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China Focus: WorldCon ushers in more opportunities for Chengdu as 'sci-fi incubator'

Pub Date:2023-10-20 09:33 Source:Xinhua

CHENGDU, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Sci-fi aficionados attending the opening ceremony of the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) on Wednesday night were treated to an exhilarating two-minute "space journey," to the accompaniment of haunting female vocals.

The introductory movie took them from the nebula-shaped Chengdu Science Fiction Museum to various famous sites on Earth, such as Sanxingdui and the Pyramids, then out across the solar system. Having arrived at the Pillars of Creation -- where life was born -- located about 6,500 light-years away, they hurtled back to the museum.

Such was the prelude to this year's edition of WorldCon, the world's largest and longest-running sci-fi gathering. This time around, it is taking place in Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, making it the second city in Asia and the first in China to host the event.

CHENGDU & SCI-FI

The decision to hold the 81st WorldCon in Chengdu was made at the 79th World Science Fiction Convention in Washington D.C. in 2021. Chengdu, as a bidding city, won the hosting competition after science fiction fans from around the world cast their votes.

Chengdu boasts the ancient Shu civilization, dating back some 4,500 years, a fact that gives it a strong historical pedigree. Meanwhile, it is also a leading incubator of science fiction writing in China.

It is home to the magazine Science Fiction World, which has a bigger circulation than any other sci-fi publication in the world, launching the careers of many of the country's most renowned authors, including Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin.

In an interview at the convention, Liu said that choosing Chengdu as the host city for WorldCon is a "natural thing."

"The WorldCon will allow Chinese sci-fi writers, readers and industry insiders to have more communication with their peers from all over the world. Science fiction literature has undergone profound changes, and we can take this convention as an opportunity to have more discussions on its evolution and how to make it better in the future," Liu added.

Ben Yalow, co-chairman of the 2023 Chengdu WorldCon, echoed Liu's words, citing the popular Chinese idiom "where water flows, a channel will form" to explain why WorldCon has come to Chengdu.

Believing the Chengdu WorldCon will be a win-win event for sci-fi fans in China and the West, Yalow said hopes to meet and connect with more Chinese sci-fi fans.

"I am looking forward to communicating with sci-fi fans to explore the new ideas sparked by the collision of Chinese and Western cultures at the convention."

SCI-FI & BEYOND

As an emerging industry in China, science fiction has already expanded beyond the bounds of literature. It has taken on a much broader scope, driving the growth of correlated industries, including film and television production, as well as commercial operations.

The output value of China's science fiction industry, including publications, films and others, totaled 87.75 billion yuan (about 12.2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2022. China has produced a series of science fiction films, such as "The Wandering Earth," that have earned billions of yuan at the box office. China is also believed to have the world's largest number of science fiction aficionados.

Leveraging its sci-fi advantages, Chengdu has quickened the pace in boosting related industries.

Over 800 special-effects shots in "The Wandering Earth" were produced in Chengdu. Meanwhile, the creative team behind the animation movie "Ne Zha," which raked in over 4.9 billion yuan at the box office, grew up in the nurturing atmosphere of Chengdu's sci-fi circles.

La Zi, editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World magazine, said that Chengdu has accumulated the best sci-fi intellectual property in China over 40 years, meaning that Chengdu's science fiction industry has ushered in a rare historic opportunity.

"Sci-fi fans, who have grown up under the influence of Science Fiction World for decades, are the new force in boosting the future development of the sci-fi industry," he added.

The Chengdu WorldCon has set a new milestone for the development of its sci-fi industry. The city has put into motion over 40 projects combining sci-fi with film production, games and tourism. Preparations for a conference to promote the sci-fi industry are also underway, with 12 major projects to be signed, attracting an estimated total investment of up to 8 billion yuan.

Jiang Zhenyu, an associate researcher at the China science fiction research institute of Sichuan University, sees this week's event as providing impetus for the industry's development.

"The 2023 Chengdu WorldCon will provide a stage for sci-fi practitioners across China, and will also become a new breaking point for the diversified development of the science fiction industry in Chengdu and across China," said Jiang.

Editor:Zheng Chen

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