From Nobel to Hugo:
Reading Chinese Science Fiction as World Literature

By Angie Chau

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 30, no.1  (Spring 2018), pp. 110-135

In 2015, Ken Liu’s English translation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (Santi) became the first translated novel to win the Hugo Award for best novel. The following year in 2016, another Chinese author, Hao Jingfang, received the Hugo for best novelette for her short story, “Folding Beijing” (Beijing zhedie), also translated by Ken Liu. This article traces the shift in the reading public’s awareness of Chinese science fiction, examining how the circulation of Chinese science fiction is facilitating contemporary Chinese literature’s foray into world literature.

The current demands of the consumer book market in China, combined with the international prestige associated with the literary prize circuit, have produced an ideal opportunity for contemporary Chinese literature to enter world literature. The article argues that the strength of the genre rests in its flexibility in bypassing the low vs. high culture divide, at the same time that it implies universal significance and purports to offer the most appropriate lens through which readers can understand the most pressing social issues in present day China.