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Gu Junzheng

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1902-1980) Chinese author and translator whose handful of genre works represented the bulk, indeed almost all, Chinese sf published in the troubled 1930s, with the exception of Lao She's Maocheng Ji ["A Record of the City of Cats"] (1933; rev 1947; trans W A Lyell as Cat Country 1970). Gu was the son of a rice trader, and poverty curtailed his education after high school, although he subsequently became a primary school teacher, and then the editor of a series of juvenile magazines in Japanese-Occupied Shanghai. In this capacity, he translated stories by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), among others. His work gained a significantly more scientific bent, mainly nonfiction articles of science popularization, but also several stories.

"Heping de Meng" ["A Dream of Peace"] (1939 Zhongxue Shenghuo) is a boys' espionage tale laced with suspicion of the Japanese, ironically similar to stories written in Japan during World War Two by Jūza Unno. The American secret agent Sean Marlin returns from a mission to the otherwise unidentified "Easternmost Nation", convinced that the enemy is about to unleash a new weapon against the United States. Instead, he meets with nothing but doveish appeasement, realizing in the nick of time that the new weapon is a Basilisk concealed within radio broadcasts, that has hypnotized the American people into believing the lies of the enemy. Similar derring-do can be found in "Lundun de Qiyi" ["The Strange Pestilence of London"] (1939 Kexue Quwei), in which German Villains are discovered to be releasing clouds of nitric acid into the London fog (see Weapons).

"Xing Bian" ["Sex Change"] (1940 Kexue Quwei) is a surprising exploration of ethics and Gender, in which the stereotypical Mad Scientist Doctor Ni turns his daughter into a man in order to retain her permanently as his research assistant, and to incidentally thwart the amorous intentions of her scientist suitor, Dagang. Dagang retaliates by inventing a potion of his own that turns Dr Ni into an old woman, but fails to restore his paramour, who is eventually revealed as the male narrator, now happily married with two children (see Transgender SF). Skirting issues of incest, transsexuality and a patriarchy that veritably demands that Doctor Ni have a male heir to continue his work, it is widely regarded as Gu's most original story.

Despite their sensationalist tone, Gu's stories were intended as scientific primers, and came with introductions and questions for class discussion. He may have been wrong-footed and discouraged after another story, the magnetism-related "Zai Beiji Dixia" ["Under the North Pole"] (1939 Zhongmei Ribao: Xiandai Kexue) was overtaken by real-world science and rendered redundant. He turned away from fiction and dedicated himself to reportage of scientific fact. However, his later nonfiction works retained his authorial sense of narrative and engagement, and often featured dramatic anecdotes and inspiring appeals to the reader's imagination. In the 1950s, he was raised to prominent positions in the China Youth Press and the Committee for the Popularization of Science, institutions which played a powerful role in bringing much science fiction to China, particularly Gu's beloved Jules Verne and H G Wells, both of whose works were systematically and almost entirely translated into Chinese during his tenure. As an educator and editor, rather than a story-teller, Gu is liable to have influenced many Chinese scientists and writers of the 1970s and beyond. [JonC]

Gu Junzheng

born Zhejiang, China: 26 November 1902

died 16 December 1980

works (selected)

  • Heping de Meng ["Dream of Peace"] (Shanghai: Wenhua Shenghuo Chubanshe, 1940) [coll: binding unknown/]

about the author


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