Interview with Baoshu, 2024 Hugo Finalist

Baoshu 宝树

INTRODUCTION: Eight Light Minutes(8LM) Culture of Chengdu has given permission for File 770 to reprint the series of interviews with Chinese science fiction writers which they have been running this week on Facebook. The fourth in the series is a question and answer session with Baoshu, whose “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times” is a 2024 finalist for the Best Short Story Hugo Award.

SUPPORTING CHINESE WRITERS SERIES: 2024 HUGO AWARD FINALIST INTERVIEW WITH BAOSHU

Translated by Xueting C. Ni

Baoshu宝树 is a science fiction writer, translator, a member of the China Writer’s Association Science Fiction Committee, and a scholar of the Peking University Bergruen Research Centre. Immersed in stories related to time, he believes that every story has a real existence in one of the infinite dimensions of time and space. His famous works include the long form works Universe of Sight and Thought, Seven States of the Galaxy and many anthologies. He has published almost 1 million words of short and mid-length stories, has won multiple awards in the main categories of the Chinese Galaxy and Nebula, and his works have been translated into English, Japanese, Italian, German and other languages. He has edited the anthology History in Chinese Science Fiction, translated The Cold Equations and Star Maker. His “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times”, published in Galaxy’s Edge 013: Secret Room in the Dark Domain, has been nominated as a finalist for Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Q1. Mr Baoshu, congratulations on the nomination of “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times” as a finalist for the Best Short Story Hugo Award. We’re delighted for you! This is affirmation and appreciation indeed for your many years of hard work in the creation of science fiction, and a point of pride for Chinese science fiction. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you some questions, on behalf of all your fans, and thank you in advance for answering them.

Whilst you have won multiple times at the Galaxy, Nebula and Lenghu awards, this is the first time you’ve been nominated as a Hugo finalist. Could you talk a little about your award-winning history? I heard that the first award you have ever won in your literary career was the New Concept Essay Contest…

Baoshu: I took part in the first New Concept Essay Contest in 1999, but at the time it wasn’t literature that motivated me. Apparently, the winner gained extra points for the gaokao (National Exam), and would be guaranteed university entrance, but I only came second, so it wasn’t ideal, and didn’t really help with my grades in the end. But, the piece that won was published in some periodicals, got some attention in my high school, but for me it wasn’t a great thing, as the exams were imminent, it just felt like extra pressure…later though, a lot of big names came out of “New Concept”, so my small achievement was nothing to speak of.

Many years later, after I had formally settled into writing science fiction, I won several awards in the sci-fi category in succession. Of course, I was very pleased to win them, but many other science fiction writers have also won them, so it wasn’t anything special. When The Ruins of Time won the Nebula Gold in 2014, it was probably the occasion that first left a deeper impression on me, because it was the first time I’d won a heavy-weight award for science fiction. Another time was when Everybody Loves Charles won Best Novelette at the Galaxy in 2015, I remember Mr Yao Haijun saying the work was going to transcend its time. For me, it was an immense encouragement; the recent Science Fiction Planet Award for Our Martians also made me very happy, because the monetary reward was quite high.

This year, I wasn’t expecting to be nominated. I should say that a lot of factors combined to contribute to this, including the increased development of Chinese science fiction as a whole, the enthusiasm and surge in Chinese participation in the voting. It’s something that I’ve recognised quite clearly. Moreover, I just treat it as something to spur me on, to produce even better works.

Baoshu, The Ruins of Time, Eight Light Minutes Culture and People’s Literature Publishing House.

Q2. As one of the representatives of the sci-fi renaissance, you have devoted yourself to the creation of science fiction for over a decade, apparently you began writing sci-fi when you were studying your PhD in Belgium? Can you tell us how you came to dedicate yourself to sci-fi writing?

Baoshu: I’ve been a science fiction fan for many years, and tried to write a few things during university, though they didn’t take off. Perhaps it was thanks to the increased hours of leisure time during my studies abroad, that I began writing novels. Of course, at first, I was publishing them on internet forums, so I wrote whatever I felt like, including pieces contained sardonicism or caustic humour. For instance, in one of the early ones, which I later named The Cruel Equation, imagined an astronaut dismembering a girl who stowed away on his shuttle, to reduce her weight, and prevent her from dying in space…of course, I could hardly publish something like that in print. I gained some readers on the forums, and their enthusiasm encouraged me to keep writing. Some of the exchanges I had with Big Liu (Cixin) on the forums around this time, gave me a lot of encouragement.

In the summer of 2010, I wrote The Great Age, a piece of about 40,000 characters, as an independent story. Even though it was rejected by Science Fiction World, the experience of writing it gave me an inner confidence, I felt capable of completing complex stories. From this point onwards, my urge to write grew greater and greater. Not long after that, Three Body 3: Death’s End came out. I read it in one sitting, and I wanted more, so, wrote a fan fic novel called Three Body X: Redemption of Time, which somehow got the extremely fortunate opportunity to be published. From that point, more and more opportunities to publish my work came up, so this is how I “strayed” into the path of sci-fi writing.

Q3. “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times” is a new work you published in Galaxy’s Edge in Chinese, could you please introduce the piece, and talk a little about the inspiration behind it and your creative processes?

Baoshu: The inspiration for this story was quite plain and simple. We all love good food, especially the expensive luxuries, the rare delicacies we can’t afford. It was this universal desire that fired the imagination. No more than what the average person imagines… what would they eat, what kind of dining experiences would they have, if they ever became super rich. Science fiction provides us with another dimension to imagine: would it be possible to attain this experience from the brainwaves of someone else who was eating that gourmet dish?

The concept isn’t new, and my own previous work Everybody Loves Charles has a similar construct. But “Three Tastings” sets a limit on the other senses and concentrates the focus on taste. If only the sensation of taste is felt, with complete oblivion to everything else, what can this experience show us? Can this kind of technology find commercial use? How would it impact on society and human nature? This gives rise to infinite plotlines.

Q4. The structure of “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times” is quite interesting, three small stories “combined” into a complete one, a marvelous set-up that strengthens the storytelling and enriches the reading experience, how did you come to employ this structure?

Baoshu: Actually, at first, it was just a short story of about 3000 characters called “Banquet”, exploring the question “what is the pinnacle of gourmet experiences?” The managing editor liked it so much that they not only decided to publish it but commended it highly and made me feel that there was a lot more potential to be excavated from the concept. I also thought of many possible ways of interpreting it, so I wrote two more stories, each based on the previous story, taking it to the next level, so this is how we ended up with “Three Tastings”. Three small, interconnected stories making up a bigger one, which contemplates the relationship between delicious food and human nature.

Q5. “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times” appears to be just an engaging, humorous sci-fi story about sensations and future delicacies, but actually it’s about the future fate of humanity, it has great scope, and is very classic Core Science Fiction. Many of your works are like this, seemingly fun and light, but in fact, concern themselves with the whole fate of humanity. How did you come to form this kind of sci-fi aesthetics?

Baoshu: I think this work is mostly sci-fi, with characteristics that are very common to Core SF. Science fiction is a form that seeks to astonish and amaze, it does not stop at the level of superficial sensationalism, but, as a means of exploration and inference, it goes deeper and reaches across the whole of human society. In other words, it opens up ways of imagining, the potentials within an idea itself, like conducting a thought experiment on the entire world, a deep-level experience.

Specifically looking at “Three Tastings”, perhaps its uniqueness lies in its exploration of appetite, a facet so deeply imbedded within human nature, and intimately connected to the fate of humanity. On one hand, the development of civilisation can be seen in the evolution of gourmet dining, people wrack their brains in order to provide the physicality of their taste buds with the most exquisite experience; but on the other hand, it’s precisely because they can satisfy their appetites that humanity was able to break free of this basic instinct, to develop art, literature, philosophy…anyone who has owned a pet will know this, the craving and single-mindedness towards food in animals far exceeds that in humans. Therefore, if technology could be used to massively increase the satisfaction of the mouth and stomach, what influence will this bring to human society and human nature? This is an extremely interesting question, not detached from reality. For instance, advanced societies provide far more affordable and delicious junk food than traditional societies, which causes a lot of people to put on weight, making dieting into an industry. You could have told this to people a hundred years ago, as science fiction. Science fiction allows us to think about these questions in the most extreme of possibilities.

