Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Zhao Haihong and "Exuviation"


Lately, it seems, Lightspeed Science Fiction and Fantasy has been trying to win my heart.

First, they bought reprint rights to "The Armies of Elfland" co-written by Eileen Gunn and me.  "Armies" is a very strange story, chockablock with elves and ogres, all the unpleasant parts of which were written by Eileen.  (I mention this because everybody's going to assume they came from me.) 

Next, they coaxed an interview out of the two of us which is witty and interesting and in which, mirabile dictu, I get the last word.

Then I went to their site and discovered that they've reprinted Zhao Haihong's story, "Exuviation." This delighted me for several reasons.  Firstly because science fiction is a vibrant genre in China and the more of it that gets translated and seen in the West, the better.  Second, because Ms. Zhao is an extremely good writer (she's a six-time winner of the Galaxy Award, Chinese science fiction's greatest honor) and should get all the recognition possible.  Thirdly, because "Exuviation" is unlike anything you're likely to have seen this year.   Fourthly, because every bit of such exposure encourages more translations, not only of her work but of that by other Chinese science fiction writers.  And finally, because Haihong is a friend and I want all good things for her.

As if all this weren't enough, there's a fascinating interview with Zhao Haihong accompanying "Exuviation."  Here she is, on the story itself:

Every person may experience many changes in one’s life. You are willing to change yet still you may feel a bit uneasy about what may come after the change. Personally speaking, as a young writer who felt a bit bored about my old way of writing, I wanted to try something new and I was not afraid at that moment. But a good story should be the story of everyone, a story which could touch everyone. So I needed to reveal the other half of humanity: the other half that is afraid of what lies ahead. In the story I’ve created two characters, Tou and Gong, the special Cavers who should exuviate nine times in their life. But Cavers are not human beings, so the [aim of the] story is to gradually let in multiple meanings and directions in the process of writing; it’s not only a story of whether to change or not to change, but a story of the Other in the human world. Even the “authenticity” and “inauthenticity” of Heidegger’s Dasein could be introduced in the further understanding.

Zhao Haihong is currently teaching at Zhejiang Gongshang University and simultaneously working on her Ph.D. in Art History at China Academy of Art.  All while also raising a young daughter. So her writing career may be on hiatus for a few years.  But there's another of her stories which has been translated into English, "1923 -- a fantasy."  It appeared last year in a special science fiction issue of Renditions (put out by the Chinese University of Hong Kong) which is apparently to be reissued by Columbia University Press.  Anybody who is at all interested in Chinese fiction will want a copy.

Seriously.  It's a terrific collection.
You can read "Exuviation" here.  (It occurs to me that I should mention that the English translation was first published in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.  But this is the first time it has been made available on the Web.)

You can read the accompanying interview with Haihong Zhao here.

Or you can just go to Lightspeed and wander around by clicking here.

And I'll let you know when "The Armies of Elfland" goes online.


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