Life inside Science Fiction World under Li Chang

This account of life inside Science Fiction World magazine comes from an unnamed editor and was posted to Douban on March 25.

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

Days of "Reform" at Science Fiction World

by graysfw / Douban

"This isn't necessarily a good thing. You all say this is good, I say that way is better."

With this statement, Science Fiction World director Li Chang began guiding the "reforms."

The first blow fell on the columns.

"High school and primary school students appear far, far too infrequently in our magazine, and this is not good. Think about it: if we run twenty essays by primary students, then those twenty students will be happy and will definitely buy one copy apiece."

"You have no creativity. How do you know it won't work?"

"We can hold a writing contest for primary and secondary school students. When we publish it, participating students will definitely by a copy."

"This column, 'Stardust,' will be expanded to ten pages in the next issue."

The second blow hit the illustrations.

"You think the cover is good, but I don't see anything good about it. Yours is too expensive. Fix it. Find a student to draw a 200-yuan image if you need to, or a photo. Lots of magazines use photos on the cover. Why can't you?"

"Take a photo of one of those schools, and they'll be overjoyed. Everyone will buy a copy for sure."

The third blow came down on manuscript fees.

"You talk about how really great this writer is, but I don't see it. You give him so much money....you say your writers are good, but I have my own writers."

"What're you paying that writer for? You editors come over here. Xiao Li, write the first part; Xiao Zhang, write the second part. Everyone writes and then it's done, right? Why are SF writers so great? I can write science fiction. I can write film scripts."

"Again with the copyrights? Don't believe those foreign authors. They just want to scam some cash out of us."

The fourth blow came against advertising. I'm not too familiar with that area, but I do remember how the "Science" column became a soft ad, and how the "Teleporter" column was pulled right before publication and replaced with an ad. And I remember how Fly! was forced to axe its color columns to make way for advertising....

Yes, I remember those days of "reform," I remember those futile arguments, those efforts at persuasion, those lengthy yet ineffective explanations. The editors did all they could to explain to Li Chang the finer points of running the magazine, to explain why we remained committed to the magazine's style. But his response was, "You can say that, but it's just wishful thinking." "Not open for debate." "Unnecessary."

I also remember how the editors' hope turned to despair, how enthusiasm became endurance, how confusion became anger.

I remember how two successive editors of the "Campus" section forced themselves to endure in their work, doing their utmost to increase the quality of the content of the students' science fiction section, now involuntarily expanded to ten pages, so that it would not affect the overall feel of the magazine. I remember how Director Li was dissatisfied with their efforts purely because they did not include twenty pieces of writing by junior high students among those pages.

I remember Chi Hui being pressured by name by Li Chang at a meeting. She had stood firm in advocating to replace the ten pages of rejected manuscripts with Galaxy Award candidates, and after this was immediately vetoed, she wanted at the very least to publish student science fiction pieces rather than rejected student submissions.

"At least let the readers see complete stories that meet the standard of publication," she said in despair.

I also remember the how the art editors worked to minimize the harm done by the "reforms" by doing everything possible to keep the cover and illustrations in line with the readers' tastes, while Director Li's continual push to use a photo on the cover kept getting stymied by the editors' persistence, except...

The editors have begun to despair and have started a gradual exit. You can't fight this tug-of-war with the director and still have the stamina to make a high-quality magazine. You don't see any hope, you have no way to face the readers, and at last you lose heart and give up.

Some people have called this a "reform."

I don't know whether this is an insult to the word, or an insult to something else.

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