Q6. What’s the biggest influence on your science fiction writing? When you’re struggling to find inspiration, what do you use to “recharge”?

Baoshu: Quite a few writers have had deep influences on me, needless to say, writers such as Liu Cixin and Wang Jinkang; there’s also Zheng Wenguang. I read most of his works when I was little and, even looking at them now, while some plotlines might seem a little simplistic or formulaic, the zeitgeist and sci-fi spirit that they convey, still captivate me immensely. Quite a few of my most recent pieces explore the legacy of Zheng’s era. I also like British authors such as Olaf Stapledon and Stephen Baxter, with their vigorous and grand imaginations, they are also my mentors.

As for “recharging”, it’s difficult to say, because nothing can really guarantee that inspiration will flow. I think this is a problem that has bothered a lot of writers, it depends on the situation. Of course, the accumulative effect of reading can help. When I’m stuck with writing, watching a film, or seeing an exhibition, going travelling, having a chat with friends, having a hot bath, all of these could bring unexpected inspiration, but maybe none of them will. But no matter what, that bowstring of creativity is always taut, and never let slack. Anything and everything could become the inspiration to create.

Q7. With a PhD in Philosophy, you are the quintessential intellectual, but your sci-fi works are well loved by ordinary readers, clearly your aesthetic and reading tastes are at one with the masses, could you explain this?

Baoshu: Essentially, science fiction is an intersectional space in which all kinds of fields such as literature, science and technology, sociology, philosophy interact with each other, so the criteria to measure it must necessarily be a diverse one that accounts for appropriateness within all of them. A lot of people tend to take the “older is better” point of view, that literary fiction is superior to science fiction, or avant-garde is better than popular, or hard science fiction is superior to soft and so forth. But all these ideas are probably unfounded, or follow some unsupported theories, or in the end turn into some kind of struggle for the freedom of speech, or points of contention between opposing groups. Regarding the reading of science fiction, I suggest we maintain an open attitude, and try to accept the possibilities of all kinds of alternative science fiction. From another perspective, the main role of philosophy, according to Socrates, is to “know yourself”, a creator should understand their nature and innate talent, and write from their heart. Don’t compromise yourself by following fads, fashionable concepts or seeking validation by conforming to trends.

I have always seen myself as a down-to-earth storyteller, because of my personal academic background, I infuse my work with some philosophical thinking, but there’s no conflict between philosophical concepts and popularity, when I’m writing, they naturally flow together. There’s no need to think that philosophical science fiction is something esoteric and full of intimidatingly unintelligible terms. For instance, Our World of Science Fiction explores the relationship between the past and present, and employs Heidegger’s “Re-enactment” Theory, but there’s no need to mention these theories by name. When you have internalised the core of this philosophy, it integrates naturally with the story, and they become intricately connected.

SF World has been translated and introduced to Japan, where it gained great popularity with readers.

Q8. A lot of your science fiction can be categorised as humorous sci-fi, and almost all of them have some kind of amusing and comedic vibe that makes the reader smile, this makes them feel more light-hearted than a lot of other works in the genre, even if they are depicting a great crisis of humanity, they don’t feel heavy or oppressive. Is this because you yourself have an optimistic, and carefree character and a sense of humour? What do you think of the relationship between humour and science fiction?

Baoshu: you’re very observant. When my writing goes into a state of natural, unrestrained flow, it does indeed contain some light-hearted humour. This perhaps bears some relation to my own personality; I probably feel most comfortable expressing my inner self while in this state. Although I’m not stand-up material, I like to make people laugh and smile. This might not always be appropriate, for example, making a joke when things should be escalated, or during moments of aestheticism or lyricism would ruin the atmosphere, but on the whole, for the reader, when I’m at east, I can create better works.

As for the relationship between humour and sci-fi, this is a difficult theoretical question. For instance, what is the essence of humour? A lot of scholars have considered this, and there’s a lot of debate about it. Personally, I feel that that science fiction writers gravitate towards the grand, or the forefront of things, in any case, the serious aspects, whilst humour can construct a kind of offset to balance this out, and in doing so, enrich the story. However, whether it can always be employed, and how one uses it, are very personal questions.

Q9. Your novels are also very popular, for example, The Ruins of Time, Seven States of the Galaxy have both won great public acclaim, could you talk a little about the long form works you’re currently writing?

Baoshu: I’m writing a book temporarily titled Our Era of Science Fiction, it’s a novel made up of several novellas, Our World of Science Fiction, Our Dinosaur Island, and Our Martians, which have already been published, and another two or three that have been plotted out, and I’m currently writing. When complete, it will be unique. I can’t say how good it will be, but it will be unique. No one has written science fiction in this way before. Moreover, Seven States of the Galaxy II is also in the works, temporarily titled The Legend of Beiming. I hope to finish it by the end of the year.

Seven States of the Galaxy Saga, Eight Light Minutes Culture and People’s Literature Publishing House.

Q10. What’s a typical day for you? As a full-time writer, do you have any particular hobbies, apart from writing?

Baoshu: Usually, I write for a couple of hours in the morning, pick up my kid in the middle of the day, and read a little in the afternoon. The evening is mainly taken up with helping my kid’s studies, and if there’s time to spare, some more reading, or a trip to the cinema, followed by another two or three hours of writing in the night.

I like reading, and my tastes cover works from all kinds of areas. For a writer, this is essential nourishment, so it can’t really be called a hobby, but I’ve collected a lot of science fiction and fantasy works, about 20,000 volumes in total, so maybe be this can be counted as an obsession.

Q11. Please say a few words to the Sci-fi fans who are currently considering the Hugo Awards

Baoshu: I don’t think we need to be overly concerned about the Hugos. The fact that Three Body won it was an exceptional coincidence, even without the award, it’s still a masterpiece; yet a lot of works that have won the Hugos may not withstand the test of time. This has always been my view, but since I’ve been nominated, you can’t say it’s the sour grapes mentality.

Once up a time, the significance of the Hugo Awards was to encourage us to seek out great works, but we already have quite a good idea of the Western science fiction landscape, every year a huge amount of excellent foreign works are translated, for example Greg Egan, Alistair Reynolds, Neil Stephenson, Ian M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, John Varley…all these leading contemporary authors are being systematically imported, and are already providing outstanding models for science fiction. Sci-fi fans of our generation could hardly imagine such good fortune when we were children.

2024 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award Finalists

The five finalists for this year’s Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award have been announced.

The Award is given out yearly to retailers who have done an outstanding job of supporting the comic art medium both in the industry at large and in their local community. Comics fans around the world nominate their favorite stores on the Comic-Con International website.

The 2023 Award will be given out as part of the Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards on July 21 at Comic-Con.

The finalists are:

  • Akira Comics in Madrid, Spain
  • Bat City Comics in Bradenton, Florida
  • Blackbird Comics and Coffeehouse in Maitland, Florida
  • Comix Experience in San Francisco, California
  • Hello Comics in Charlottesville, Virginia

Two More Proposed WSFS Constitutional Amendments for 2024

Linda Deneroff has sent File 770 copies for publication of two motions submitted to the Glasgow 2024 Business Meeting.

“Missing In Action” proposes to create a limited exception to the current prohibition on transferring WSFS memberships.

“The Way We Were” proposes to restore earlier terminology by replacing “WSFS Membership” with “Supporting Membership” wherever it appears in the Constitution, and to replace “Attending Supplement” with “Attending Membership”.


SHORT TITLE: MISSING IN ACTION

Moved, to amend Section 1.5.2 of the WSFS Constitution by striking out and inserting the following:

WSFS memberships held by natural persons may not be transferred, except in the following circumstances: (a) when a person purchases a WSFS membership for someone without providing a name or accidentally purchases a duplicate membership. That membership may be transferred only prior to the opening of Hugo Award nominations in the winning convention, and (b) that, in the case of death of a if a natural person holding a WSFS membership dies, it the WSFS membership may be transferred to the estate of the decedent.

