By Emily Hughes
It’s been less than three months since the movie adaptation of The Wandering Earth was released, based on Cixin Liu’s novella of the same name, and already it’s the second highest-grossing film in China… ever. It’s also 2019’s second highest-grossing film worldwide, the second highest-grossing non-English language film of all time, and one of the top 20 highest-grossing science fiction films of all time. That’s no small feat, but it also isn’t totally surprising when you consider Cixin Liu’s immense popularity in China – he’s won the Galaxy Award (China’s most prestigious science fiction prize) nine times, plus a Hugo and a Locus for good measure, and is widely considered to be the premier voice of Chinese sci-fi.
The film had a limited theatrical release here in America, but don’t worry if you missed it – Netflix has inked a distribution deal to translate the movie into 28 languages, according to Deadline, and stream it to viewers around the world. No release date has been announced yet, but in the meantime, we have plenty of time to daydream about other Chinese sci-fi stories we’d love to see on our screens.
Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu
On Silicon Isle, an island-sized technological waste dump, Mimi sorts the world’s garbage. She and her fellow waste workers are at the bottom of the economic food chain, and subject to the whims of corporations, government officials, eco-terrorists, and local gangs. But all that changes when Mimi stumbles upon dangerous, top-secret cargo that could tip the balance and incite a class war that could liberate the waste workers and upend society.
Imagine this on-screen as a towering live-action reimagining of the dystopian visual worlds of WALL-E and Ready Player One combined with the grit and real world weight of Children of Men – we think that’s a sure-fire blockbuster.
“A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu and featured in Liu’s Invisible Planets)
This short, poignant story from Xia Jia tells the story of a run-down, mostly-abandoned theme park called Ghost Street, where the attractions are human souls sealed into artificial, mechanical bodies. Ning, the narrator, is a child who was found abandoned at the temple and raised by the resident ghosts. To say much more would be to risk spoiling this beautiful story, but suffice it to say that we’d love to see an elegiac animated adaptation, something like Bobo & Toto’s Big Fish blended with the emotional weight of Westworld.
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
Technically this adaptation already exists – the problem is, due to studio restructures and intensive visual effects work, it’s been on hold for three years now, and no one has seen it. And that’s a shame, because the initial plan for a six-part movie series spanning the entire book trilogy is exactly what we want. Barring that, however, for a series this rich and intricate, we’d love to see a long-running prestige drama with the scope and sprawl of Game of Thrones or the Star Trek franchise, complete with spinoffs and prequels.
Are there other Chinese sci-fi books you’d like to see on screen? Let us know in the comments!