Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang
Ever since the epic series of novels “A Song of Ice and Fire” written by American fantasy author George Martin began being published in the 90s, they have become classics in the fantasy genre of literature. However, it took until April 2011 for the U.S. to finally put out the television series. Because these books were not well-known among the Chinese public previous to this, the television series rapidly and unexpectedly surged to a popular craze on China’s internet. Although its viewership is impossible to calculate precisely, suffice to say one thing about it: The Chinese translations of “A Song of Ice and Fire” (Volumes 1-4), published in 2005 by the Chongqing Publishing House, are already completely sold out, and copies are going on Taobao for as much as 2210 yuan. In December 2011, the Chinese version of the first volume of these novels, “A Game of Thrones,” was reprinted. As soon as it hit the market it was widely sought after by a large number of readers; sales soared, causing it to jump into place among the top five best-selling novels in China. A fifth volume of “A Song of Ice and Fire” is reported to have been published in the original English, and the remaining two volumes will gradually be introduced to China in due course.
Not only has “A Song of Ice and Fire” done well; to date, the “Harry Potter” fantasy series by British author J.K Rowling continues to sell more than 20,000 books each week on such Chinese online retail networks as Dangdang and Zhuoyue. Perhaps the sustained popularity of fantasy novels in China is benefited by restrictions imposed by Chinese television and film agencies on fantasy films and shows. In China, the related departments stipulate that more than 65% of television shows must contain real-life subject matter. On top of this, although China’s film-making technology has enjoyed great progress, its screenwriting, directing, and production teams have a long way to go to catch up, and this has created a vacuum in the market. Apart from fantasy novels from the West, another way to meet the demand from readers is this: online novels.
Fantasy novels in China can be divided into two categories. One is called Western Fantasy, and involves Chinese authors writing in emulation of Western works. This kind of fiction integrates Western magic, Chinese martial arts and plots, and Japanese APG, and there is much space for imagination. Western fantasy fiction includes “Swallowed Stars” by I Eat Tomatoes, Heaven Silkworm’s “Struggle for the Sky,” and so on. “Struggle for the Sky” is without a doubt the most popular dark fantasy novel to come out in China over the past two or three years. It tells the story of a boy genius who, after having created a record of his clan’s unique martial arts style, suddenly becomes useless. Right at the point of despair, a ghostly strand emerges from inside the ring on his finger, and a new door opens in front of him. This novel’s final chapter was finished in July of 2011, and the eponymous online game adapted from it has been deeply loved by gamers. Though this novel was only published in 2010, to this day it has already been searched in internet search engines more than a million times. “Swallowed Stars” tells the story of a war between alien beasts and a race of people on a lifeless planet on which exist veins of a rare type of ore. In the summer of 2011, it was recommended for three months in a row as one of the top two by Chinese Monthly Network Clicks. Under the current censorship system in China, it is very difficult to publish hardcopies of Western fantasy fiction; however, these books are dominating the market on the internet and through wireless handheld devices. Top-notch online authors are making royalties that far outstrip those of traditional authors.
The other category derives its source material from traditional Chinese culture, and is called Eastern fantasy. In the hardcopy book market, these novels do well against Western classics. Examples include Xiao Ding’s “Execution of the Immortals,” Shuxia Yehu’s “Searching for the Gods,” Cang Yue’s “Mirror” series, and so on. “Execution of the Immortals” is about a male protagonist who is taught magic by a senior monk and goes to defeat the Ghost King. After he is parted from the girl he loves, they reunite. “Searching for the Gods” borrows from ancient Chinese mythology; in this book, the male protagonist worships a god emperor named Min Chuyao. And in “Mirror,” a female protagonist hides from the chaos of the world; while on a long and arduous journey to find the home of her dreams, she encounters many a bizarre character and vies with them. This is all woven together into a very poignant and touching fable.