Open Letter from Science Fiction World to All Chinese SF Fans

This letter was posted to Douban on March 21 and sparked a very public fight between the editors of Science Fiction World and their director and editor-in-chief, Li Chang.

For the full story, see Science Fiction World topples its editor-in-chief.

An Open Letter from Science Fiction World to SF Fans Nationwide: Let the Storm Rage!

by Prepare for Battle / Douban

Dear Readers:

This is a tardy open letter.

We have worked hard to suppress all of our difficulties and anxieties, and have done our utmost to provide our dear science fiction readers with the finest in spiritual nourishment, but today we have come to the profound realization that if we continue to tolerate the hubristic, arbitrary leadership, the incompetence, and the malfeasance of Comrade Li Chang, the magazine's head, then Science Fiction World, which only just turned thirty, will soon be no more. This would be a tragedy not only for its readers but for all of Chinese science fiction.

As everyone is aware, over the past thirty years SFW has been at the front lines of Chinese speculative periodicals and has made great contributions to push forward the development of Chinese science fiction, heighten its creative power, and promote cultural exchanges between Chinese and western speculative fiction. Yang Xiao, Tan Kai, A Lai, and Qin Li, the several generations of leaders who expanded SFW's influence, worked selflessly and tirelessly to help SFW achieve first after first and accomplish miracle after miracle in the world of Chinese periodicals. Because of their foresight and courage, ordinary numbers – 1991, 1997, 1999, 2007 – stand as insurmountable monuments in the hearts of SF fans. SFW flourished because of them, and through them was brimming with limitless energy!

Unfortunately, with the ascent of Comrade Li Chang, the courageous and far-sighted magazine Science Fiction World quickly became a frog sitting in a well, its viewpoint as limited as a mouse. SFW has no short-term goals, much less any long-term plan! As staff members who have an acute sense of duty toward SFW and its readers, we believe that at this critical moment of crisis, it is only by telling our readers the truth that we can only obtain overwhelming moral support from society at large, and can have the energy and courage to persevere! For in our hearts, every reader is our trusted friend, and every bit of support is the answer we are most looking forward to hear!

Now let us give you an account of some of Comrade Li Chang's doings:

1. Comrade Li Chang was formerly the deputy general editor of a local tabloid and lacks a basic understanding of the magazine publishing industry. Yet he is self-righteous, arrogant, and issues blind, arbitrary commands. Shortly after he came aboard in 2009, he had crazy ideas which he proposed as a new focus: Chinese-language editors would replace authors to write stories, foreign-language editors would replace translators to translate stories, and art editors would replace artists to do illustrations. He was utterly ignorant of the social division of labor between authors and editors, and attempted to turn Science Fiction World into a small, agricultural-age workshop. Were these ideas to be forced into practice, they would undoubtedly smash to pieces the intimate relationship that SFW has built up with writers, translators, and artists over the course of thirty years and send the magazine to its grave! To protect the interests of writers and readers, the magazine's entire editorial and distribution personnel voiced strong opposition, and the threat was ultimately avoided!

2. Li Chang attempted to turn the cover of Science Fiction World into an advertising photograph for a school. All departments expressed strong opposition to his wrongheaded instructions, but Comrade Li Chang openly threatened those staff members who voiced differences of opinion: "Retribution will come, but now is not the time." This brazen disregard for the magazine's distinguishing characteristics, the needs of its readers, and the opinion of its staff was a serious insult to the magazine staff. Brilliant core staff members were unable to withstand the immense mental pressure and departed in tears from the magazine to which they had devoted so many years of effort. Some writers who heard the news immediately asked to withdraw their manuscripts. To avoid the exit of additional staff and to ensure the general direction of the magazine's development, the editorial and distribution offices could only delay things as best they could, but the conflict was liable to intensify at any time.

3. Disregarding the interests of the readers, he emphasized nothing but cutting costs and switched Science Fiction World to poor-quality paper. At the same time he pressed all the publications to lower their manuscript rates, and even asked for poor-quality, 200-yuan artwork to be used on the cover. He severely reduced the fees owed to copyright agents and authors, and repeatedly delayed or refused payment to authors, bringing unprecedented injury to the interests of our cherished authors and readers!

4. He outsourced Science Fiction World advertising to the company of a personal friend, surreptitiously supporting the ad company's appropriation of magazine pages and selling off the rights to the magazine's color pages, columns, and distribution channels. The direct consequence of this was that the ad company, in pursuit of bigger profits, forced large amounts of advertising onto the pages of all of the agency's magazines beginning in January 2010, leading to incalculable losses and a tremendously detrimental influence among readers, and reducing the magazine agency to a tool of personal enrichment!

5. He sought all kinds of excuses to delay or refuse to sign labor contracts with editors, and even decided that paying for the staff's annual physical exam was a waste of money! He frequently mocked the editors' pioneering spirit and sense of ownership; in his eyes, the editors were nothing more than cheap labor that lacked all dignity. He believed that he could find hires anywhere at 800 RMB, and throughout the year used abysmal salaries to pressure magazine editors into leaving their beloved science fiction profession. After many staff members resigned in dissatisfaction at Li Chang's high-pressure tactics, he only intensified them, demanding in clear terms that no department fill the gaps left by departing staff, which led to serious slippage in street dates for all publications and adverse effects in the marketplace. He even attempted many times to bring in people he knew (people who were utterly ignorant of science fiction and who lacked even a basic understanding of the publishing industry) to work as SFW editors.

6. He brooked no dissent, blunting the enthusiasm of the staff. Since taking the position, his hand obliterated many of the aspects of the magazine agency's outstanding administration and corporate culture. Faced with the staff's displeasure and anger during meetings and on other occasions, Comrade Li Chang trumpeted his backing, flaunted his borrowed power and warned staff members who wanted to complain not to overestimate their strength and start something they would be unable to handle.

7. Not long after Comrade Li Chang assumed his position, he took the magazines under Science Fiction World and rented them out under a "one license, multiple publications" scheme to totally unqualified individuals and companies where editing and publication was utterly uncontrolled, dealing a serious blow to the agency's legitimate publications and causing grievous harm to the agency's brand image. This is a serious violation of several articles in the State Regulations on Periodical Management, and the agency is now in grave danger of suspension, reorganization, or having its periodical registrations canceled!

Yet this individual, a person who is ignorant of science fiction and unclear about the publishing market and the editorial profession, who does not respect readers or writers, who is ideologically and ethically corrupt, amoral and incompetent, was able to scramble up and oust the former director of Science Fiction World to become the director and editor in chief of a national-level magazine agency! Anxiety has gripped Science Fiction World: editors may resign en masse at any time, and the last banner of Chinese science fiction may cease to exist!

At this perilous time, to protect the reputation of Science Fiction World and the interests of readers at large, in the face of enormous pressure, the editors and distributors have stood up! Ordinary staff members have stood up! We have sent detailed reports to relevant leaders and departments asking them to dismiss Comrade Li Chang from all of his posts at the magazine agency and hold an open election for a talented new leader able to lead Science Fiction World out of this confusion! Although we are well aware that taking care of this corrupt, incompetent, capricious, malfeasant cadre who got his position through connections may face unanticipated obstacles, we believe in the power of light and justice. For our beloved Science Fiction World, for our worthy readers, for the writers resolutely supporting us, we will fight to the last!

We know full well that over the short term, this fight may inconvenience to the general readership in various ways, and for this we apologize. We sincerely hope that writers and readers can give us their understanding and support. For science fiction, the time has come for a desperate fight!

The entire staff of the Science Fiction World magazine agency

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