LITERATURE

Young writer’s fantastical tale of class inequality in Beijing earns her Hugo Awards nomination

Hao Jingfang says her sci-fi novelette ‘Folding Beijing’ aims to expose society’s injustices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 April, 2016, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 April, 2016, 4:40pm

A young woman writer’s sci-fi story reflecting China’s inequality has been shortlisted for best novelette for the Hugo Awards.

The 74th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) – also known as MidAmeriCon II – broke the news on Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday.

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Folding Beijing, by Hao Jingfang, 32, from Tianjin, is among five works nominated for best novelette. The others are Stephen King’s Obits, US writer Brooke Bolander’s And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead, Singaporean author Cheah Kai Wai’s Flashpoint: Titan and US novelist David VanDyke’s What Price Humanity?.

The nomination of Hao’s work comes after Chinese author Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem – depicting an alien civilisation’s invasion of earth during the Cultural Revolution – won best novel at the Hugo Awards last year.

Folding Beijing is set in the future, where Beijing folds up so different groups occupy different levels. The protagonist, a waste worker from the Third Space, is hired by a student in the Second Space to send a love letter to a girl in the First Space, despite strong opposition from the girl’s family due to their class difference.

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In an interview with US’ Uncanny Magazine, which published Folding Beijing in English, Hao, now a researcher at Beijing-based China Development Research Foundation, said she wanted to expose the “unfair and unjust” structure of the real world.

“In fact, the real social pyramid may be even more extreme than the one portrayed in my tale,” she said.

“Only someone who can take the perspective of a reader of the world, standing apart from the emotional experience of individuals, can perceive this structural framework. I wanted to reveal this perspective.”

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Folding Beijing was first published in late 2012 on a forum by Tsinghua University, where Hao was studying. The story drew the attention of Chinese sci-fi enthusiasts.

The full version of the novelette was officially published in monthly literary magazine Wenyi Fengshang in 2014. It was translated by Ken Liu, an author and translator of speculative fiction, who also translated The Three-Body Problem.

Hao, who holds a bachelor’s in physics and a PhD in economics and management, has won awards for her writing since she was in high school.

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She was awarded the top prize in the New Concept Writing Competition in 2002 and has published at least two full–length novels and many cultural essays and short stories.

The 2016 Hugo Awards will be presented on August 20 in Kansas City in the United States.