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Big-name authors back rebellion at Chinese sci-fi magazine

China's leading science-fiction authors have joined mounting calls for the removal of the head of the country's best-loved science-fiction magazine, and warned of the journal's imminent demise if no action is taken.

Editors of Science Fiction World (SFW) have published an open letter online, claiming their president, Li Chang, is incapable of running the magazine and requesting his removal from the post.

Such editorial rebellions are rarely heard of in China as the publication sector is firmly controlled by the Communist Party and the president or editor-in-chief of a magazine is appointed by the superior administrative department.

The open letter has prompted hundreds of thousands netizens to comment on the Internet in support of the editors.

SFW had a circulation of 150,000 copies a month when Li took over at the beginning of 2009, but the latest figures showed the figure has fallen to 130,000, said a senior editor of the magazine.

"The circulation had been declining in recent years. We are all anxious, but Li took no positive action and it kept declining," said the editor.

Li was appointed SFW's president and chief editor by the Sichuan Association for Science and Technology (SAST), an organization of scientists and technicians under the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China.

"This is obviously a case of a layman leading the experts. If it continues, Science Fiction World will definitely die," said Wang Jinkang, a six-times winner of China's prestigious Galaxy Award for science fiction.

Wang, 62, the author of 20 science fiction books, including Life of Ants and Cross, a novel about an extremist biological warfare attack on the United States, is one of the most popular sci-fi writers in China and began writing for SFW in 1993.

China's biggest-selling science fiction writer, Liu Cixin, who has a contract to publish his next novel with the editing studio jointly run by SFW and Sichuan Science and Technology Publishing House, said he had seen thousands of fan comments online and had been deeply touched by them.

"I really hope SFW can overcome the current difficulties. 'Live long and prosper,'" said Liu.

"Science Fiction World is a hotbed of China's imagination. It has a large readership. It would be a great loss for the country if something happened to the magazine," said Wu Yan, a leading science fiction writer and critic.

"Sci-fi is an important genre, which plays an irreplaceable role in inspiring thinking and enthusiasm for science," he said.

"Science fiction is a special genre that demands expertise to be a chief editor," said Pan Haitian, chief editor of a fantasy magazine called Odyssey of Chinese Fantasy and popular author of the short story collection Run, Dajiao! Run and The Legend of Master Yan. The 35-year-old has sold more than 500,000 books.

A former editor of the SFW, Shi Bo, whose pen name is Storyteller, wrote in a post, "Save SFW, for the sake of Chinese science fiction," following the open letter at douban.com.

"I have contacted most of the sci-fi writers in Beijing. We are trying to figure out a way to better support the SFW editors," he said.

Writers, including China's science-fiction patriarch Liu Xingshi, He Xi, and young authors such as Chen Qiufan and Fei Dao have all expressed support for the SFW editors.

"SFW does not belong to anybody. It has become a treasure of the world in the past 30 years. Its leader should be elected from the experienced editors, which we used to do all the time," said 79-year-old Liu Xingshi who began to publish novels in 1945 and was a founder writer for SFW.

"The magazine is of great significant for the readers. We grew up reading it," said writer Xia Jia, 26, author of "Reversed Journey."

"I began to read sci-fi when I was 7 or 8 years old and I first came across Science Fiction World when I was a teenager. I really hope the dispute will not hurt the magazine. I hope Science Fiction World can survive this crisis," she said.

The open letter, which described Li Chang as "unprofessional" and his instructions as "arbitrary and impracticable," is signed "All the editors of Science Fiction World" and was published under the ID, "Rise to Fight," on douban.com on Sunday.

It said Li had "whimsical new ideas -- ordering his Chinese literature editors to write novels themselves instead of writers, foreign language editors to translate novels themselves instead of specialist translators, and art editors to draw pictures themselves instead of artists, which shows he has no idea how to run a magazine."

Source: Xinhua
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