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Zheng Wenguang

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1929-2003) Chinese author, born in Vietnam to ethnic Chinese parents, repatriated in the early days of the People's Republic, sometimes called the "father of Chinese sf" for establishing, in his article "Tantan Kehuan Xiaoshuo" ["Discussing the SF Novel"] (1958 Dushu Ribao), the didactic tone of Children's SF that allowed the genre to survive in an authoritarian environment hostile to imaginative fiction. A research fellow at the Beijing Astronomical Observatory, he also wrote many works of nonfiction and science popularization, including an account of Cosmology that became an award-winning school textbook.

Zheng rose to fame with Cong Diqiu dao Huoxing ["From the Earth to Mars"] (1954 Zhongguo Shaonian Bao), a self-explanatory Edisonade deliberately designed to smuggle educational points into an adventure story. Before relations soured between China and the Soviet Union (see Russia), he achieved foreign recognition within the Communist bloc for "Huoxing Jianshezhe" ["Builders of Mars"] (1957 venue unknown), a tale of Colonization of Other Worlds less notable for its setting (see Mars) than for the implication that the Earth has become a single, utopian Marxist state.

During the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, Zheng was exiled to Guangdong Province, where he worked on a farm for several years. Rehabilitated after the death of Mao and the fall of the Gang of Four, he wrote the understandably embittered "Diqiu de Jingxiang" (October 1980 Shanghai Wenxue; trans Sun Liang as "The Mirror Image of Earth" in Science Fiction From China, anth 1989, ed Wu Dingbo and Patrick Murphy), an abortive First Contact story in which Chinese explorers on an uninhabited planet come to realize that the natives have fled in disgust. Holographic film clips of several periods in human history are presented as evidence, although pointedly the most recent is the Cultural Revolution, and the explorers' Spaceship is named the Hundred Flowers, in reference to a famous 1957 speech by Mao Zedong: "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend."

Feixiang Renmazuo ["Forward Sagittarius"] (1979), billed as China's "first SF novel" although there are several earlier claims (see China), depicts Cold War espionage forcing China's first spaceship, "The East", to launch ahead of schedule and far off course (see Fantastic Voyages). The young crew are able to harness a Black Hole as a new Power Source, in order to return safely to Earth. Other stories from Zheng's brief early-1980s flowering often centred on situations Under the Sea. "Haitun zhi Shen" ["God of the Dolphins"] (original date and venue unknown) is an exercise in Uplift in which Chinese scientists invent a machine to translate dolphins' language, only to discover that the creature have a complex sense of Religion. To the likely irritation of atheist Party scrutineers, in a story that purports be an exercise in Linguistics or Biology, Zheng's real purpose is a discussion of the evolutionary value of belief in a higher power.

In 1983, shortly after suffering a stroke, he was summoned to a public "struggle session" in which he was ridiculed for his story "Taiping Yang Ren" ["People of the Pacific Ocean"] (original date and venue unknown), which suggested that the Pacific Ocean was a space left by a missing land-mass. Medical and political pressures put an end to Zheng's authorial career, although his work drifted back into print in the 1990s, and many of his stories are listed in Chinese best-of lists. The author Wu Yan was Zheng's pupil, leading the pair to share the credit on Xinling Tanxian de Gushi ["Stories of Intelligent Investigation"] (coll 1994), another educational work. [JonC]

Zheng Wenguang

born Haiphong, Vietnam: 9 April 1929

died Beijing, People's Republic of China: 17 June 2003

works (selected)

  • Taiyang Tanxian ji ["Mission to the Sun"] (Shanghai: Shaonian Chubanshe, 1955) [pb/]
  • Feichu Diqiu Qu ["Flight From the Earth"] (Beijing: Zhongguo Qingnian Chubanshe, 1957) [pb/]
  • Feixiang Renmazuo ["Forward Sagittarius"] (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 1979) [pb/]
  • Hai Guniang ["Mermaid"] (Shanghai: Kexue Puji Chubanshe, 1979) [chap: pb/]
  • Shayu Zhencha Bing ["Shark Spies"] (Beijing: Zhongguo Qingnian Chubanshe, 1979) [pb/]
  • Dayang Shenchu ["Ocean Depths"] (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 1981) [pb/]
  • Zheng Wenguang Xin Zuoxuan ["A New Selection of the Works of Zheng Wenguang"] (Changsha: Hunan Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 1981) [coll: pb/]
  • Shen Yi ["Wondrous Wings"] (Changsha: Hunan Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 1982) [pb/]
  • Zheng Wenguang Zuopin Xuan ["Selected Works of Zheng Wenguang"] (Guangzhou: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe, 1983) [coll: pb/]
  • Zhanshen de Houyi ["The Descendants of Ares"] (Guangzhou: Hua Cheng Chubanshe, 1984) [pb/]
  • Xinling Tanxian de Gushi ["Stories of Intelligent Investigation"] (Beijing: Zhongguo Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 1994) with Wu Yan [coll: pb/]


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