Written by Maja Sierocinska
Literature awards belong to the Chinese in recent times. A year after Liu Cixin won the best novel prize, Hao Jingfang, 32, has won Hugo prize for her urban tale novella, Folding Beijing. One of other authors running for the prize with his work was Stephen King but Jingfang eliminated everyone else with her work.
Astrophysics and writing?
She’s more than just an author – Hao holds a PhD in economics as well as a degree in astrophysics. Recently, Audi’s branch in China hired her as its spokesperson. Together, they created an ad which many people compare to Hollywood’s sci-fi hit Interstellar for using existentialism to promote their cars, as well as the movie’s soundtrack that is playing in the video.
According to rumours, she wrote her novella in only three days. On the daily basis, she’s a full-time mother of a three-year-old, as well as an economic advisor to Chinese government.
Hao also notes that when she received the Hugo award in 2016, the rest of writing prizes went to female authors as well. That breaks the outdated belief that most of sci-fi authors – particularly well-selling ones – are men.
The major theme of Hao’s sci-fi novella is inequality of the future world. Its themes translate into current times as well, perhaps more in a role of a warning about what could come. As she said, in her work she tried to tackle problems coming from technological progress of the world, unemployment, and automation. Hao jokes that she hopes that the grim prospects shown in her novella don’t end up becoming reality.
The story focuses on a tale of a city divided into three classes, each with smaller access to resources. Instead of well-known in Sci-Fi theme of rebellion, it’s written around a single hero on a quest to make his daughter’s life better. It’s a simple, yet very heart-gripping concept.
Her novella, originally written in 2012 and published in 2014, has been translated into English by Ken Liu. You can read it on Uncanny Magazine.
Winning Hugo prize is only the first stop on Folding Beijing‘s road to fame. In the first half of 2017, Hao announced that her novella will be adapted into a movie by American-Korean screenwriter, Josh Kim. He wasn’t the only one who wanted to take Hao’s dystopian sci-fi to the big screen – but after talking with few of the interested directors, she felt like Kim was the best choice. The date of release remains unknown.