The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast
Ep 26 - Hao Jingfang and Vagabonds with Ken Liu

Ep 26 - Hao Jingfang and Vagabonds with Ken Liu

March 7, 2020

Ep 26 art

"A person from one civilisation looks at their surroundings as distinct objects and events and considers them separately. But when a person from another civilisation looks in as an outsider, they prefer to view everything through the lens of political power and try to explain everything based on that perspective."

In the twenty sixth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Hao Jingfang's Vagabonds (流浪玛厄斯 / Liúlàng Mǎèsī)

It would be tempting to say that Vagabonds is a Chinese science fiction rewrite of Ursula K le Guin’s The Dispossessed. My guest Ken Liu would be the first to stress that while there’s some truth to this, readers would be much better off treating the book as thing unto itself. He’s right- this is a book with no shortage of ideas or interpretations. Storywise, here’s what you need to know: it’s a red socialist planet ‘versus’ a green and blue corpocracy. Sit down, get comfy, and pick a side. Or don’t. Not picking a side may be the point.

Publishers: EN - Simon & Schuster - Head of Zeus  // CN - New Star Press

Hao Jingfang on Paper Republic

Ken Liu on Paper Republic 

 

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Ep 25 - Sanmao and Stories of the Sahara with Mike Fu

Ep 25 - Sanmao and Stories of the Sahara with Mike Fu

February 15, 2020

"Don't ask from where I have come. My home is far, far away."

In the twenty fifth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Sanmao's Stories of the Sahara (撒哈拉的故事 / Sǎhālāde Gùshì)

Sanmao AKA Echo Chan is a literary hero in China and Taiwan, but only recently has some of that fame begun to spill over into the rest of the world. She’s probably most famous for the time she spent in the Sahara, writing in a lucid, arresting, and playful style about her life there. Sanmao passed away in the 90s but she’s very much alive on the page, as her translator Mike Fu and I discuss.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

 

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Ep 24 - Feng Jicai and Faces in the Crowd

Ep 24 - Feng Jicai and Faces in the Crowd

January 19, 2020

"I have lived in Tianjin my whole life, and I know its people, with their toughness and competitive streak, their generosity, their determination to be respected, and their refusal to back down. When I illustrate them, it is these qualities I draw."

In the twenty fourth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Feng Jicai's Faces in the Crowd (俗世奇人 / Súshì Qírén)

This is the first time on the show that I’m looking at an illustrated book. Each chapter is a ‘sketch’ of one of old colonial Tianjin’s more quirky characters. They’re all drawn from local legends, and add up to create a really immersive wander through a bygone era.

Publishers: EN - Sinoist Books // CN - People's Literature Publishing House

 

Feng Jicai on Paper Republic

Olivia Milburn on Paper Republic

 

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Ep 23 - Baoshu and What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear

Ep 23 - Baoshu and What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear

January 12, 2020

Ep 23 art

"Later, I kept on hoping China would host the Olympics again, but it never happened. After I became a father, I told my son about that night, and he refused to believe China had once been so prosperous."

this is episode 7 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

In the twenty third episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Baoshu's What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear (大时代 / dà shídài), available to read in the Broken Stars anthology, edited and translated by Ken Liu.

Baoshu reverses time, sending his protagonist through a life that begins with the Beijing Olympics and ends before the communist revolution. I go it alone on this episode, and maybe it’s for the best because this story made me cry. It’s beautiful.

 

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Ep 22 - A Summer Beyond Your Reach with Xia Jia

Ep 22 - A Summer Beyond Your Reach with Xia Jia

December 18, 2019

Ep 22 art

'The summer isn’t over yet. There are so many fun things to do.'

this is episode 6 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

In the twenty second episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Xia Jia's A Summer Beyond Your Reach (你无法抵达的夏天/nǐ wúfǎ dǐdá de xiàtiān)

Xia Jia herself joins me via Skype from California to talk about her stories. French culture comes up three times in this episode. I really didn’t see that coming. Xia Jia’s stories do fuse deep thought with deep feeling, which I suppose does sound a bit French. Anyway! It’s a very fun episode, so have a listen.

