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“Online writers are the storytellers of the Internet age”

Interview | Tian Rui Shuo Fu

Tian Rui Shuo Fu is a famous Chinese science fiction author who has mainly published his work to date on web platforms. He started writing in 2014 and has an oeuvre of over three million Chinese characters. He mainly publishes on, a literary site belonging to China Literature. On the occasion of the 7th China Europe International Literary Festival, he expressed his views on topics such as Internet literature and online science fiction literature.


Net Literature: zero distance between works and readers
Death on Mars (《死在火星上》), a book that made his name, was awarded “the best Internet literature” of the 30th Milky Way Prize for Science Fiction of China and was among the Top 10 of Chinese Internet Literature 2019. Compared to the traditional approach – where a writer finishes a book and then publishes it before readers have a chance to read any of it – the serial nature of online literature means that every time an author updates, he or she gets timely feedback from readers. On the one hand, this characteristic makes it possible for writers to have ongoing engagement with their readers, as their work can be seen by them as soon as it is uploaded. But on the other hand, the pressure on writers increases significantly as it is absolutely clear how many people have bookmarked their work, how many people have liked it, what the readers’ comments are, and so on. Tian Rui Shuo Fu said for online authors, “the worst thing is not to be criticised, but to be criticised by nobody”.


But even more crucial is how online literature writers respond to the various voices of their readers. “It is necessary to always pay attention to readers’ feedback, but the outline and design set by the author cannot be easily shaken, and the author has to be conscious and precise about the feedback from the readership – what are the suggestions that need to be listened to and what are the parts that cannot be changed – otherwise it could be disastrous,” he said.



The Rise of Science Fiction Net Literature
Tian Rui Shuo Fu’s book We Live in Nanjing(《我们生活在南京》) was awarded “the best Internet science fiction” of the 32nd Milky Way Prize and will soon be published in paperback by CITIC Press. In recent years, science fiction has been on the rise in the field of online literature. As of May this year, the number of new writers and new works on increased 112.5% year-on-year from 2021, with 68.9% of writers choosing the science fiction genre for their first creation. Yang Chen, vice president and editor-in-chief of China Literature Group, said sci-fi has become one of the five major genres of online literature. In this regard, Tian Rui Shuo Fu said, “I am cautiously optimistic about the development prospects of sci-fi net literature, it is promising, but still a relatively niche subject matter, not in vogue. I will still continue to create works with science fiction themes for a short time.”


To expand the science fiction readership, Tian Rui Shuo Fu suggests “lowering the reading threshold, localising the stories, choosing subjects that interest most readers and, of course, most importantly, making the stories themselves more appealing.”



The “Storytellers” of the Internet age
Tian Rui Shuo Fu once said that online writers are the “storytellers” of the Internet era. The readers of the Internet era have a great characteristic, namely, possessing a broad vision and wide range of knowledge. “If you write sci-fi or your work deals with slightly more specialist subjects, then be prepared to be scrutinised by readers who will spot your mistakes and omissions whenever and wherever they can, and then the pressure of being critiqued by readers is relatively intense.”


Talking about the qualities required of a “storyteller” in the Internet era, he said that, “First of all, you need a profound reserve, whether it’s a reserve of stories or knowledge, this is the ‘ammunition store’. Secondly, you need a keen sense of smell and vision to be able to discover popular topics. Only through these two ‘sighting mirrors’ can you know where to aim. Then you need to be able to express yourself well, as a good story has to be written down before it can be known. Finally, it is important not to lose touch with the masses, and to keep your work in sync with the mass market at all times, so that it is not easily eliminated.”



Join us for the 7th EU- China International Literary Festival 2022, which will be held online from 7 September to 25 September under the theme “Explore·Imagine·Inspire – Science Fiction, Fantasy and Worlds Beyond”. Together with Bulgarian author Vladimir Poleganov (弗拉基米亚·波列加诺夫), Tian Rui Shuo Fu will be in conversation with scholar and science fiction expert Jiang Zhenyu (姜振宇) on the topic “Literary Adventures: Engaging with the Non-Human”.
– Interview by the EU-China International Literary Team
– Translated into English by Peng Zhang