Does the prestigious Nature also favor fictions? Yes, it does! In Issue 522, Nature, published on June 4, the fiction Let’s have a talk by Wang Yao, a Junior Faculty at School of Humanities and Social Science, was published in the Futures column.
A technological firm manufactured a smart machine toy in the form of a little seal with language learning capacity. Yet the goods container was lost incidentally in transportation. While claiming it back, people were surprised the little seal was speaking an incomprehensible language in a sealed container. Could a robot invent a language on its own? If so, what could humans do? The imaginative author Wang Yang presented a surprising ending.
“As a matter of fact, the work is specially done for Nature, “she said. As a fan of fiction, she knew long time ago Nature has a fiction column. But she has never ventured to submit her manuscript. Until last year, an idea came to her mind: why not just have a try?, while she was commissioned by a Chinese journal to translate The Plague, published in Nature by the American Chinese fiction writer Ken Liu in 2013.
Motivated by this, she started to brainstorm and write. Very quickly, a very short less than 1000- word novel was produced. With Ken helping her revise it, she submitted it to Nature’s email address before the Christmas last year. However, she got no further response except one automatic reply. While waiting, she translated her work into Chinese and meanwhile added more literary and romantic elements and published it in Science Fiction World this March with the name Black House.
Over one month ago, she received an editor’s email expressing positive acceptance of her manuscript. “It was almost midnight. I was randomly checking my mailbox before getting to sleep. After reading it, I jumped off my bed excitedly and rushed to my parents’ room on bare feet, exclaiming, “I am about to publish in Nature!”. The uneasiness from waiting was gone all of a sudden. And she was in ecstasy.
As a matter of fact, Nature has always favored fictional stories. Starting from 1999, Nature particularly created a fiction column, Futures, to publish completely original excellent fictional works in the length between 850-950 words. Narrating a complete story in such a constrained length and meanwhile demonstrating both science and literary talent pose a challenge to writers. Owing to Nature’s impact, the column is never short of heavyweight writers, including the famous fictional writers Arthur Charles Clarke, Brian W.Aldiss, and Ursula K. Le Guin etc, the reputable part-time writer scientists Benford, Landis, Stewart etc as well as the well-known American Chinese fictional writers Ted Chiang and Ken Liu etc. It’s their works that instilled in her a passion to write.
“Actually Nature published novels of different styles. Some novels emphasize scientific composition while some emphasis the stories”, she said. “my work is more of the first type, for it involves linguistic and human intelligence knowledge. For some part, I even consulted the related English literature and scientific and technological news”. This comes from her academic background. She finished her undergraduate education at School of Physics, Peking University and did her master program on movie studies at the Communication University of China. She then received her PhD from the Department of Chinese, Peking University, supervised by Professor Dai Jinhua. Her PhD thesis is on the Contemporary Chinese Fictional Literature and Culture.
Before that, she wrote fictions for 11 years in the name of fictional writer Xia Jia and is an emerging fictional writer born after the 1980s. She was conferred upon many fiction awards in China, including Scientific Fiction World Galaxy Award and the Chinese Fiction New Star Award etc. Starting from 2012, her works An Evil-Imprisoning Bottle, A Hundred-Ghost Haunting Night Street, Tong Tong’s Summer, Memories of Spring Festivals in 2044 etc were translated successively into English, Polish and Italy, having been widely recognized by the fiction community abroad.
For the original story on Let’s Have a Talk, check http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v522/n7554/full/522122a.html
For the author’s thoughts on Let’s Have a Talk, please visit http://blogs.nature.com/futureconditional/2015/06/03/the-story-behind-the-story-lets-have-a-talk
For the original story on Black House, visit http://www.douban.com/note/493988218/#!/i!/ckDefault