This month, an international team of astronomers announced the discovery of the planet HD 131399Ab , which has three suns, a curious situation that’s the central conceit in the Chinese sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem , by Liu Cixin. A film based on the popular 2008 novel is scheduled to be released next year. Even more fanciful is Star Trek Beyond , the latest instalment in the film franchise, in which sentient beings and flying machines effortlessly zip across galaxies in seconds. Out of this world: Chinese sci-fi author Liu Cixin is Asia’s first writer to win Hugo award for best novel The Chinese began writing sci-fi novels in the early 20th century, but stories that would be recognisable as science fiction today can be found in ancient Chinese texts. Among the earliest is the story about a leather and wood robot presented to the Zhou dynasty King Mu during the 10th century BC by the artisan Yan Shi. The robot sang, danced and even flirted like a real human being, and had human hair, teeth and entrails. It became inanimate when it was taken apart and reanimated when its parts were put back together. Star Trek Beyond – blockbuster that hits all the right spots There were also stories of UFO sightings, such as the “floating boat” described by Jin-dynasty poet Zhang Hua (AD232-300) as hovering over an island off the coast. A man boarded the boat and after about 10 days he could see only vast, empty space. His voyage was even corroborated by a famous astrologist of the day, who observed an unidentified object moving towards the Cowherd Star, or Altair.