1. Brief history of Chinese SF fanzines
China’s Science Fiction used to have a short boom period during 1978 through 1983, when there were no less than four professional SF magazines on the market. Due to the suddenly changed political environment, only one–that is the well-known Science Fiction World (SFW) published in Sichuan Province–survived and became extremely successful in late 1990. As far as fanzines are concerned, to many fans’ surprise, it was actually not during that boom period when the first fanzine appeared. In 1987, when China’s SF was at its bottom, the first known SF fanzine, Nebula, was founded by a worker at a state-owned forestry in Heilongjiang Province. His name is Yao Haijun, who is currently the editor-in-chief of SFW, still the No.1 SF magazine worldwide in terms of circulation.
For about 8 years, Nebula was the only fanzine in China and became the virtual linkage among Chinese SF writers, professionals, critics and readers. It was brought to the Worldcon a few times to demonstrate to the West that we do have a quality SF fanzine in China. When Yao ended it in 1999, it had published more than 30 issues over 12 years.
Roughly after the mid-1990s, China’s SF witnessed its second boom evidenced by the launch of a new SF professional magazine and the skyrocketing popularity of SFW. SF fandom was growing fast as well. A number of paper-based fanzines were created and circulated to fans all over the country. Some reached a peak circulation of around 2,000. But none of them survived for more than three years due to various reasons. After the millennium, fans found a more convenient place for communication–the Internet. Therefore it is not a surprise that web-based fanzines started to emerge. And to date, nearly all the existing fanzines are webzines, either in flash or PDF format. Some worth mentioning include the first SF webzine (Sky and Fire), the only fanzine dedicated to SF studies and critics (Edge), and the newsletter-style ezine (SF News). Unfortunately, none of these fanzines lasted longer than a year. Perhaps the most important reason is that the number of members in the team are so small that when the key people lost their enthusiasm and passion, the fanzine inevitably ceased being sustainable.
2. New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction
New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction (NRFSF) is a monthly SF/F fanzine. It was created in April 2009 by a group of SF/F fans. In the beginning, many SF fans were skeptical about how long this new fanzine could last. A year later, NRFSF is not only are alive, but also grew into literally the most recognized fanzine in the SF/F community.
The mission of NRFSF is simple: to provide fans with good science fiction and fantasy stories as well as nonfiction which are not available in mainstream SF/F magazines. NRFSF, released in PDF format every month, features short stories, translated stories, reviews, interviews, essays, writer columns, and so on. Some unique features of NRFSF stand out along previous 11 issues:
First, NRFSF, by its title, is a magazine with a mixture of science fiction and fantasy. In short, We believe in good speculative fiction.
Second, the stories in NRFSF tend to be adult-oriented in comparison with professional SF magazines. One reason is that these professional SF magazines are aimed at children and young adults as they comprise the largest proportion of the market. Another fact is that ezine is less influenced by keyword filters and censorship than print magazines or even blogs and discussion forums. It gives us more freedom to publish some stories which otherwise may not pass the censors.
Third, new writers are being cultivated here. As a matter of fact, NRFSF has a department dedicated to debut writers. We want to give new writers more opportunities to showcase their works and take off from there.
Fourth, nonfiction of all kinds are an essential part of the fanzine. Nonfiction is normally regarded as just sidekicks in professional magazines. Here we take it very seriously. Every issue of NRFSF has news articles, essays, interviews, or reviews. For instance, a monthly review of Chinese SF/F short stories in print magazines is actually inspired by the monthly review by Lois Tilton at the famous Internet Review of Science Fiction.
Fifth, in addition to the ezine, NRFSF planned a print anthology of SF/F novelettes and opened to submissions in August 2009. It turned out that the submissions were already beyond our expectations in terms of quantity and quality. If everything goes well, the print anthology will be published in the coming summer.
Thanks to the strong and productive teamwork of our lovely NRFSF team members, for twelve months, NRFSF has published many quality stories by aspiring and established authors as well as a large number of informative and inspiring nonfiction. It has been well received by SF/F fans and professionals all over the country. The scale of readership is growing fast. The number of downloads on the official website is more than 5,000 per issue, with a peak number of more than 10,000. One story by Jiang Tao was picked by the editors of the year’s best SF anthology (2009 Year’s Best Science Fiction in China). Another one by Han Song, one of the greatest contemporary SF writers in China, is now on the preliminar ballot of the Sky Award, a Hugo-like Chinese SF/F award organized mostly by fans.
As our motto states, we aspire to “bring fantasy to history, and give fantasy a future”.
Feng Zhang is currently a researcher at a university in Hong Kong specializing in transportation geography. He has been a SF fan since he was about 13. He is now being active in SF fandom in both Mainland China and Hong Kong. He is one of the founders of most recognized web-based SF/F fanzine in China — New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction. As a member of the organizing committee, he is also engaged in the Sky Awards, a Hugo-Awards-like honor dedicated to Chinese SF and Fantasy, which is launched and administered by a number of senior SF/F fans (Please see SF Awards Watch page for Sky Awards http://www.sfawardswatch.com/?p=3210).