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Chang Shi-Kuo

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1944-    ) Chinese author and lecturer in computer science (see Computers), in Taiwan from circa 1949, in the USA from 1966 and a long-standing professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Chang was the founding editor of the academic journals Visual Languages & Computing and Software Engineering & Knowledge Engineering, co-editor of Distance Education Technologies, and effectively became his own publisher when he founded the Knowledge Systems Institute in 1978. Chang has been published in a wide range of genres and modes; science fiction forms only a small fragment of his output, which also extends to collections of essays and several English-language software engineering textbooks. His sf first gained international attention when his Qi Wang (1975, trans Ivan David Zimmerman as Chess King 1986), was adopted as a language textbook for teaching Chinese. The titular "Chess King" is a child prodigy whose abilities at Chess are greatly augmented by Psi Powers that allow him to predict his opponent's next move (see Children in SF). Chang's story is framed as a cautionary tale, as unscrupulous television moguls try to use the power to manipulate the stock market (see Money). The educational connection made Chang's work a memorable first encounter for many students of Chinese, and has led to his work receiving significant subsequent attention from academics. In a moment of disciplinary hybridity, his "Mogui de Shiyige Mingzi" ["A Billion Names of the Demon"] (June 2003 Kexueren) was even published in the Taiwanese edition of Scientific American.

Chang's keynote work is his Planetary Romance Cheng ["The City"], beginning with the short story "Tongxiang Cheng" (1980 United Daily News; trans as "City of the Bronze Statue"). This is readable both as a re-run of Chinese Mythology and also as an allegory of the Politics that has split modern China and turned Taiwan from a Japanese colony into the last redoubt of a government in exile. In history as in Chang's fiction, rival colonial powers squabble over a territory, largely ignoring the protests of the aborigines who were there before them both. Imperialism itself comes under fire in Chang's tales of the titular Sunlon city, Far Future capital of the Dying Earth of HuHui, once the centre of a Galactic Empire, now occupied by the victorious Shan enemy (see Ruins and Futurity). The trilogy charts the beginning of a resistance movement, and its eventual split into rival factions, in disagreement about the role that the planet's native species might play in the conflict (see Cities). The dynamic between stasis and change is radically different from that experienced in Western sf – that which is monolithic and that which is melodramatically volatile changing places constantly in ways deeply, as it were, Alien to Western readers, in a manner quite likely analogous with Western responses to narratives of the history of China – and the overall effect is estranged but intimate.

Note: Although his name is romanized as Zhang Xiguo in the Pinyin system as now adopted by the People's Republic of China, Chang was born in the Republic of China, and raised in its last bastion, Taiwan. The Taiwanese system more haphazardly renders his name as Chang Hsi-kuo, and the author's preferred romanization seems to be Chang Shi-kuo, although he is also occasionally credited as S K Chang. Hence, while we render his "real" name as Zhang Xiguo in Pinyin, as per our style guide, it is very unlikely indeed that he, or any of his readers, would ever employ that variant. [JonC/JC]

Zhang Xiguo

born Chongqing, China: 1944

works (selected)


Cheng ["The City"]

  • Wu Yu Die ["Five Jade Disks"] (Taipei: Knowledge Systems, 1983) [Cheng: binding unknown/]
  • Longcheng Feijiang ["Defenders of the Dragon City"] (Taipei: Knowledge Systems, 1986) [Cheng: binding unknown/]
  • Yi Yumao ["Tale of a Feather"] (Taipei: Knowledge Systems, 1991) [Cheng: binding unknown/]
    • The City Trilogy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003) [omni: trans of the above three by John Balcom: Cheng: hb/Peter Grant]

individual titles

  • Qi Wang ["Chess King"] (Taipei: Huang Fan, 1975) [binding unknown/]
    • Chess King (Singapore: Asiapac, 1986) [trans of the above by Ivan D Zimmerman: pb/]
  • Xingyun Zuqu ["Nebula Suite"] (Taipei: Huang Fan, 1980) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Yequ ["Nocturne"] (Taipei: Knowledge Systems, 1985) [coll: binding unknown/]

nonfiction (selected)

works as editor

  • Death of the Sea (Taipei: Chu Wenshui, 1978) [anth: of foreign sf: binding unknown/]


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