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Hit Chinese sci-fi novel to be published in English

2014-05-27 14:54 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

The English version of a best-seller by China's most popular science fiction writer is expected to hit shelves in the United Statesin October, China Educational Publications Import and Export Corporation Ltd. (CEPIT) announced Monday.

In Liu Cixin's Three-Body trilogy, the entire solar system is flattened into a two-dimensional image in an apocalyptic battle between earthlings and aliens.

The masterpiece by Liu, an engineer by trade, has been hailed for its extraordinary artistic vision. Three specially selected translators, Ken Liu, Joel Martinsen, and Eric Abrahamsen, have been working on the English version of the trilogy.

Ken Liu, himself a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, undertook the first part, "The Three-Body Problem." Some episodes in the book take place during China's Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Though the historical setting is unusual for science fiction, it serves to foreshadow later developments in the novel.

Both Ken Liu and Martinsen, who translated "Dark Forest," have finished translation. Abrahamsen's translation of "Dead End" has yet to be completed.

According to CEPIT, the English version of "Dark Forest" is expected to hit the market in May 2015, while the translation of "Dead End" will be released in January 2016. The trilogy will be available both in paper and electronic forms.

It took CEPIT and its US partner, Tor Books, 17 months to complete procedures to sign a contract allowing for global publication of the novel in English.

The first book in the trilogy,"The Three-Body Problem," was originally serialized by Science Fiction World magazine from May to December 2006.

"There was no best-seller in the science fiction genre in China," said Yao Haijun, chief editor of Science Fiction World, the largest sci-fi magazine in the world with a monthly circulation of 100,000 copies.

"Liu Cixin was the right sci-fi writer to make science fiction more popular," Yao said, explaining why his magazine published "The Three-Body Problem."

Yao recalled that letters from readers flooded into his office, most of which were compliments to Liu Cixin.

"The Three-Body Problem" was reprinted in January 2008.

Yao said the trilogy is the best-selling sci-fi novel in China and the first to be translated into English in the past three decades. He said 400,000 copies had been printed in Chinese as of last year, though he said he did not have data about how many copies have been sold.

He believes that "The Three-Body Problem" meets Western readers' expectations for a sci-fi novel and presents Chinese solutions to some future problems.

The science fiction genre has represented a literary minority in China, as highly imaginative works were once thought of as nonsense.

Only three decades ago, when Liu Cixin was in college, China's science fiction suffered a blow as it was seen as "spiritual pollution" from the West that should be cleaned up.

Liu never imagined that one day his sci-fi novel would reach the West.

Science fiction writer Han Song believes the trilogy will win Liu the Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Society. Liu, though hopeful, expects nothing.

"I wish to win, but it's not easy," said Liu in an earlier telephone interview with Xinhua.

The trilogy won him a national children's literature prize last September. In China's government-backed literature awards, science fiction is grouped with children's literature.

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