In late July a new science fiction magazine entered the Chinese marketplace. Science Fiction Story joins established monthlies Science Fiction World and King of Science Fiction in the quest for the eyes of high-school and college age SF fans. With the formidable distribution network of the Comic Fans Culture brand behind it, not to mention a stable of popular authors and illustrators, SF Story seems poised to challenge the dominance of SFW.
Zhwj of the English language Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy website corresponded with one of the editors over email at the end of August. Long Yan (a pen-name meaning “Dragonflame”) discusses brand building, story selection, and other issues related to launching a magazine.
zhwj: What is your goal in publishing Science Fiction Story? The Chinese science fiction world already has a few SF magazines, so how did you decide to establish a new one? What makes Science Fiction Story different?
Long Yan: The goal of publishing, hmm, or I should say, the goal apart from the ultimate purpose of the investors — aside from making a profit — we also want to make the Science Fiction Story magazine into a literary brand; we gain economic benefit, and at the same time, create the best possible platform for domestic science fiction.
You could say that science fiction magazines on the mainland are few and far between; Sichuan’s Science Fiction World and Shanxi’s Science Fiction King are the only magazines established in the marketplace with an appreciable readership. The prospects for Chinese science fiction, or more precisely, the science fiction market, are considerable.
China’s large population makes for a huge base of readers. We are optimistic about this, and believe that Science Fiction Story magazine can be run successfully and become better along the way. Science Fiction Story magazine is in its first stages now, so certain immaturities are still evident. We are still trying hard.
Our magazine’s mission is to become China’s leading science fiction magazine. In the face of commercialization, we will do our utmost to run experimental and stylistically varied science fiction and fantasy.
zhwj: What is Science Fiction Story‘s ideal reader?
Long Yan: At present our targeted readers are between 14 and 18 years old, but judging from the current selection of stories, the upper limit of our potential readership should be increased to 20 years old.
zhwj: Will Science Fiction Story run comics? Poetry? Drama? Criticism? Foreign SF?
Long Yan: Science Fiction Story magazine is supported by the distribution organization of Comic Fans Culture of Guangzhou; the Comic Fans series of magazines primarily run news about comics and animation as well as original domestic comics. Science Fiction Story has plans to run some science fiction comics, but because there are no appropriate SF comic stories at present, that department is still vacant. We have a criticism column; in the first issue, I, Robot is a criticism piece. This year, Science Fiction Story magazine plans to publish an anthology of outstanding Chinese science fiction stories from 2000 to 2004, as well as a series of volumes collecting the best SF short stories of ten individual authors. For foreign science fiction we are currently arranging the appropriate rights and permissions; I believe that before long, the outstanding works of foreign writers will be found in Science Fiction Story.
zhwj: It seems that a few of the writers in Science Fiction Story are often found on online discussion boards. What is your magazine’s view of online science fiction?
Long Yan: Hmm, I’m not sure which writers you are referring to. Practically all of our writers have issued pieces online, but perhaps the most well-known among them are Jin He Zai and Pan Haitian. Online science fiction is a mix of good and bad. When we accept or commission stories, we will carefully consider a writer’s language style and literary quality, trying to select pieces as well-suited to our readership as possible. Online science fiction is relatively lacking in discipline, and even more informal. We hope that many more writers will enter into the creation of science fiction. The internet is a good stage for writers to receive criticism and support, and to improve quickly.
zhwj: Will there be advertisements in the eighty pages of Science Fiction Story?
Long Yan: There certainly will be advertisements, but we will do our best to limit them to provide more space for writing. It is our hope that this will be an outstanding magazine with stories of superior quality and elegant style.
zhwj: Your magazine currently has a book publication number, but no periodical number. Will this influence your circulation?
Long Yan: Science Fiction Story uses a book number to publish at present, and is set as a bimonthly periodical for the time being. Our reason for using the book number is that book numbers have no time limit, so the publication time can be kept flexible. Science Fiction Story was previously known as Comic Fans Culture’s Science Fiction Pictorial, so we can change to a periodical number at any time we wish.
This interview was translated from Chinese by zhwj