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Author Hao Jingfang at the Melon Hong Kong science fiction conference in Hong Kong. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Hugo award winner Folding Beijing to be made into a movie, sci-fi novel’s author Hao Jingfang tells Hong Kong conference

Writer tells Melon Hong Kong event she agreed to Korean-American filmmaker Josh Kim adapting her fantastical tale of class inequality for the big screen because of his sincerity and ability as a storyteller

Hugo-award-winning science fiction story Folding Beijing will be adapted into a movie, its writer, Hao Jingfang, told science fiction conference Melon Hong Kong on Wednesday.

The film will be directed by Korean-American screenwriter Josh Kim, whose previous director credits include 2015 gay coming-of-age story How To Win at Checkers (Every Time).

Folding Beijing tells of a city divided into three classes, each of which has unequal access to time and resources. The protagonist, Lao Dao, travels illegally between each class, transporting goods in order to earn school fees for his child.

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Since Folding Beijing is a short novel, Kim will be adding extra characters as well as details to the plot. The story will take place in a fictional city of the future, rather than in Beijing.

“The major structure of the story will remain,” Hao said on Wednesday. “But taking out the geographical context can let the movie speak to more people. And the issues the story depicts are not just happening in Beijing either. Other places also face similar social concerns.”

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Hao had previously been approached by other production companies about making a film of her novel, but chose to collaborate with Kim because she appreciates his sincerity. “He contacted me through Ken Liu, who translated [Folding Beijing into English]. And we met in mainland China to discuss the collaboration. I think he’s a great storyteller,” Hao said. “With other production companies, you never know who will end up directing the film or writing the screenplay.”

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Hao says she will give Kim artistic autonomy. But she may offer suggestions about the added characters and overall plot, especially the ending.

She also plans to continue developing the story of Folding Beijing, although the results won’t be ready for at least two years since she is currently working on two other writing projects.

Hao is the second Chinese writer to win a Hugo award. The 32-year-old beat Stephen King to the best novelette prize.

The Three-Body Problem, by another Chinese writer, Liu Cixin – winner of the Hugo award for best novel in 2015 – is also being turned into a movie, which is scheduled for release this year.