Deep Sea Fish by Chi Hui, Translated by Brian Bies, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018

Chi Hui is best known for as the longtime editor of Chinese SF magazine, Science Fiction World–which is the most widely read SF magazine in the world and at one time boasted a circulation of over 300,000 subscribers. In the years since she left her post, the magazine has fallen on hard times due to her successor editor-in-chief who had no idea what he was doing and drove the magazine into the ground. Last reported circulation for the magazine was 130,000, which is still a ton, but that’s a huge drop.

Anyway, this piece is an SF survival story about the human will to explore beyond the confines of what we know. While on its surface it looks like a space opera in which giant ice sculptures and carvings and buildings that were found on Titan–the only evidence of an extraterrestrial race–are being destroyed in the name of terraforming the planet. However, there multiple colonies on this planet and the first ever born and bred generation has finally come to adulthood. This creates tension in the sense that, all they know are the domed colonies, and the terraforming project will drastically change the planet forever and even make it into a place these “locals” will not recognize. I think this piece is about colonialization, as much as exploration. I think it’s about how indigenous people are so often the collateral damage of “progress,” though the humans who live on the planet are not necessarily indigenous–but they know nothing else, no other way to live.

I really like all the Chinese SF translations that have been cropping up lately. There’s obviously some really great stuff coming out of the country despite the sensor. This story, however, felt a little stilted in terms of the translation. There were definitely some awkward sentences, and I never really felt connected to the characters–there was a lot of summary. Overall, the piece had an interesting idea, but I wasn’t really that into it. (C-)


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