Liu Cixin never let his day job keep him from getting his writing done. Did anyone know that when Jason Heller tweeted this message last week and got a lot of sff writers in an uproar?
Of course, Heller and everyone else is assuming that someone with a day job will actually be working at it. Not in this case.
Bloomberg’s report “Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Sparks Debate on Slack in State Economy” carries news of a revealing 2015 interview with Liu Cixin that’s made a recent splash in Chinese social media:
China’s most prestigious science fiction novelist revealed that a lot of his work was written during work hours at a state-owned power plant, sparking debate about the level of slack in the nation’s vast state sector.
The comments from Liu Cixin, seen as China’s equivalent to Arthur C. Clarke, come from a 2015 interview that began circulating widely on social media recently after the film Wandering Earth, which is based on one of his novellas, took in 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in just a week.
“Everyone was sitting in front of a computer, and nobody knew what anyone else was doing,” Liu said in the interview. “You have to be in the office. But when you’re there, you are free to write.”
Liu worked as a software engineer at a power plant in Shanxi province from the 1980s and identified himself a worker there in interviews until as late as 2014.
However, this week Liu tried to walk back what he said in the interview (Sixth Tone, “Chinese Sci-fi Author Sparks Work Ethics Debate”).
But on Tuesday, the writer told the state-run Global Times that there’s “no time to write while on duty,” while also admitting that on rare occasions he would write on his office computer. “As an engineer at a grassroots power station, there’s constant work. Where is the time to write?” he said.
And officials also jumped in to do damage control, crediting themselves for making changes that are already taking effect:
On Monday, China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission also stepped in to address Liu’s comments on company culture at state-owned enterprises. Liu worked at the power station in Shanxi until 2014, two years after the company’s reforms.
“Mr. Liu, this phenomenon you mentioned — more workers than available work — is exactly why we are deepening reforms,” the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said via Weibo. “The reforms are good, so the enterprises can focus on their business, and you can focus on writing novels.”
Fans long ago discovered that one worker sitting in front of a computer typing looks like any other, as long as you’re not reading over his shoulder. But they also discovered a second truth which seems to have escaped the Hugo-winning author — that if you brag about what you’re really doing, then you get in big trouble.
[Thanks to JJ for the story.]