Half the Universe: More On Chinese Women SF Writers

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article highlighting some of China’s female science fiction writers . It is a well-known fact that women in the SF community have been heavily overlooked in China, where a hard-science-heavy tradition took root in the genre’s first ‘golden age’ of the 1950s, which in itself was a continuation of a nation-building role for sci-fi that could be traced all the way back to the beginning of the century. Although women have been active contributors to the genre since at least the 1970s, with writers such as Zhang Jing and Ji Wei, their inclination, or perceived inclination to write ‘soft science fiction’, meant they have not been as visible as male writers in previous eras. In the twenty-first century however, kēhuàn (Hanyu for sci-fi) has diversified as a genre, branching off into more character driven fiction, which integrates science with story, shifting away from works that centrally focused on science theory or concepts.

In recent decades, with more women working in the kēhuàn literary field as researchers, editors and translators, as well as the increase in support of women’s creative writing, their presence have become more prominent in a public consciousness already being informed by recent transnational feminist media activism. Since the date of my last article, support for women in SF have visibly improved. This had been one of the aims of my first collection of kēhuàn, Sinopticon. We also saw the beginning of several women-specific anthologies around the same time, both in Chinese and English, the translated SFF and essay collection The Way Spring Arrives (2022), and the She Sci-Fi Light Novel Series (2021), consisting of four themed volumes published in China. Of course, referring to the works of major and established women kēhuàn writers of weight, as “light” is still problematic, to say the least, but at least it puts more copies of their work into the public sphere. “She”, a two-volume SF anthology, was a definite improvement in approach, representation and inclusivity, featuring 30 different female writers across three generations, and was edited by of them, Ling Chen and Cheng Jingbo,

The issues are manifold, and lie not only with male writers, editors and critics in the filed who seek to perpetuate their positions of privilege and entitlement, but also with internalised gender stereotyping, and a general over-deference to male figures of authority in Chinese society. As a woman who works in the global kēhuàn literary field as a writer, curator, editor and translator, it is important for me to continue to highlight and help validate the output of all women contributing to the genre. This year, I would like to shine a light on a new crop of young female science fiction writers, whom I have recently come across.

Su Wanwen
Douban Read Award-winning author of novels such as Twelve Island (jiuyuè shī’èr dao) and Kingdom of Lava. Su specialises in YA and children’s adventure SF, with themes surrounding nature and the environment. When she is not writing, she pursues her interests an independent musician. Her recent novel series Worlds Upon Worlds depicts a universe in which the teenage heroine travels to parallel dimensions full of fantastic creatures.

Zhou Wen
Known for her Gravity Award-winning work Silent Notes, Zhou Wen is a young author who has already become significantly popular within China, having published on various journals and platforms, as well as abroad. Her stories tend to feature female protagonists and their linguistics-related subject matter make ample use of her double master degree in translation. She recently published her own collection, The Girl Who Steals Lives. As a sci-fi author, Zhou Wen takes care to ensure the scientific theories featured in her fiction have a real grounding, but this does not prevent her from integrating them fully into her captivating stories.

Li Xia
Although she won the Hecailin New Voice Award with her debut Vacant Lives (kòngbái rénshēng), Li Xia is better known for her ‘Chang’An Punk’ series. With a PhD in electronics and a day job in the internet industry, she excels in fusing her knowledge of technology with ancient stylistics and constructs, recreating the Tang Dynasty capital of Chang’An as a virtual ringed world operated by systems, programmes and people’s subconscious. In this fictional space, we see the famous romantic poet Li Bai reincarnated as a rapper, saving a metaverse Chang’An with his flows.

Zhang Fan
Known for her works Star Tide and Super Fast (yìqí juéchén), Zhang Fan aims to make sense of the world through the power of words. With a master degree in ecology, she has worked as a researcher in the environmental industries and new media, and brings from her rich life experiences into her creative writing.

Lu Hang
A self-proclaimed science fiction enthusiast as well as author, Lu Hang has loved SF ever since middle school, and her own work has been published on various platforms including Science Fiction World. She hopes to write fiction that moves, and is known for her stories Tongji Bridge and The Joy of the Flock.

Fu Hua
An established writer with a substantial following on jjwxc.net, one of China’s major online platforms for women writers, Fu Hua has a prolific repertoire in historical fiction, xianxia, qihuan and alternate historical fantasy. Her small SF output, such as The Apocalypse Loop and Queen Among Bees, is nevertheless interesting, exploring recurring themes of dystopian futures, procreation and renewal. These futuristic environments provide a backdrop to the depictions of the daily lives of the characters.

Su Min
Known for her short stories The Earth’s Reflection and The Post-Consciousness Age, as well as longer work like, Patients of Time, Su Min is another Gravity Award winner who has been recognised by the China Science Writers Association as a prominent new voice. Combining her authorship with screen-writing, she also won acclaim for her script A Reconciliation.  She effectively blends thriller elements and psychological horror into her SF.

Fan Zhou
Having just begun her writer career, Fan Zhou takes is careful about keeping her identity as an author completely separate from her day job, even though she purports to have a very ordinary job that has absolutely nothing to do with the strong themes of conspiracy and crime in her stories. As the creative journeys and backgrounds of China’s science fiction writers have diversified over the past decade, so too has the output, being greatly enriched by writers bringing their different life experiences, observations and perspectives into the genre.


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