Entry updated 4 July 2022. Tagged: Author.
Main writing name of Ni Cong (1935-2022), a Chinese author whose life began unpromisingly as a teenage drop-out, before his swift rise through the ranks of the Communist Party security police. Accused of counter-revolutionary activities, he fled to Hong Kong in 1957 and embraced anti-Communist fiction with all the zeal of a convert. His first professional sale, the non-genre Huomai ["Buried Alive"] (December 1957 Keung Sheung Daily News) was a grotesque account of Communist land reforms. By the following year, he was churning out short stories as by Yuechuan, in numerous genres, including Wuxia, detective fiction and sf.
His work in the sf genre is chiefly that of his 156-volume Wisely series, which began serialization with Zuanshi Hua ["Diamond Flower"] (March 1963-July 1963 Ming Pao), initially published as by Wisely or Wesley (romanizations vary), the titular detective. These tales would often feature Aliens as plot devices, beginning with the fourth volume, Lanxue'ren ["The Blue-Blooded People"] (August 1964-February 1965 Ming Pao), which featured travellers from Saturn (see Outer Planets), marooned on Earth since the eighteenth century.
The chlorine-breathing antagonist of his Dixin Honglu ["Furnace at the Earth's Core"] (July 1965-October 1965 Ming Pao) intends to wipe out humanity because of a misguided desire to end the suffering of the human race. This was the first, but by no means last of his stories to allegorize the rise of Communist China as a threat to modern life, not merely through mundane and simplistic will to conquer, but also through ill-conceived attempts at Cultural Engineering or Uplift. Such parables continued with Fengyun ["The Swarm"] (October 1965-February 1966 Ming Pao), which featured scientists from Neptune (see Outer Planets), determined to ruin the Earth's atmosphere in order to create conditions suitable for their own kind (see Xenoforming), and Hongyue Liang ["Red Moon Shines"] (August 1967-November 1967 Ming Pao) in which jellyfish creatures from Under the Sea plot to take over the land. In what seems to have been a concerted effort to imagine every possible means of invasion, the aliens in Xiaoshi ["The Disappeared"] (September 1969-October 1969 Ming Pao) were egg-like parasites, plainly inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), attempting to colonize Earth through the use of human hosts. In Lao Mao ["Old Cat"] (September 1971-December 1971), they are disembodied brainwaves that first possess the mind of a pet.
Some stories dealt with more ambiguous conflicts, such as the Shaggy God Story of Zhili Ren ["The Fragmented"] (December 1966-March 1967 Ming Pao), in which Wisely accidentally awakens an Egyptian deity, discovering that he is a scout from Aldebaran, whose plans to authorize the alien colonization of earth were thwarted when he was tricked into a Stasis Field in ancient Egypt. Wisely lures him back into his prison, and hence saves the Earth once more. Similarly, Yi Bao ["An Odd Treasure"] (August 1984-November 1984 Ming Pao) repurposed History in SF to suggest that the First Emperor of China had traded with aliens in order to obtain the material wherewithal to unite the warring states. The role of otherworldly intervention in Ni's books changed substantially in the course of the 1970s, as the real-world fall of Mao's supporters and the slow thaw of the Chinese political situation led his interest in Cold War Paranoia to waver.
Much like the Wuxia fiction of his colleague Jin Yong, Ni's stories were originally regarded as disposable Pulp, to the extent that neither he nor his publisher retained copies. The first of the volume editions published in the 1970s were hence often assembled from scrapbooks kept by a fan, Wen Naijian, although since 1992 the stories have not been serialized, but been published directly as books. Although a dozen or so Wisely novels were published in the twenty-first century, these later works are largely Sequels by Other Hands by the Taiwanese author Ye Lihua (1962- ), an author who has also translated many works by Isaac Asimov. Ye's stories often attempted to explain numerous contradictions in the main run of the series, which had offered several differing explanations for the origins of life on Earth: as, for example, a Prison for alien outlaws later worshipped as the founders of the world's religions, as the gameboard for a long-running biological contest by godlike beings, or as the target for a Panspermia escape from a doomed alien planet.
Throughout the 1970s, Ni was also a scenarist for Hong Kong Cinema, perhaps most notably as an uncredited contributor to Jingwu Men ["Gates of Pure Martial"] (1972; vt Fist of Fury), for which he is said to have created the character made famous by Bruce Lee. He wrote 40 instalments of the original newspaper serialization of Jin Yong's Tianlong Babu ["Demigods and Semidevils"] (September 1963-May 1966 Nanyang Shangbao) while the author was on a European vacation, but most of his interpolations were redacted during the compilation of the author's preferred fix-up volumes in 1978.
In public punditry, Ni presented a grim view of the future. Based on his own experience, he predicted that China's rising middle class would not become a catalyst for democracy, but merely a fresh crop of potential Communist stooges. Fearful for the consequences of the 1997 Handover for dissenting voices, he left for San Francisco in 1992, only to return in 2006, claiming neither he nor his wife could ever fit in. Hong Kong remained his home thereafter, but his antipathy for the Communist regime did not slacken in later years. In a 2009 interview, he provocatively announced that he was less afraid of China during the purges of the Mao era, since the worst possible danger to the world would be presented by a predatory capitalist system run by a dictatorial elite. [JonC]
born Ningbo, Zhejiang, China: 30 May 1935
died Hong Kong, China: 3 July 2022
works (highly selected)
Wisely (highly selected)
This lists only the Wisely stories mentioned in the entry, in chronological order of original publication, but gives the data for the most accessible edition: sometimes from Hong Kong, sometimes from Taiwan. Earlier versions are liable to exist.
- Zuanshi Hua ["Diamond Flower"] (Hong Kong: Ming Chuang Chubanshe, 1990) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Lanxue'ren ["The Blue-Blooded People"] (Hong Kong: Ming Chuang Chubanshe, 1990) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Dixin Honglu ["Furnace at the Earth's Core"] (Hong Kong: Ming Chuang Chubanshe, 1990) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Fengyun ["The Swarm"] (Hong Kong: Ming Chuang Chubanshe, 1990) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Hongyue Liang ["Red Moon Shines"] (Hong Kong: Ming Chuang Chubanshe, 1990) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Xiaoshi ["The Disappeared"] (Hong Kong: Ming Chuang Chubanshe, 1990) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Lao Mao ["Old Cat"] (Taipei: Yuan Jing Chubanshe, 1981) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Zhili Ren ["The Fragmented"] (Taipei: Yuan Jing Chubanshe, 1981) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
- Yi Bao ["An Odd Treasure"] (Taipei: Yuan Jing Chubanshe, 1981) [Wisely: binding unknown/]
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