Translators: Emily Jin, Carmen Yiling Yan, Ken Liu

Publisher: Clarkesworld

 

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Ep 21 - Han Song and the Fundamental Nature of the Universe with Nathaniel Isaacson

Ep 21 - Han Song and the Fundamental Nature of the Universe with Nathaniel Isaacson

December 11, 2019

Ep 21 art

'Everything is going to descend into chaos and disorder. Entropy will accelerate rapidly...'

this is episode 5 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

In the twenty first episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Han Song's The Fundamental Nature of the Universe (宇宙的本性/yǔzhòu de běnxìng)

A tale of artificial intelligence and ennui. Or should it be angst? Or simply just yanjuan? Musing darkly with me on this episode is its translator Nathaniel Isaacson, author of Celestial Empire: The Emergence of Chinese Science Fiction. He translated this story, so he ought to know a thing or two about it!

 

FULL TEXT - academic access required 

Han Song on Paper Republic

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Ep 20 - Liu Cixin and Devourer with Adam McMurchie

Ep 20 - Liu Cixin and Devourer with Adam McMurchie

December 2, 2019

Ep 20 art

'We still have a very long time to get along and very many things to talk about, but let us not speak of morals. In the universe, such considerations are meaningless.'

this is episode 4 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

In the twentieth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Liu Cixin's Devourer (吞食者/tūnshí zhě)

This is a grim tale for survival in a predatory galaxy, very much in the mold of The Three Body Problem. Helping me out on this episode is Chinese SF superfan and fellow Dundonian Adam McMurchie. I’m sure he’ll be back on again!

The story was translated by Holger Nahm, and published in The Wandering Earth by Head of Zeus & TOR

 

// Discussed this Episode //

Jiayang Fan on Liu Cixin

The Three Body Problem

 

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Ep 19 - Fei Dao and The Storytelling Robot with Matt Michaelson

Ep 19 - Fei Dao and The Storytelling Robot with Matt Michaelson

November 26, 2019

Ep 19 art

'The robot’s ability to learn was unparalleled, and with the help of its creators it analysed its databank of stories to create a set of scientific laws for storytelling – a model that would later become world-famous. But the mathematical nature of this model was so overwhelmingly complex that only the robot could make head or tail of it.'

this is episode 3 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

In the nineteenth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Fei Dao's The Storytelling Robot (讲故事的机器人/jiǎng gùshì de jīqìrén), translated by Alec Ash.

 

This is a thoughtful tale told by a writer with a melacholic, existential tendency. My favourite! Helping me out here is Matt of the Spectology Podcast. A very chill fellow who really knows a lot about Chinese SF.

This story may also be read online in the original Chinese

 

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Ep 18 - Waste Tide with Chen Qiufan

Ep 18 - Waste Tide with Chen Qiufan

November 15, 2019

Art for Ep 19

'Everything was shrouded in a leaden miasma, an amalgamation of the white mist generated by the boiling aqua regia in the acid baths and the black smoke from the unceasing burning of PVC, insulation, and circuit boards in the fields and on the shore of the river. The two contrasting colors were mixed by the sea breeze until they could no longer be distinguished, seeping into the pores of every living being.'

this is episode 2 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

Chaos reigns in the hyperactive, hyperreal, and highly populated Silicon Isle- a spot just off the coast of Guangdong where downtrodden ‘waste people’ do pitiless, dangerous work for local and global elites. All it takes is a spark, and the whole thing explodes…

In the eighteenth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Chen Qiufan's Waste Tide (荒潮/huāng cháo). The translator is Ken Liu and the publishers are Head of Zeus and TOR. Our guest is the author himself!

 

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Ep 17 - Hao Jingfang and Folding Beijing with Lyu Guangzhao

Ep 17 - Hao Jingfang and Folding Beijing with Lyu Guangzhao

November 9, 2019

Ep 17 art

'The folding city was divided into three spaces. One side of the earth was First Space, population five million. Their allotted time lasted from six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock the next morning. Then the space went to sleep, and the earth flipped.'

this is episode 1 of 7 in our Chinese Science Fiction Season

In the seventeenth episode of The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, we are looking at Hao Jingfang's Folding Beijing (北京折叠/běi jīng zhé dié)

 

This is a Hugo Award-winning ‘novelette’ translated by Ken Liu that imagines a city that has ‘economised’ by splitting social classes more fundamentally than ever before. It was first published by Uncanny Magazine. Helping me out in this episode is the charming and insightful Lyu Guangzhao of the London Chinese Scifi Reading Group. He’s a legend.

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// Discussed this Episode //

Hao Jingfang's essay - I Want to Write A History of Inequality

Paul Mason on automation & future economics

Linus 林路's Chinese SF cinema IG is @sinoscifi

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