PROPOSED BY: Linda Deneroff, Alexia Hebel, and Kevin Standlee

COMMENTARY: When someone tried to purchase more than one voting token for site selection, the Chengdu payment system was unable to record the name of the second, etc., person or persons. Thus, the person making the payment had multiple WSFS memberships that were actually meant for other people. This amendment would permit a person to purchase WSFS memberships and assign them to others, but only before any election was open in the winning convention.


SHORT TITLE: THE WAY WE WERE

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution by striking out and inserting the following:

Moved: To replace WSFS Membership with Supporting Membership wherever it appears in the Constitution, and to replace Attending Supplement with Attending Membership, including all similar variations of the words (e.g., WSFS Memberships, WSFS members, attending supplement) to their grammatically correct replacements.

PROPOSED BY: Linda Deneroff, Alexia Hebel, Kevin Standlee, and Kevin Black

COMMENTARY: Since both terms involved the word “Membership” there has been a lot of confusion among people purchasing memberships who do not understand why they have to purchase a “second” membership, or why they have to buy a “WSFS membership” in the first place. Under the original terminology, the price of an attending membership was inclusive of the support price.

Any reimbursement restrictions could still remain in place, with the price of the supporting portion of the attending membership deducted from any refund.


Pixel Scroll 7/14/24 Petronius T Arbiter Says, I’m Currently Looking For A Door, Or, Even A Window, Into Winter, Which I Plan To Leave Open And Move My Bed Near

(1) DRAGONS, CARE AND FEEDING. George R.R. Martin has a long exposition about dragons, and not only those of Westeros, at Not a Blog:  “Here There Be Dragons”.

…Dragons need food.   They need water too, but they have no gills.  They need to breathe.  Some say that  Smaug slept for sixty years below the Lonely Mountains before Bilbo and the dwarves woke him up.   The dragons born of Valyria cannot do that.   They are creatures of fire, and fire needs oxygen.   A dragon could dip into the ocean to scoop up a fish, perhaps, but they’d fly right up again.  If held underwater too long, they would drown, just like any other land animal.

My dragons are predators, carnivores who like their meat will done.   They can and will hunt their own prey, but they are also territorial.   They have lairs.   As creatures of the sky, they like mountain tops, and volcanic mountains best of all.  These are creatures of fire, and the cold dank caverns that other fantasists house their pets in are not for mine.     Man-made dwellings, like the stables of Dragonstone, the  towers tops of the Valryian Freehold, and the Dragonpit of King’s Landing, are acceptable — and often come with men bringing them food.  If those are not available, young dragons will find their own lairs… and defend them fiercely.

My dragons are creatures of the sky.   They fly, and can cross mountains and plains, cover hundreds of miles… but they don’t, unless their riders take them there.   They are  not nomadic.  During the heyday of Valyria there were forty dragon-riding families with hundreds of dragons amongst them… but (aside from our Targaryens) all of them stayed close to the Freehold and the Lands of the Long Summer…

(2) ETHICS OF SPACE TRAVEL AND ALIEN CONTACT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Human beings are mucky creatures. As a bioscientist, and especially as one who engaged in germ-free and also specific-pathogen-free work in my gap year, I am acutely aware that humans are a home to a multitude of microbes and we continually shed them. (My work involved small chambers in which we kept an open agar plate on one side to ensure everything was clean; it was very bad news if ever we came in and something was growing as that meant that that particular experiment had to come to an abrupt end.)  So you can guess my ethical stance as to the proposed human landings on Mars. Yes, I know we defeated the Martians before with microbes, but that was on our own home turf in Blighty: there’s no need for us to contaminate putative Martians on Mars before we have done as much as we can using robots.  (Yes, I know that I constantly tell folk that the machines are taking over the world – though nobody ever listens – but, to be fair, I don’t mind them taking over Mars: I’m not that prejudiced.)

And even our bog-standard Lunar missions have seen us pollute our Moon.  Just a few weeks ago, at the end of May, there was research published that we might have already significantly contaminated Lunar polar ice with water from Apollo lander exhaust and that the proposed Starship craft will further contaminate it to a far, far greater degree. This is going to make ascertaining the origin of Lunar water ice trapped in permanently shadowed areas quite difficult. (Already on Earth we have contaminated Antarctic ice with isotopes from atomic bomb testing which is why those of us looking at palaeoclimatology through ice cores define ‘the present’ as being 1950 – can’t use any ice since then [other than for cooling one’s gin and tonic (it’s a silver lining)].  Betcha didn’t know you lived in the future!)

So, this week’s BBC Radio 4 programme Siedways – the first in a four part series – on the ethics of the search for aliens and alien contact piqued my interest. (Even though the programme trailer mentioned ‘inter-galactic’ aliens… I’d settle for detecting interstellar techno aliens.) Anyway, you can decide how good the panel was for yourself…  Access the programme here: “BBC Radio 4 – Sideways, A New Frontier, A New Frontier: 1. A Message to Ourselves”.

(3) TCA 2024. There are two genre shows among the winners of the Television Critics Awards 2024. (Complete list at the link.) The winners were selected by the TCA’s membership of more than 230 TV journalists from across the United States and Canada.

  • Outstanding Achievement in Family ProgrammingDoctor Who (Disney+)
  • Heritage AwardTwin Peaks

(4) PEACE IN SFF. “C.S. Lewis, Sci-fi, and the Normality of Peace” by Peter Jacobsen at the Foundation for Economic Education.

…One of the easiest ways to understand what Lewis is doing in Out of the Silent Planet is to look at the context in which he is writing. The book was published in 1938, when sci-fi works like H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds dominated.

In an article “Rehabilitating H.G. Wells: C.S. Lewis’s ‘Out of the Silent Planet,’” author David Downing argues that much of what Lewis was doing in the Space Trilogy was challenging sci-fi tropes he found objectionable. He says the novel started when “Lewis and his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien agreed that there simply were not enough of their favorite sort of stories available [in the sci-fi genre], so they decided to try their own hand at it.”

Lewis goes out of his way to point out his debt to Wells in the novel, but it’s clear he disagrees with many Wellsian takes on sci-fi. One disagreement in particular stood out to me. Unlike the violent, malevolent Martians in The War of the Worlds, the extra-terrestrials in Lewis’s book are peaceful.

Brilliantly, Lewis makes it clear that the characters, like the reader, share the bias in assuming the creatures will be evil. The protagonist, Ransom, in his first encounter with one species of extra-terrestrial called the sorn, is repulsed and flees the scene. It didn’t help that Ransom was taken by other humans against his will. In that sense he had some reason to fear the sorn. But the only reason he was taken was that the other humans feared the sorn. The sorn simply wanted to talk, but the humans believed it was demanding a sacrifice.

As a reader, this point dawned on me slowly. The natives call the planet that Ransom lands on Malacandra, and there are several rational and animal species on the planet. As I read through the novel, I kept wondering, “Which of these is going to be the bad species? Which alien is the antagonist?”

Ransom shares this thinking. As he continues on the planet, he befriends a different species known as the hrossa who teach him the planetary language. In interacting with the hrossa, he tries to uncover which of the species on the planet rules the others. Which species is in control?

He slowly discovers that things are not as he expected. It isn’t the case that one species violently controls the others. Rather, each one specializes in a few things, and cooperates and exchanges with the others. This seems so foreign to Ransom that he’s skeptical that this could be true at first. However, he slowly discovers that the only hierarchy is a willing submission of all three species to the divine order.

As we continue through the book, Ransom soon discovers that the planet Malacandra is actually what we call Mars. Again, Lewis makes the contrast clear between his own works and works like The War of the Worlds. Mars, despite having been named by humans after the god of war, is a peaceful place.

The Martians are not violent invaders. Ransom asks about violent conflict: “If both wanted one thing and neither would give it… would the other at last come with force? Would they say, give it or we kill you?”

The Hrossa can’t understand why that would ever be necessary. Why would they want something like violence or war?

It’s a beautiful reframing of the issue. Peace is normal….

(5) STREET-LEGAL FLYING SAUCER. Of course, as Jacobsen says above, not everyone is prepared to encounter peace-loving aliens. “A UFO car drove cross-country. Officers thought it was out of this world” – behind a paywall in the Washington Post.

