Babel of Chinese SF: A Reading Group

Chinese SF in translation-May Session-“Starship: Library” by Jiang Bo and translated by Xuetitng Ni
Babel of Chinese SF: A Reading Group

We are a monthly online meet-up that reads, shares and discusses Chinese language sci-fi and speculative fiction in translation
Wechat: 科幻巴别塔

Upcoming: May Session

“Starship: Library” / 《宇宙尽头的书店》
by Jiang Bo 江波
Translated by Xueting Christine Ni 倪雪亭
Included in Sinopticon: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction
Video call with the author Jiang Bo and the translator Xueting Christine Ni

Beijing Time: 20:00, May 28th, 2023.
British Summer Time: 13:00, May 28th, 2023.

Online: Zoom email us ( with  “Count me in for BCSFG’s next meeting!” and we’ll send you a video call link and password one day before the session.

The English version of this story is not available online. If you would like a free copy for this story, please reach us by email.

On the display panel of the door to the library, rows of text quietly appeared.
Till the stars go out.
Waiting at the end of the world,
For someone.
A sentence,
The eternal vow and the flower that never dies.
The fire of civilization leaping
Across the deep chasm of time and space.
Till the stars go out.

From “Starship: Library” By Jiang Bo

Douglas Adams depicts a lively restaurant in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe where one could watch the explosion of the universe. Yet the bookstore depicted by Jiang Bo, is lonely, with only two visitors in nearly five hundred years.

The story takes place during the final stages of the sun’s eruption. The solar system is no longer suitable for habitation, and humans have migrated to a habitable planet fifteen light-years away called the Second Earth. At this point, the means of acquiring knowledge have changed for humans, as reading is no longer necessary. Through rapid imprinting technology, knowledge and abilities can be obtained directly. Books have become meaningless, and bookstores have been abandoned and forgotten.

The protagonist is Ehuang, who pilots the starship Bookstore. She is a goddess from ancient mythology, the daughter of Yao and the wife of Shun. The bookstore she manages is left behind in the solar system. With the help of “library’s designer, the architect of the world, humanity’s most benevolent guide, the most intelligent of robots. Turing the 5th,” sixty billion books are loaded onto the starship. After spending six hundred years, Ehuang finally arrives in orbit around the Second Earth. The humans on the Second Earth want to remove the bookstore and build a celestial power station in its place. They give Ehuang a choice: to land the bookstore on the surface of the Second Earth or to go between the stars. Ehuang knows that it is impossible to preserve these books on a single planet for a long time and so the starship carrying the bookstore is exiled into the universe. During its journey, the bookstore encounters different civilizations, collecting and preserving books and knowledge from various cultures, becoming a non-armed fleet consisting of hundreds of ships. In the end, Ehuang leaves the bookstore on the interstellar space for all civilizations in the galaxy, keeping only the original starship. This bookstore was originally prepared for Earthlings, and during the hundred-thousand-light-year journey, Ehuang has been waiting for humans, at the end of the universe, at the end of time, until the light of the stars goes out.

The novel is translated by Xueting Christine Ni and included in the Chinese science fiction anthology Sinopticon: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction edited by Ni. The anthology won the Best Anthology award at the 2022 British Fantasy Awards. The title “Sinopticon” is very apt, with the prefix “Sino-” representing “China,” and the suffix “-opticon” symbolizing “observation” or “landscape.” In an interview, Ni explained the meaning behind the title: “Sinopticon, as the name suggests, is a window for English readers to understand Chinese science fiction, comprehensively showcasing the important themes and narrative styles of Chinese science fiction over the past thirty years. ‘The Bookstore at the End of the Universe’ is the final piece in this anthology, concluding the collection, which demonstrates the editor’s thoughtfulness and adds to the sense of solitude in the bookstore.”

In this seminar, we are honored to have the author Jiang Bo, and the editor and translator of Sinopticon, Xueting Christine Ni, join us to discuss “Starship: Library” and those stories.


Reading ahead of the session is recommended but not a must, if you have any access requirements to the text, please let us know by email. You are welcome to join in the conversation on Sunday as simply a listener or comment or ask Jiang Bo and Xueting Christine Ni about this story and other ones as well.
We look forward to sharing with you then!

Jiang Bo is a renowned science-fiction author. He publishes his debut in 2003, and has written over 40 pieces of short to medium-length fiction, totalling over 800,000 words. In 2012, he began creating longer works, of which well-known ones include Heart of the Galaxy trilogy, and Machine Gate. A recent winner of a Best Original Science Fiction award in China, he has also won the Yinhe Awards six times, and the Xingyun Gold Award four times and is considered a representative of China’s generation of “Sci-Fi Regeneration” writers.

Xueting Christine Ni was born in Guangzhou, during China’s “re-opening to the West”. Having lived in cities across China, she emigrated with her family to Britain at the age of 11, where she continued to be immersed in Chinese culture, alongside her British education, realising ultimately that this gave her a unique cultural perspective, bridging her Eastern and Western experiences. After graduating in English Literature from the University of London, she began a career in the publishing industry, whilst also translating original works of Chinese fiction. She returned to China in 2008 to continue her research at Central University of Nationalities, Beijing. She has collaborated with institutions such as BBC, RTÉ, and to explore Chinese contemporary culture through articles and programs. The types of works she has been involved in translating span across comics, poetry, prose, films, and novels. Her first monograph, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: The Essential Guide to Chinese Deities, was published by Weiser Books in 2018. She also compiled the Chinese science fiction anthology Sinopticon, which was officially published in November 2021 and received wide attention. Her new book, Chinese Mythology, was published in May 2023. She is currently working on compiling a new anthology of contemporary Chinese novels.

Posted by: Ruiying Zhang <>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *