A Conversation with Cixin Lui

John Plotz, Pu Wang, and Cixin Lui at Public Books:

JP: Can you talk about how that subculture existed? Was it connected by magazines, or was there an online culture—or was it books that you read in translation or books by other Chinese writers? What was the material connection that made you a fandom?

CL: I started my fascination with science fiction while I was a primary school student. That was still in the final years of the Cultural Revolution. There was no cultural landscape of media as we know it today. There was not even the concept of science fiction yet in China. Back then, what I read was translated science fiction from the ’50s, the period of the early People’s Republic. The early socialist period was a relatively open era, culturally. At that time, a lot of Western science fiction works were translated into Chinese.

Those first science fiction books I read belonged to my father. During the Cultural Revolution, those books were no longer considered politically orthodox enough. My father just put them underneath the bed. So, as a young boy, I sneaked under the bed and started to read those words. Among those authors were H. G. Wells and Soviet science fiction writers.

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