Adam Carnal, a deputy in Crawford County, Mo., wasn’t sure what he would find when he pulled over a flying saucer on Interstate 44 late last month. The vehicle had committed a lane violation, he said, and he wasn’t sure if it was allowed to be on the road in the first place.

As Carnal approached, he recalled the top of the cockpit lifting to reveal two people sporting green, alien-like glasses. The driver raised a hand and gave Carnal a Vulcan salute, the famous gesture from the TV series “Star Trek.”

“I come in peace,” Carnal said the man told him.

The traffic stop was one of four that lifelong alien-enthusiast Steve Anderson experienced during his multiday drive from Indianapolis to the Roswell UFO Festival in New Mexico. After being pulled over twice in Missouri and two more times in Oklahoma, he said, he was also welcomed to Roswell by officers who knew he’d be arriving, awaiting his lunar landing in the parking lot of his hotel.

“I thought, how cool would it be to get to ride in a flying saucer?” he said. “So since I don’t have the technology to make one that flies, I built a driving saucer.”…

…Anderson bought a tiny 1991 Geo Metro and rang up Dennis Bellows, a mechanic friend who had built a few other cars for him. Anderson asked Bellows if he could transform the Geo into a flying saucer, like the kind in old sci-fi movies….

…The car’s bubble-shaped top — adorned with an antenna — took an extra bit of ingenuity. Bellows ultimately warmed pie slices of plexiglass to form the contraption….

… Anderson is used to being stopped by law enforcement while he’s driving the space cruiser — one of roughly 45 cars he keeps at his home in Indiana. He said he often hands over a gag driver’s license identifying him as “Al Ien” and tells officers that he’s from the planet Krypton, before handing over his real identification….

(6) WILL THEY DOUBLE UP OR DOUBLE DOWN? The media asks, “Between ‘Gladiator II’ and ‘Wicked,’ is the new ‘Barbenheimer’ upon us?” Despite CNN’s fervent hope and best effort, the pairing doesn’t click the same way – and is missing a lyrical handle.

This year, two disparate, big-budget films will share a release date: One, an R-rated historical epic stacked with a starry cast of Oscar hopefuls. The other, a musical based on a beloved property with plenty of pink and a Billboard-friendly soundtrack.

Sound familiar?

With “Gladiator II” and the first part of “Wicked” sharing a release date, days before Thanksgiving, movie theaters are nearing their truest chance at another “Barbenheimer,” a viral phenomenon that in 2023 drove audiences to the movie theater by the millions, leaving a massive mark in pop culture and at the box office.

But what will we call it? “Gladiator II” star Paul Mescal thinks “Glicked” (pronounced glick-id) is the portmanteau that suits the prospective double feature best.

“’Wickiator’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?” he said in a new interview with Entertainment Tonight. “I think the films couldn’t be more polar opposite and kind of worked in that context previously, so fingers crossed people come out and see both films on opening weekend.”

But maybe we moviegoers (and Mescal) are getting ahead of ourselves. Tom Nunan, a lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV and the founder of the production company Bull’s Eye Entertainment, isn’t fully sold on “Barbenheimer” 2.0.

… It should be noted that after the smashing success of “Barbenheimer” summer, no release weekends have seen the same double-feature draw, though musings of “Saw Patrol” and “Garfuriosa” pairings did make the rounds online. Those were more jokes about how two seemingly incompatible films could reach the same audiences than genuine attempts at creating a viral trend — in no world does the über-graphic “Saw X” pair well with the kid-friendly “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie.”…

(7) SHANNEN DOHERTY (1971-2024). Actress Shannen Doherty, known in genre circles for Charmed, died July 13 of cancer at the age of 53.

…Doherty starred with Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano in “Charmed” from 1998-2001, at which point her character was replaced by one played by Rose McGowan…

She was best known for her work on Beverly Hills, 90210 and its reboots.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

July 14, 1939 Sid Haig. (Died 2019.) This Scroll, we come to honor not a performer who was known as a hero, one who was legendary mostly as a villain, Sid Haig, a role he played in fantasy, horror and SF. 

His most well-known role was as Captain Spaulding in the Rob Zombie films House of 1000 CorpsesThe Devil’s Rejects and 3 from Hell. Not for those easily offended, nor for those expected a storyline with a plot that make sense, the character is an icon of horror. SPOILER ALERT — Unlike Freddie Krugger, Rob Zombie has so far suggested this character is indeed dead. END SPOILER ALERT. Oh, and Spaulding is named for Groucho Marx’s Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding character from the Thirties Animal Crackers film. 

Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding

He had one major roles in SF, that being the evil Dragos on Jason of Star Command, the series James Doohan was. He appeared in every episode of the two seasons that series ran. Dragos, Jason’s main adversary, intends to rule the galaxy and it is up to Jason and the Star Command to stop him. Haig delightfully played him way over the top in the costume below.

Sid Haig as Dragos

He showed up in Star Trek in as First Lawgiver in “The Return of The Archons”.  I’m reasonably certain everyone here has seen it but if not, the plot is that Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the USS Archon on the planet Beta III, Kirk and his crew encounter an old-style Western community brainwashed and subservient to a sinister godlike figure called Landru. He was the First Lawgiver. 

The final role that I’m going to was on Batman in two episodes, “The Spell of Tut” and Tut’s Case is Shut”, he’s a minion on King Tut,  the enemy of Batman who created specifically created who was portrayed by Victor Buono as was this character, Royal Apothecary. As you can see, the costume that they gave was quite silly. 

Sid Haig as Royal Apothecary

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heart of the City finishes her Sunday crossovers.
  • Lio also has a crossover.
  • Thatababy sees some exotic birds.
  • Rubes reminds us wizards have discriminating palates.
  • Tom Gauld encounters declining standards.

(10) TINY L.A. “He built miniatures of LA buildings for fun. Now, Guillermo del Toro is among his fans” at LAist.

Many transplants come to Los Angeles to chase a dream. Kieran Wright kind of just stumbled onto his.

The New Zealander moved to the city about 8 years ago, with the humble goal of soaking in as much of L.A. as he could.

“I wanted to connect with the city as a local would, and I had so much catching up to do,” Wright said. “I started building this picture of L.A. that was different to the one that I had imagined, it turned out to be in the best way possible.”

Those quests took him on drives far and close to places famous and offbeat. Wright was fascinated with the diner, one staple in the American movies and TV shows he watched before moving to Los Angeles. It was at an icon of the genre, Rae’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, where his love for the city, architecture, and Americana all came together to nudge him to try out a hobby — to build miniature replicas of L.A. buildings that are as beautiful as they are painstakingly faithful….

…One of his career highlights, Wright said, came via a purchase notice he got on Twitter. The buyer was filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who would end up collecting several more pieces, including a mini replica of The Formosa Cafe, and The Jim Henson Company.

After Wright delivered the model to del Toro’s house, he asked the director to send him a photo of its final setting when he finds a place for it.

“Sure enough, a couple of days later, he sent me a photo of the miniature surrounded by everything in his house,” Wright said. “He’s got all sorts of interesting oddities and collectibles… and the art fits in there perfectly.”…

(11) STARLINKS IN WRONG ORBIT. [Item by Jeanne Jackson]. Last night [July 11], I watched a Starlink launch on the usual Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Space Patrol Base right after logging off from my Thursday night writers’ group meeting. Although the thing was hard to see owing to an intense shroud of pea-soup fog on the launching pad, the bird got off just fine. Except for the ground visibility problem (frequent in S. California), everything looked normal. There was a good bit of uncustomary frost on the upper parts of the second-stage engine, but the Spaceflight Now commentator (independent journalist, not part of Space X) thought it was probably harmless. The first stage landed perfectly on its drone barge in the Pacific Ocean.

 I went to bed last night with the erroneous idea that the launch was successful. The second stage had injected everything into orbit, and I’d never heard of Falcon 9 having any trouble with the later circularization burn, a 1 or 2 second shot upon reaching apogee. I entered the launch into the Log, sat down to watch two Perry Mason episodes, took Tillion (my dog) outdoors at midnight, and went to bed.

