Archive for August, 2007

Twelve Hours Later: About this blog

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Welcome to Twelve Hours Later!

Here you’ll find news, book reviews, and commentary related to Chinese science fiction, fantasy, and other areas of mainstream and genre literature.

Back in 2004, after taking a course on science fiction theory from Wu Yan at Beijing Normal University, I started up a LiveJournal blog where I posted bits and pieces about Chinese SF. That effort (known as ‘zhwj’) lasted for about a year, and then died when I found other outlets for my writing. Two years later, there’s still not much else out there in English about Chinese genre fiction, so I’ve decided to revive my old project.

Although it would be nice to accommodate all kinds of Chinese genre fiction here at THL, that goal’s probably a bit too ambitious. It’s likely that the majority of the posts will be about Chinese science fiction and fantasy (though I’ve got to confess to liking the occasional romance novel). There’ll probably be short capsule reviews of lots of other stuff, too. Guest contributions are always welcome.

About the name: “twelve hours later” was inspired by “Chinese-Style Youth,” Jin He Zai’s tale of a Chinese Clark Kent who grows up during the late fifties, through the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent Cultural Revolution, but who fails to fit in with the collectivism of the time. Here’s the prologue to that short story:

No one would have imagined that the fate of the globe would be transformed because of twelve hours.

As the planet Krypton was facing annihilation, he placed his son into a spaceship and sent him into the heavens.

That small craft floated through space, crossing nebula after nebula, where the storms of light and matter that had drifted through the universe for tens of thousands of years propelled the child to his ultimate destination, the town of Smallville, Kansas, USA, North America, the Earth, the Solar System.

If everything had proceeded without deviation, if the stars’ gravity had acted precisely as planned, then he would have become an American hero, a legendary Superman.

But the calculations did not account for a piece of inter-stellar dust, less than one-thirty-thousandth of a cubic centimeter in volume, that scratched across the surface of the spaceship, slowing it by one-six-millionth of a percent.

As a result, he arrived on Earth twelve hours late.

There are a lot of fun and exciting things going on with fiction here in China, where clocks are twelve hours off those in New York and Washington, DC (in the summer, at least). I look forward to sharing them with you.

“Chinese-Style Youth” 《中国式青春》 by Jin Hezai (今何在) was first published in the October 2006 issue of Novoland Fantasy and is available online here.

Could you direct me to the science fiction section?

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

From Han Song’s blog:

Where’s the SF?

I bring up this question because yesterday, when I went to the Beijing Book Building to buy a science fiction book for a guest who was visiting from far away, I found a sign reading “Chinese Fantasy” in an area that had once sold domestic SF; the whole bookshelf was like this, and it was identical to what I had seen at the Wangfujing Bookstore – they’d all been changed. So in Xinhua Bookstores today, there are only “Chinese Fantasy” and “Western Science Fiction” sections that seem to mock each other. This in and of itself makes an excellent SF topic; I couldn’t help but recall that back when Liu Cixin described the SF-Fantasy Wars, he had complete confidence in SF being victorious.

At this point, I searched carefully through the “Chinese Fantasy” section of the bookstore, and finally came up with three or five SF books — Science Fiction World‘s Nebula IV and V, an annual SF anthology edited by Wu Yan, and two volumes of a four-volume collection of Pan Jiazheng’s works — nothing else. So I asked the salesgirl, “Where’s the domestic science fiction?”

She said, “Here, it’s basically all fantasy. There’s no pure science fiction. Tell me the title you want.”

I said, “Ball Lightning?”

She said, “Nope. That’s an old one.”

I asked, “Why are there so few domestic SF books?”

She said, “They don’t publish them, so we don’t have them.” I didn’t know whether she was joking or telling the truth.

The International SF-Fantasy Conference hosted by Yao Haijun et al. will open in Chengdu at the end of the month. From what I hear, it might be a Zunyi Conference. Fortunately at this point I found Lala’s chilling “Projection of the Multiverse” and I let out a bitter sigh.

I’ve wondered about the strange lack of SF at the major bookstores in downtown Beijing; the bookstores in Zhongguancun seem to have a better selection. Why this is I don’t know — is it their proximity to the university district, or does SF sell better to the tech crowds in so-called “Beijing’s Silicon Valley”? Or it could just be a random coincidence; shelving systems in most Chinese bookstores make it fairly difficult to find a title without knowing the publisher.

Might as well just order online, as people have suggested in the comments to Han’s post.