000 words in length.
Besides genre-dedicated magazines, two types of print magazines publish original science fiction stories regularly, i.e. science popularization magazines and literary magazines. The number of magazines has increased in recent years because of so-called “sf heat.”
The long-lasting and famous popular science magazine, Knowledge is Power 知识就是力量, runs a science fiction department called SF Space Station at present. In 2016, the department published eleven original short stories by authors such as Baoshu and Chi Hui. Zui Found 文艺风赏, is a youth-oriented literacy magazine edited by a well-known female writer, Di An. The magazine is also responsible for running a science fiction department called Gravity since 2014, which publishes both original and translated literary-oriented genre stories. The Hugo Award winning story, Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, was first published in Zui Found. In 2016, it published fourteen original stories with more than 180,000 words by authors like Tang Fei, Wu Zhishuo, Wang Yuan, and Hu Shaoyan, etc.
The first online science fiction market in China that paid professional rates appeared in 2010. Like their counterparts in US, these markets tend to come and go as it is difficult to find a sustainable business model.
Non-Exist Daily 不存在日报 is a new online media with tens of thousands of followers launched in 2015 by Future Affairs Administration (未来事务管理局), a start-up venture focused on science fiction and future. The founders of Future Affairs Administration are all longtime fans of the genre. The company also owns a publishing imprint Guokr Publishing who has published numerous comic books from Disney Marvel and some science fiction novels by famous writers. Non-Exist Daily publishes a piece of non-fiction or fiction daily. In 2016, Non-Exist Daily published twenty-four short stories by authors such as Liu Cixin, Han Song, Chen Qiufan, Hao Jingfang, Tang Fei, Liu Yang, Baoshu, and Zhang Ran.
Tadpole Stave 蝌蚪五线谱 is a science popularization web portal founded and financed by Beijing Association for Science and Technology. And in 2012, they launched their own section of the website, dedicated to science fiction. Along with publishing works in the genre, Tadpole Stave holds an annual science fiction writing contest called the “Light-year Cup.” The present editor-in-chief is Zhang Hailong. In 2016, they have published as many as 121 short stories and flash pieces, with a total of more than 1,000,000 words. The authors who made multiple appearances were Wang Yuan, Liu Yang, Xiao He, You Zhe, and Li Weibei.
Science Fiction and Fantasy has been an important category in China’s book market for translated fiction. In 2016, there are 163 translated titles under SF&F category published in China excluding titles in public domain. Of all 163 titles, 143 are novels and 20 anthologies. In terms of country origin of authors, 117 titles are written by American writers, 21 by British writers, and 14 by Japanese writers.
The translation of shorter works has also saw success with 117 translated SF&F short fiction pieces published in 2016.
Mentioned above in the introduction, Science Fiction World Translations is a monthly professional science fiction magazine dedicated to translated genre stories. Normally, it runs one novel (or a half of one depending on the length) and a few short works in each issue, which easily makes it the largest translated science fiction short fiction market in China. The total word count is more than 300,000 words. In odd months, it publishes science fiction, and fantasy is featured in even months. The editor-in-chief is Yao Haijun, and the executive editor-in-chief is Li Keqin, a well-known translator. Currently the circulation of Science Fiction World Translations is about 20,000 sales per issue.
Additionally, in 2016, Science Fiction World Translations published eight novels by authors like Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer, and Alastair Reynolds, etc. The publisher also released eleven novellas, twelve novelettes, and forty-one short stories. Of all twelve issues, there were three special issues focused on three authors like K.J. Park, Jeffrey Ford, and Michael Swanwick respectively.
Their sister magazine Science Fiction World runs about 7,000-15,000 words for translated short fictions each issue, usually equivalent to one short story. In 2016 Science Fiction World published one novelette and twelve short stories by authors like Lavie Tidhar, Aliette de Bodard, and Mike Resnick.
The two magazines mentioned above share the same editorial team for translated fiction. Most of the time it is the team who selects the stories they want to translate and reach out to authors and translators for copyright purchase and translation. They make selections according to a variety of criteria such as awards, author’s fame, translator’s recommendation, and so on. Occasionally, they accept translated stories submitted by translators.
Another important market for translated short fictions is the aforementioned Zui Found’s Gravity department. In 2016, it published one novelette and thirteen short stories by authors such as JY Yang, Will McIntosh, E.J. Swift and Taiyo Fujii. The editor who is in charge of the Gravity department is Zhang Qian.
A key person behind Zui Found’s successful translation project is translator Geng Hui, who translated nine stories for the magazine last year. In fact, he worked practically as a regular guest editor who not only selects stories to be translated but contacts authors for copyright clearance. He was recently appointed by another technology magazine, The 9th Zone 第九区, as an independent Consulting Editor for science fiction translation. The 9th Zone published three science fiction stories in 2016, one of which was translated by Geng Hui.
For writers who would like to see their short fictions translated and reprinted in China, they may either contact the editors of the aforementioned markets and recommend their works, or find a translator who is willing to translate the fictions and submit to the markets.
Apart from Non-Exist Daily, Future Affairs Administration has a grand plan to expand its share in the short fiction market. Two new venues are to be launched in 2017 to publish both original and translated shorter works. To be released in early 2017, Future Monolith 未来按钮 is a mobile APP publishing short fiction with 150,000 words a month, with half of the content coming from original sources and half from translated works.
The editing team in charge of translation projects for the two markets is led by Alex Zhaoxin Li, co-founder of the Future Affairs Administration. The team selects stories to be translated based on results of major science fiction awards. They do accept submissions though. According to Zhaoxin, they look for genre stories that are “ . . . future thinking, stylized telling and brain shocking.”
In total, Chinese science fiction publishers brought us 461 original shorter works and 117 translated pieces. For original stories, that number is a large increase when compared with just 196 published stories in 2011. In particular, the number of published novelettes or novellas jumped from close to zero a couple of years ago, to about fifty, not to mention the hundreds of entries submitted to writing contests.
Short fiction magazines used to be like Hari Seldon’s foundation for Chinese science fiction, where seeds were preserved and followers were blooming. In the new age of Chinese science fiction, despite the general decline of the magazine industry, print magazines are thriving and new online markets are emerging and rapidly growing.
Overall, everything looks rather promising. Yet, there is still some underlying uncertainty.
Feng Zhang has been a SF fan since he was thirteen. He's active in SF fandom in both Mainland China and Hong Kong, where he is known by his nickname "Sanfeng," and was one of the founders of New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction (2009-2012), a highly-recognized SF&F webzine in China's SF magazine history. He was also in charge of organizing the Sky Awards for Chinese SF&F (2009-2010) and the Coordinate Awards for Chinese SF Short Fiction (2015), both founded and administered by senior SF fans. He has created and maintained multiple SF databases, most of which can be accessible through Internet. He has also written numerous articles on SF news, history, books, movies, etc.