 Today, I found out otherwise. The 20 Starlink birds had indeed made into orbit—the wrong orbit. Indeed, it was the worst orbit possible short of getting listed as FTO (Failed To Orbit). The circularization burn had not taken place as planned. Instead, there was what the astronautics trade euphemistically calls a “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” of the upper stage motor. In plain English, the confounded thing blew itself to bits.

 Oops.

 I’ve made some changes in my Space Flight Log entries for these 20 Starlink satellites, of course.

 Independent sources tell me that the perigees of the twenty comsats were very, very low: mostly around 130-140 kilometers, with a few outliers around 115 and one up at 190. Apogees ran from 250 to 325 kilometers. This is not conducive to long spacecraft lifetime. 130 km is ~80 miles. It’s reported that Elon Musk ordered that the satellites save themselves by using their argon-ion maneuvering thrusters, but this is unlikely to be effective. It normally takes two weeks or more for these low-power, continuous-boost thrusters to move the satellites into their operating orbits, but the projected lifetimes of this bunch are probably measurable in days, if not hours. Each of them has a pair of solar panels giving a 30-meter wingspread, meaning gross quantities of atmospheric drag.

 In other words, Musk’s order is like Jim Kirk ordering Warp 9 when all Scotty has online is a single impulse engine in dire need of repair. Unlike in Star Trek, it ain’t gonna happen.

 I mentioned an anomalous frosty buildup on the 2nd stage engine, upstream of the combustion chamber. The current online buzz has it that this probably came from a small liquid oxygen leak. The frosty buildup may have accumulated enough to clog lines in the 40+ minutes between initial cutoff and reignition for the circularization burn, causing an explosion. The explosion was apparently of insufficient destructive force to prevent satellite deployment.

This has never happened before on a Falcon 9—it certainly isn’t a design flaw. Most likely, somebody goofed at some point during assembly of that upper stage, and nobody else caught the mistake. Either that, or some subcontractor supplied Space X with a faulty part (this has happened before), and no one in Space X tested the part properly prior to installation.

Most likely, the underlying cause of the failure was doing things in a hurry. The only good things about this incident are that astronauts were not involved, and no customer was discommoded by it—Starlink is an in-house operation of Space X. Just imagine what the public outcry would have been, had the payload been a billion-dollar space probe, space telescope, or reconnaissance satellite, paid for by taxpayers rather than corporate stockholders. Never mind the noise had it been a human flight mission.

In the past year or two, Space X has been emphasizing faster and faster launch tempos. Up to now, they’ve gotten away with it, but this is likely to draw them up short for at least a couple or three months while they track down the cause and come up with a remedy for it. Space is a harsh, hostile environment, and rocket science is unforgiving of mistakes.

Faster, better, cheaper—pick any two. And do it right, not do it Tuesday—if you want to deliver a product which satisfies your customers.

(12) PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS – MIND READING THE BRAIN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Nature comes news of brain scans now being sufficiently detailed that we can identify a single language word.  “Ultra-Detailed Brain Map Shows Neurons for Words’ Meanings”.

Ultra-detailed brain map shows neurons that encode words’ meaning. For the first time, scientists identify individual brain cells linked to the linguistic essence of a word…

To an extent, the researchers were able to determine what people were hearing by watching their neurons fire. Although they couldn’t recreate exact sentences, they could tell, for example, that a sentence contained an animal, an action and a food, and the order in which the words appeared…

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended takes us to the Villain Pub to contend with “A Despicable QUIET PLACE”.

Fallout, The Last of Us, A Quiet Place – so many apocalypse stories! So what happens when a Ghoul, a Clicker and Death Angel walk into a bar and what do the other villains think about them?

[Thanks to Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Jeanne Jackson, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Saint of Cat Doors” Dern.]

Mike Resnick Memorial Award for Short Fiction 2024 Finalists

Mike Resnick at Imaginales 2016 in France.

The finalists for the 2024 Mike Resnick Memorial Award for the best unpublished science fiction short story by a new author were announced on July 11.

The award is sponsored by Galaxy’s Edge (published by Arc Manor) and Dragon Con. The winner will be announced at Dragon Con during the annual Dragon Awards ceremony.

FINALISTS FOR THE 2024 AWARD

  • “When I was Your Age” by Sam Brown (United Kingdom)
  • “The Year of Pepsi Nova” by Pete Lead (New Zealand)
  • “What the Cat Dragged In” by Bailey Maybray (United States)
  • “Life in the Old Bones” by Scott M. Sands (Australia)
  • “The Green Ones” by Magda Smith (Unknown)

The first-place winner will get a trophy, a cash award of $250 and have their story bought (at the magazine’s prevailing rate) by Galaxy’s Edge for publication in the magazine. The second-place winner will be given a prize of $100 and the third-place winner a prize of $50.

The members of the finalist judging panel were Lezli Robyn, Sheree Renée Thomas, Jody Lynn Nye, and William B. Fawcett.

2024 Scribe Award Nominees

The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers today announced the nominees for the Scribe Awards for superior works published in 2023.

The IAMTW’s Scribe Awards honor excellence in the field of writing tie-in fiction for media franchises. These works include novels, short stories, audio dramas, and graphic novels tied to licenses of movies and TV shows, as well as video games, comics, songs, and even book series.

The winners will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con on July 26.

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL OR SPECULATIVE

  • Assassin’s Creed: Daughter of No One by Maria Lewis
  • Marvel’s Secret Invasion by Paul Cornell
  • Marvel’s Wastelanders: Star-Lord by Sarah Cawkwell
  • Ultraman by Pat Cadigan

AUDIO DRAMA

  • Doctor Who All’s Fair by Max Kashevsky
  • Doctor Who Face to Face by John Dorney
  • Doctor Who Pursuit of the Nightjar by Tim Foley
  • Doctor Who Sins of the Flesh by Alfie Shaw
  • Doctor Who Spirit of the Season by Georgia Cook

GRAPHIC NOVEL

  • The Expanse Dragontooth by Andy Diggle
  • The Mighty Nine Origins: Critical Role by Jody Houser
  • Red Rising by Rik Hoskin
  • Skull and Bones The Savage Storm by John Jackson Miller and James Mishler
  • Star Wars – The Nameless Terror by George Mann

ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL

  • Legend of the Five Rings: Three Oaths by Josh Reynolds
  • Murder, She Wrote: Fit for Murder by Jessica Fletcher & Terrie Farley Moran
  • Watch Dogs Legion: Cold Reboot by Robbie MacNiven

ORIGINAL NOVEL – SPECULATIVE

  • Assassin’s Creed: The Resurrection Plot by Kate Heartfield
  • Marvel Zombies: The Hunger by Marsheila Rockwell
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko by Derek Tyler Attico
  • Star Trek: Picard – Firewall by David Mack
  • Star Wars – The Eye of Darkness by George Mann

SHORT STORY

  • Unioverse “Singing a Deeper Song” by Tim Waggoner
  • Warhammer 40,000 “A Forbidden Meal” by Carrie Harris
  • Star Trek Deep Space Nine “Lost and Founder” by David Mack
  • Valdemar “Needs Must When Evil Bides” by Jennifer Brozek
  • Diablo “The Toll of Darkness and Light” by Jonathan Maberry
  • Kolchak the Night Stalker “Touch of Silk” by Deborah Daughetee
  • Star Trek: Discovery “Work Worth Doing” by Keith R.A. DeCandido

YOUNG ADULT / MIDDLE GRADE

  • Disney Chills: Circle of Ter-ROAR by Vera Strange
  • Disney Twisted Tales: Set in Stone by Mari Mancusi
  • Minecraft: Return of the Piglins by Matt Forbeck
  • Shadowrun: Auditions: A Mosaic Run Collection by Jennifer Brozek

IAMTW’S 2024 GRANDMASTER AND FAUST AWARD WINNER

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is also presenting the 2024 Faust Award for Grandmaster to James Reasoner.

A veteran writer with over four decades in the publishing industry, James Reasoner has written more than 350 novels and more than 100 short stories. Although perhaps best known for westerns, he has written across many genres from mystery to fantasy to science fiction. In addition, he’s penned essays, articles and reviews. He has contributed tie-in novels to the following series: Abilene, Longarm, Lone Star, Trailsman, Cody’s Law, Wagons West, Wind River, Stagecoach Station, and Tales from Deadwood. His non western tie-ins include The Dead Man series, Kolchak, and Walker Texas Ranger.

[Based on a press release.]

WSFS 2024: Three Standing Rules Change Proposals

INTRODUCTION. The deadline to submit proposals to the Glasgow 2024 Business Meeting was July 10. The formal agenda will be out soon, but in the meantime the movers of 15 submitted items have provided copies for publication and discussion on File 770. This is the final post in the series.

“No, We Don’t Like Surprises, Why Do You Ask?” adds to the Standing Rules a restriction that “No business may be submitted to the Business Meeting without prior notice for consideration at the same meeting of the Business Meeting without unanimous consent.”

“Strike 1.4” deletes the Standing Rule that limits when the Business Meeting may start and which requires a specific time gap between the Preliminary Business Meeting and the Main Business Meeting.

“Magnum P.I.” changes the Standing Rules to permit a “Motion to Postpone Indefinitely” to be made not just at the Preliminary Business Meeting but also the first time a main motion is brought before a Main Business Meeting.


SHORT TITLE: “NO, WE DON’T LIKE SURPRISES, WHY DO YOU ASK?”

Add rule 2.2.1 to the Standing Rules, as follows:

Rule 2.2.1: Emergency Business.  No business may be submitted to the Business Meeting without prior notice for consideration at the same meeting of the Business Meeting without unanimous consent. Any business which is submitted with unanimous consent for immediate consideration and adopted shall be subject to a motion to reconsider at the next day’s meeting of the Business Meeting, and said motion may be made and/or seconded by any member who voted against its passage or who was not present at the time.  No business may be brought up under this section on the final scheduled day of the Business Meeting.  Excepted from this shall be business presented to the Business Meeting by the Site Selection Administrator pertaining to that year’s Site Selection process and motions pertaining to the resolution of a disputed or failed Site Selection process.  Except as provided within, this rule shall not be subject to a suspension of the rules.

SPONSORS: Cliff Dunn, Kristina Forsyth, Erica Frank

DISCUSSION: This is a minimal change, but it is aimed at preventing a “surprise rules change” by the Preliminary Business Meeting, as happened in Chengdu.  The concept of “Notice to Absentees” is important, especially in the context of a convention with multiple conflicting tracks of business.  Basically, this would force any such business to the next day.  The sole carve-out is for Site Selection business — both for the potential adjudication of disputed ballots and the resolution of a disputed or failed Site Selection process.  The former is necessarily time-sensitive and the latter should be considered potentially noticed in the form of the “Site Selection Business Meeting”.


SHORT TITLE: “STRIKE 1.4”

Standing Rule 1.4 shall be struck in its entirety.

Rule 1.4: Scheduling of Meetings. The first Main Meeting shall be scheduled no less than eighteen (18) hours after the conclusion of the last Preliminary Meeting. No meeting shall be scheduled to begin before 10:00 or after 13:00 local time.

SPONSORS: Cliff Dunn, Kate Secor

DISCUSSION: Standing Rule 1.4 is the Standing Rule which both limits when the Business Meeting may start and which requires a specific time gap between the Preliminary Business Meeting and the Main Business Meeting.

We find Standing Rule 1.4 overly prescriptive in its constraints on the Business Meeting.  While it might be preferable to schedule meetings according to the directions contained in Standing Rule 1.4, as the last few Worldcons have shown, facility availability and business volume may not always align with this.  Whether it is the necessity of the Preliminary Business Meeting spilling into a second day’s session or the possibility that space availability might require “non-conventional” scheduling (e.g. an earlier start or split sessions within a single day with a planned break), Rule 1.4 doesn’t anticipate anything but “vanilla” scheduling.  We therefore propose eliminating it so as to remove those constraints.


SHORT TITLE: MAGNUM P.I.

Rule 5.3: Postpone Indefinitely. The motion to Postpone Indefinitely shall not be allowed at the Main Business Meeting, but shall be allowed at the Preliminary Business Meeting and the first time a main motion is brought before a Main Business Meeting. This motion shall have four (4) minutes of debate time and shall require a two-thirds (2/3) vote for adoption.

SPONSORS: Cliff Dunn, Jared Dashoff

DISCUSSION: At Discon in 2021, the Business Meeting was subject to heavier time constraints than usual across its first three days.  At Chicon in 2022, the business of the Preliminary Business Meeting spilled over into the first day of the Main Business Meeting due to a large amount of business being presented.  Combined with the wave of business this year, the possibility that business which might be respectfully but swiftly disposed of via Postpone Indefinitely might be unable to be disposed of thusly for no other reason than the Preliminary Business Meeting either being cut short or running over has emerged. Therefore, we propose to adjust the rules surrounding Postpone Indefinitely to allow it to be brought up at the “first pass” of any item of business.

Our hope is that this will be adopted with a 2/3 vote for immediate effect, given this year’s Business Meeting circumstances.


Interview With He Xi, 2024 Hugo Finalist

He Xi 何夕

INTRODUCTION: Eight Light Minutes(8LM) Culture of Chengdu has given permission for File 770 to reprint the series of interviews with Chinese science fiction writers which they have been running this week on Facebook. The third in the series is a question and answer session with He Xi, whose “Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet” is a finalist for the 2024 Hugo Award for Best Novella. He Xi was also a co-chair of the Chengdu Worldcon.

SUPPORTING CHINESE WRITERS SERIES: 2024 HUGO AWARD NOMINATION INTERVIEW WITH HE XI

Translated by Joseph Brant.

He Xi 何夕, real name He Hongwei, was born in December 1971, and has been a science fiction fan since childhood. He began writing Sci-fi as a hobbyist in 1991, with stories focus on exploring the future of macro-sciences and human nature. He is now a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association and the Sichuan Writers’ Association. His works include The Other Realm, Six Paths of Being, and The Heartbreaker. Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet is shortlisted for the 2024 Hugo Award for Best Novella.

Q1On The Afternoon (UK time) of the 29th of March , the 2024 Hugo shortlists were announced, including the works of five Chinese authors (as well as their relevant translators). Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet was shortlisted for Best Novella, alongside Wang Jinkang’s “Seeds Of Mercury”. This was a fantastic surprise for your readers, and we would like to congratulate you on the Nomination. How do you feel about being Shortlisted?

He Xi: I learned the news by email from the Hugo Award Committee, and felt both happy, and calm. The exchange between Chinese science fiction and the rest of the world is growing closer and closer, and in the future, we’ll see more Chinese Sci-fi in the Hugo Awards.

Q2This is an unprecedented moment in the history of the Hugo Awards, where outstanding works from three of the “Four Heavenly Kings of Chinese Sci-fi” have been simultaneously nominated, the fourth, Liu Cixin, having already won a Hugo. Could you explain this phrase ”The Four Heavenly Kings”?

He Xi: China’s sci-fi scene has had a long periodical era, and this phrase may have been in use for almost 20 years. There were certainly other names for the top writers, but this phrase has certainly been the most common. Where it originally came from is hard to say, but it should certainly be taken as high praise from the fans to the authors who were particularly prolific at the time. Personally, I feel it puts the pressure on me to keep writing something worthy of readers’ expectations.

Q3The original Chinese version of Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet was published 14 years ago, in 2010. What made this nomination possible? And how do you feel about that?

He Xi: Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet was nominated for its appearance in the book Adventures in Space: New Short Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers (Published by People’s Literature Publishing House), which collected works in translation by Chinese authors, alongside overseas writers. When the story was first published back in 2010, it won China’s Galaxy Award, as well as a Chinese Nebula Award. Science fiction has an ability to transcend cultural barriers, and resonate with everyone. There are very few good sci-fi translators out there, but I hope that situation will improve in the future.

Adventures in Space: New Short Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers) Featuring HeXi’s Life Does Not Allow Us To Meet

Q4Like much of your work, Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet is popular amongst the domestic audience, and the fact it has been selected for an overseas translation project shows its charm, and classicism, however, Overseas fans may not be familiar with the piece. Could you introduce your story, and tell us some of its inspiration?

He Xi: Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet was written in 2010, and explored the idea that Humans would have to leave the planet, in order to sustain life, but that sort of interstellar migration would inevitably lead to the alienation of humanity. In 2016, Elon Musk famously said “Humans need to be a multiplanet species”, making a similar point from a realistic perspective. The Galapagos Islands, which are only a few tens of kilometres apart, gave Darwin a glimpse of the development, and disconnection of different species in the same region. What would the distance of light years, and the vastly different geographies make of the interstellar migrant humans? Chauvinism, which originally referred to exaggerated patriotism and nationalism, is already part of the space age, and there’s no reason to believe that this notion of “Self-Supremacy” won’t extend to wider areas, and that Human-centricism won’t deepen, in the endless unknown environments of space, which are always accompanied by fear. Earth’s history is full of empires which have strived on aggression and power, that have largely failed, but it is also full of fallen leaders, who remained simple and honest. The call to the stars is irresistible, but on this path, mankind may thrive by its “tyranny”, or perish due to its “kindness”. It’s like facing a multiple choice question without any context. Human intelligence means we’ve begun to understand the structures of universe, but the ‘meaning’ is still closed to us. Perhaps the secrets will be revealed only once we’ve made our decisive choices, but who knows if, by then, there will still be a recogniseable ‘mankind’.

Q5Besides being called one of the “Four Heavenly Kings”, you were also once called “The Lyrical Prince” of Chinese Sci-fi, and in Chinese Science Fiction: An Oral History, Dong Renwei calls you “The premier of Romantic Sci-fi”. In short, your work usually has such delicate, and emotive descriptions, as in The Heartbreaker, Love Of Farewells and Pangu, all of which have moved many Chinese Sci-fi fans. Of course, you’ve also stated that the title “The premier of Romantic Sci-fi” is another burden for you to bear, so, what do you consider to be the role of emotion in science fiction, and in the debate between “soft” and “hard” Sci-fi? Is your work “Soft Sci-fi”?

He Xi: Emotions, such as love, friendship, and loss have always been important themes in literature, and science fiction, as part of literature, is certainly no exception. Since depictions of emotions can enhance the captivating nature of sci-fi, and sometimes deepen the thematic content. You mentioned The Heartbreaker for example, which readers say touched them with the depiction of motherly love. In reality, resources are always biased towards the strong, whilst mothers tend to have more compassion towards their weaker children. If scientific research could be compared to children, I hope society can learn from the mother. Here, emotion is no longer a garnish, but an intrinsic part of the story’s theme. I have never felt that the actual difference between “soft” and “hard” sci-fi is great enough to form them into two distinct camps, and that the majority of “Hard Sci-fi” has a much simpler intellectual content than most popular science books. I’m also of the opinion that many works, who’s technology is already very close to our reality, shouldn’t even be classed as sci-fi, like the film Gravity, which would be more accurately be described as a disaster, or survival movie.

Q6The plot of Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet contains a number of themes, such as catastrophes on earth, extra-terrestrial exploration, bioethics, and love. May I ask, how do you organically integrate all these, the emotional plots, Sci-fi elements, and deep reflections of technology and ethics, during the creative process?

He Xi: Storytelling, including the oral tradition, has a history of around tens of thousands of years. Science Fiction is a little over 200 years old, but still, in its brief lifespan, it has expanded the boundaries of literature greatly, with most of the areas explored by science fiction never having been touched by traditional literature. I was once asked whether I thought that future technology would change human nature. I answered yes, because so much of our current core humanity, such as loyalty to spouses, love of children, friendship and suspicion between collaborators, are all the result of the technological advances we have made since the age of hunting and gathering. Emotions, technology, and ethics are always intertwined in sci-fi, not because that’s what makes a good story, but because that’s the true nature of humanity in the current technological age.

Q7 Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet has been agented by Eight Light Minutes Culture and the film rights were snapped up a few years ago. I also know there were plans to produce a stage play. How are those going? We also hear Shanghai Film Group is interested in developing a series based on your work, and have opened up the licensing of several of your stories in the call for entries for the Global AI short film competition. What are your expectations for film and TV adaptations of your work? Are there any particular stories you want to see brought to the big screen? And what do you think of this current wave of AI creation?

He Xi: As the creator, of course I want my stories to become Film and TV series. Those are, after all, the media with the largest audience, but once you’ve signed over the copyright, the writer themselves don’t really have much say in the adaptation. Personally I’d like to see The Other Side, The Six Paths of Being, Pangu, The Heartbreaker, Life Does Not Allow and Years Of Heaven all make their way onto a screen sooner, rather than later. On the subject of AI, I’m an AI optimist, and personally, I think the threat of AI, or aliens, “actively” seeking to harm the human race is a very primitive fear. AI does not exist in the same ecological niche as humans. To robotic logic, the arid deserts of the Sahara are a better home than any human city, and the moon, or Mars, would be more hospitable than Earth. Food and water, which humans need, are just clutter and hazard to a robot, so from the point of view of competing for survival, robots are unlikely to ‘actively’ hunt us down. There’s also a popular idea about “unintentional harm”, that aliens or robots, with no active attempt to do so, may inadvertently wipe us out in achieving one of their goals. This scenario is practically identical to a natural disaster, such as a star going supernova, and the only way to combat natural disasters, is to enhance the capacity of humanity as a whole, which only AI can help with. There will be a general blurring of AI and humans at some point. Soon, Alzheimer’s patients will be restored to full health by implanted smart devices, and then, we’ll see healthy people implanting devices to improve their intelligence, so it’s almost inevitable. In the way that the Han dynasty chose to merge with the Xiongnu for a lasting peace, the merging of man and machine is also a foregone conclusion. In the future, there’ll be no pure human, or pure machine, the two factions will have long since become one, so why would robots be a threat to humanity?

Project Cold Plum (2021) based on He Xi’s The Heartbreaker

Q8The title of Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet is a reference to a poem by Du Fu, For My Old Friend, Weiba which is also the origin of your pen name. It opens with “Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet, Acting the stars of Shen and Shang. So what an evening this evening is, That together we share the light of one lamp?” What influence has classical Chinese literature had on your science fiction career?

He Xi: “What an evening this evening is” comes from the Classic of Poetry which precedes this. I feel lucky to have been born in China, because classical Chinese literature is a cornucopia of creativity. China’s long history, and rich culture contain so much nourishment I can use for my sci-fi.

Q9Set aside the lyrical nature of your work, many of them can be considered ‘High Tech Mysteries’, like A Visitor After a Billion Years, and The Darwin Trap, which are similar to the popular fiction of Ni Kuang. What do you think of your writing style?

He Xi: I don’t really think I have a fixed style. As science fiction continues to develop, diversity is an evident trend. Some of my work is in the popular genre of suspense, whilst others are far more works of realism, like The Heartbreaker and my novel Years Of Heaven. The style serves the subject.

Q10Science fiction in China has had a very turbulent history, and even Liu Cixin has pessimistically remarked “When science fiction is dying, nobody visits its sickbed” and that “Sci-fi is sailing on a sinking ship”. You yourself have abandoned the genre several times due to changes in your circumstances. How do you judge the current state of sci-fi in China?

He Xi: Actually, Liu Cixin himself said later that the flourishing of Chinese science fiction had altered his view, but in general, sci-fi is not yet fully thriving in China, and only a small number of works and authors gain the public’s attention. Currently the mainstream of Chinese science fiction is mostly concerned with reality, whilst Western Sci-fi explores the ultimate issues, which probably has something to do with the different levels of socio-economic development.

Q11What cutting edge technologies interest you at the moment? And what sort of Sci-fi stories do you feel we really need right now?

He Xi: I’m most interested in the areas of science and technology that can bring tangible benefits to a country with a large population, like China. Energy. Food. Important breakthroughs in Medicine, like anti-aging and artificial wombs. As for which kind of sci-fi story is needed right now? I’d say as many different kinds as possible. Sci-fi is supposed to be the freest domain of the imagination, so should be unrestrained.

Q12You’ve been living and working in Zigong, Sichuan all along. What sort of place is it? It’s much smaller than Beijing and Shanghai and lacks that cultural atmosphere. What are the advantages and disadvantages for you as a writer, especially 20-30 years ago, when the internet wasn’t so developed?

