Genre continues expansion in global web novel industry
Chinese sci-fi 2022’s rising star
Published: Jan 04, 2023 11:18 PM
Chinese sci-fi <em>The Three-Body Problem</em> are on sale at Yurindo bookstore in Meguro of Tokyo, Japan, July 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Guo Wei)

Chinese sci-fi "The Three-Body Problem" are on sale at Yurindo bookstore in Meguro of Tokyo, Japan, July 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Guo Wei)

Sci-fi web novels saw an uptick in quality in 2022 and the online literature industry has been booming over the past few years, according to a Tuesday report about the Chinese online literature industry in 2022 from China Literature, a subsidiary of tech giant Tencent Holdings.

The results of voting for the best web novels of 2022 on, a major Chinese online literature website, were revealed in the report. According to the rankings, five of the top 10 works featured sci-fi settings or elements, the report said.

The amount of sci-fi works is not the only thing increasing in China, the number of writers in the genre has also been on the rise. The report noted that many popular writers dipped their toe into the waters of the genre on the platform in the first half of 2022, and the success of these works has encouraged more writers to try their hand.

"By May 2022, the number of new writers and new works on the sci-fi channel on the Qidian platform had increased by more than 112.5 percent compared with 2021, and nearly 70 percent of new writers chose a sci-fi theme for their first creation," the report wrote.

Chinese writers are taking the reins off their imagination and creativity in their sci-fi worlds. Newly-created sci-fi works cover increasingly diverse narrative perspectives, including surviving apocalypses, future worlds, interstellar civilizations, evolutionary superpowers, time travel and super advanced technology. 

Sci-fi has been one of favorite genres among Chinese creators in recent years, not only in the online literature industry but also in other creative sectors such as animation and live action film.

The success of a series of sci-fi works such as the film Wandering Earth and the animated streaming series Capsule shows the unlimited possibility of Chinese sci-fi content creators.

"Due to technological advancements, especially the continuous upgrading of film production technology, sci-fi film and TV producers can present more and more wonders. These works, as well as novels that need imagination to write, to some extent also embody a country's comprehensive strength. So the popularity of sci-fi can be seen as a form of national pride and confidence among Chinese people," Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based cultural critic, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The overseas influence of original Chinese sci-fi stories has been increasing as these novels have gained a larger amount of foreign readers on online literature platforms around the world and brilliant works, such as The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, are being adapted for international streaming platforms like Netflix. 

According to a press release from China Literature, Qidian's international platform published around 2,600 translations of original Chinese web novels from 2018 to June 2022 and the platform has trained nearly 300,000 overseas writers who published about 420,000 original works.

In 2021, more than 10,000 Chinese online literature works were exported overseas, earning more than 3 billion yuan ($435 million). Additionally, there are roughly 145 million users on Chinese online literature platforms around the world, according to the China Writers Association.

According to a report by a Xinhua News Agency think tank, Chinese online literature has expanded from Asia and North America to Europe and Africa.