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Huang Fan

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

Pseudonym of Huang Xiaozhong (1950-    ) a Chinese author whose occasional experiments in sf, Equipoise and the absurd have made him a distinct and distinguished voice in modern Taiwanese fiction. A former engineer and factory manager, he turned to writing full-time in the 1980s, except for a prolonged hiatus from 1993-2003 when he was secluded in a Buddhist monastery. He came to prominence with the non-sf Satire "Lai Suo" (1979 venue unknown; trans Robert and Candice P Eno in The Chinese Pen Autumn 1985), an evocation of life in urban Taipei so recognizable and archetypal as to be honoured by at least two translations into English.

His genre work, largely written during his "postmodernist" period (see Postmodernism and SF) from 1985-1992, is distinguished by the allegorical "Jiemiren" ["The Solver of Riddles"] (1989 venue unknown; trans Yingtsih Balcom as "The Intelligent Man" in Zero and Other Fictions coll 2011), a parable of the Chinese diaspora in which the pointedly-named protagonist Yang Taisheng ("Yang Born-in-Taiwan") becomes a bigamist, and then a trigamist in order to maintain international business contacts between the old country, the US and his adopted homeland. A similar Satire can be discerned in Cibei de Ziwei ["The Quality of Mercy"] (1984), in which a dying landlady bequeaths an apartment building to its 18 mismatched tenants, who at first collaborate, and ultimately fight, over its management. The title seems deliberately intended to invoke the impossible collateral of The Merchant of Venice (see William Shakespeare).

His most striking sf work, the novella "Ling" (1981 [venue unknown/] trans John Balcom as "Zero" in Zero and Other Fictions coll 2011) was the first work of Chinese sf to win a Taiwanese literary prize. Its back-story posits the existence of a new Power Source, the wonder-element Nanning, which also neutralizes nuclear weapons. This single discovery hence ends war, establishes a global superstate, thwarts Pollution, and in the first hint that the story possesses an unreliable narrator relying on redacted sources, somehow causes "inferior people" in the Third World to disappear (see Race in SF). "Zero" breathlessly recounts the coming-of-age of a citizen of this world state, unquestioning of numerous clues that history has been heavily censored, and that the totalitarian regime is increasingly impinging on its subjects' careers, private lives, and sexual activity. The discovery of a manuscript by the otherwise unidentified "Winston" (see George Orwell), reveals that the entire society is founded on a Holocaust that solved Overpopulation by redefining the word "human". Later developments offer a series of revelations and counter-revelations, all doubtful, including the suggestion that the protagonist is an experiment in Evolution, or that Earth's entire history has been manipulated across a Time Abyss by marooned Alien Secret Masters, towards an ultimate goal of developing the necessary Technology to return home. Although the story ends, the reader is left trusting the final word of none of its actors (see Paranoia). [JonC]

Huang Xiaozhong

born Taipei, Republic of China (Taiwan): 17 March 1950

works (selected)

  • Cibei de Ziwei ["The Quality of Mercy"] (Taipei: Lianjing Chubanshe, 1984) [binding unknown/]
  • Huang Fan Hou-Xiandai Xiaoshuo Xuan ["Huang Fan's Postmodern Story Collection"] (Taipei: Lianhe Wenxue, 2005) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Zero and Other Fictions (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011) [coll: trans by John Balcom with (uncredited on title page) Yingtsih Balcom: hb/Paul Knight]

about the author

  • Huang Fan. "From Taibei's Suburbs, Into the Hubbub of Taiwan's Economic Miracle" trans Ellen Lai-shan Yeung in Modern Chinese Writers: Self-Portrayals (Armonk, New York: M E Sharpe, 1992) edited by Helmut Martin [pp.247-52: hb/]


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