He Xi: It’s just an ordinary old industrial city, though it’s now known for its dinosaur fossils, and growing Sichuan cuisine industry, but before the internet… Living in a small inland city did affect my creativity. I actually got the internet in the late 90’s, due to the work I used to do, and sci-fi writing in particular requires an understanding of lot of very disparate subjects.

Q13What about the way you write now? Do you find that the ways you work and focus different from before?

He Xi: The way I write now is just fine. My biggest problem is time, and the main thing I need to focus on is breaking through to write something new.

Q14Science fiction fans are very interested in the Years Of Heaven trilogy of novels you’ve been working on. How is that going? And what do you feel is the biggest difficulty in shifting from short works to novels?

He Xi: Years Of Heaven 2 is almost finished. The sci-fi long form is a difficult genre to work in because it requires a lot of intricate and original science-fictional concepts and ideas, which is completely different conceptually from traditional literature.

Years Of Heaven by He Xi

Q15In Chinese Science Fiction: An Oral History, you mention that print publishing is of the greatest symbolic significance to Chinese science fiction. In the new 2024 China Science Fiction Industry Report, the industry is valued at over 100 billion RMB, but within that, only 3% is from print publication, with the majority coming from games, theme parks, merchandise and movies. What do you think about that phenomenon? Do you play games yourself?

He Xi: the phenomenon has to be accepted. It’s not just a malady of the sci-fi world, since the invention of film and TV, the numbers of people who read for pleasure has decreased. I do play computer games, sometimes, but I feel games are getting bigger and bigger, often needing hundreds of gigabytes of storage to run. The graphics keep getting better and better, but there seem to be fewer excellent titles.

Q16Which of your works are your favourite?

He Xi: That’s more appropriate for my readers to answer.

Because Of Love, I Persevered, by He Xi, published in Chinese Science Fiction: An Oral History, vol. 2 by Eight Light Minutes, Chengdu Times Press

Q17As Co-chair of the last Worldcon, held in Chengdu, what do you think about the values of promoting Worldcon and the Hugo Awards in China?

He Xi: Worldcon, held in China in 2023 was a great success, and countless Chinese people outside the Sci-fi circle learned about it, and enjoyed the culture of Science Fiction through The Hugo Awards, A world class Sci-fi award, the resulting positive influence of which, will be felt for years to come. We often say that science and technology are the first productive forces, but these are not themselves natural products. It is the creativity of human thought that brings science and technology into existence, which means that creativity and imagination are the true original productive forces. Promoting Sci-fi culture in China helps improve scientific literacy throughout its population, and helps build an innovative country.

Q18Would you like to say anything to the readers and Sci-fi fans around the world about your nomination for the Hugo Awards?

He Xi: I wrote a message last year, as the Co-chair of Chengdu Worldcon, and I’d like to quote a paragraph here, as my reply.

“Science Fiction knows no bounds. Science Fiction embraces all. Science Fiction is beloved by all mankind. Nowadays, Giant telescopes, built by human beings, can observe the starry sky 10 billion light years away, but the more we learn about this vast universe, the more we can appreciate the immense preciousness of the earth. For ten thousand years, mankind has wreaked havoc on the face of this planet, with the unprecedented power of technology. Now we face a critical crossroads, and the choices we make now, will affect us for our entire future. Science Fiction has given us the chance to explore history and extrapolate the future through thousands of profound thought experiments, to break through our darkness and embrace the light. To become the best versions of ourselves, and help our planet last a little longer.”

WSFS 2024: And The Horse You Rode In On

INTRODUCTION. The deadline to submit proposals to the Glasgow 2024 Business Meeting was July 10. The formal agenda will be out soon, but in the meantime the movers of 15 submitted items have provided copies for publication and discussion on File 770.

“And The Horse You Rode In On” proposes to permanently bar any Hugo Administrator who disqualifies a nominee for a reason outside those in the Constitution and allows the category to be run without them shall be barred thereafter from participating in the award administration. There also are sanctions provided against a Worldcon committee that keeps such a person in the administrative role.


SHORT TITLE: AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON

Add Section 3.14 as follows:

Section 3.14: Disqualification of Administrator.  Any Hugo Administrator, or other person ultimately responsible for administering the Hugo Awards, who disqualifies an otherwise-eligible nominee for a reason other than one found in this Constitution and who thereafter allows the category to be run without them shall thereafter be barred from participating in the administration of the Hugo Awards.  Any Worldcon Committee which appoints such a person to a role administering the Hugo Awards and does not remove them upon being informed of their ineligibility shall be deemed to have declared themselves incapable under Section 2.6 of this Constitution. Should a Worldcon Committee decline to delegate authority to a Subcommittee under Section 3.13, the Convention Chair(s) shall be considered responsible under this section alongside the Hugo Administrator and be sanctioned accordingly.

SPONSORS: Cliff Dunn, Kevin Sonney, and Kristina Forsyth

DISCUSSION: As things stand, there are a lot of proposed rules restricting a Hugo Administrator from throwing things off the ballot.  However, most of these lack consequences for the party responsible for the problem.  With this proposal, we aim to change that.
Bluntly, if we could bar the person(s) responsible for the 2023 fiasco from being involved in the Hugo Awards for the rest of time, we would do so.  However, ex post facto laws are a bad thing and we’re not willing to open up that can of worms.  So we’ve settled on proposing this going forward: If anything like what happened with the 2023 Hugo Awards happens again, the Hugo Administrator is done with the Hugo Awards and future conventions are on notice that they are to be barred, on pain of being unseated.  If a convention fails to delegate authority to a subcommittee under Section 3.13 of the Constitution (we would suggest that any direct interference on their part would constitute not having delegated that authority), then the Convention Chair is also deemed to have had the authority to intervene and to have failed to do so.  We don’t expect this to come up – this has, to our knowledge, been done every year for many years – but we felt it important to address this possibility.

We don’t want to go further than this – there are people who will serve on the relevant committee in a ministerial role but make no formal decisions, and we don’t want to get into the question of who had what power and who didn’t.  However, the head of the committee/Hugo Administrator, regardless of their title, should be deemed to have that power and thus if this decision is made, they own it.  If they have an underling who they cannot stop from doing so, then they need to resign rather than permit such an abuse of the process continue in their name.

WSFS 2024: When We Censure You, We Mean It

INTRODUCTION. The deadline to submit proposals to the Glasgow 2024 Business Meeting was July 10. The formal agenda will be out soon, but in the meantime the movers of 15 submitted items have provided copies for publication and discussion on File 770.

“When We Censure You, We Mean It” proposes that someone censured by the WSFS Business Meeting shall be ineligible to participate in bidding or running a WSFS convention for a specified period. A bid which names such a person on their committee shall be ineligible to appear on the Site Selection ballot or be written in. A seated Worldcon committee that includes such a person, even as a guest, shall be deemed incapable and its site selection and Hugo administration functions will be assumed by the following seated Worldcon.


SHORT TITLE: WHEN WE CENSURE YOU, WE MEAN IT

Moved to amend the WSFS Constitution by adding the following text:

Section 4.X: Bid and Convention Committee Eligibility

4.X.1: No person who has been censured by the WSFS Business Meeting shall be eligible to participate in bidding for or administering a WSFS-selected convention or any associated responsibilities, for a period of five (5) years or until the censure is lifted, whichever is longer.

4.X.2: Any bid naming a censured person on their committee shall become ineligible to appear on the Site Selection ballot or for selection by write-in vote. Any Worldcon committee naming a censured person on their staff at any level or as a named guest shall be deemed incapable and their WSFS business functions (site selection and Hugo administration) shall be assumed by the following seated Worldcon.

SPONSORS: Kate Secor, Kristina Forsyth, Terri Ash, Kevin Sonney

DISCUSSION: Right now, being censured by WSFS has no actual practical effect. Let’s make it mean something.

WSFS has historically been reluctant to censure people, which means that the bar to doing so is extremely high, and when we do it, it should have some kind of real-world effect. This sets up what seems like a proportionate response to the level of malfeasance required for a censure.