London Chinese Science Fiction Group

LCSFG is a community for people interested in Chinese language science and speculative fiction (SF).

"Formerly Slow" / 《从前慢》 (2019) by Wei Ma / 未马
Translated by Andy Dudak (2020)

Our reading and meeting for February 2021

Sunday 28th February, 2pm GMT, email for Zoom details

Story Summary

We're very pleased to invite Wei Ma to our February videocall session to chat with our readers about her short SF story, "Formerly Slow" / 《从前慢》translated from Chinese into English by Andy Dudak, 2020).

* * *

"As if separated by time, like two different worlds, Xia Mang thought to himself.

Regardless of how Xiao An would have preferred it, Weiwei’s dormancy issue couldn’t be resolved, in the end. Thus, SIP proposed a compensation plan, while vowing to continue regular examinations and dormancy tests of Weiwei. Shenli City even made exceptions for the family, granting an extraordinary privilege: total freedom of movement."

...

"People here lived as in air bubbles in the ocean of time. They followed one of seven non-intersecting trajectories, jumping from one air bubble to another. The lives and times of the other six trajectories were completely cut off from them, had nothing to do with them.

Xia Mang and Weiwei were like fish in this ocean, darting back and forth. Time flowed along their bodies continuously, dense, adhering them to all that surrounded them. Every change in this world left its mark on their bodies."

- Formerly Slow / 《从前慢》(2019) by Wei Ma / 未马, (translated by Andy Dudak, 2020)

* * *

Shenli City is an enviable and competitive place to live, with its cleaner air, less crowded transportation system and comfortable streets. This is thanks to dormancy tech, which allows citizens to sleep for most of the week, waking only on their assigned day for Freedom-of Movement. They carry out their regular lives within the city, but with slower aging, faster brain calculations and closer-knit day communities. However, dormancy rights are not approved for everyone in the city; they are considered an earned privillege.

When the dormancy tech inexplicably fails to induce baby Weiwei into her first certified sleep, her parents are forced to live to their natural, biological clocks to raise her everyday of the week. Her mother, Xiao An, is reluctant to do this, and soon succumbs to the societal and career pressures to return to dormancy, also believing her "privillege" should not be wasted. Xia Mang is left to raise Weiwei, but he feels more optimistic. As the father and daughter live out everyday together, meeting Xiao An and other friends only on their one 'awake' day of the week, they both age faster than those in dormancy. Yet Xia Mang embraces the strange slowness he also feels as a result.

Wei Ma (pen name) writes a compelling story of people living within the same space and time, yet vastly separated by their varying rates of lived experience. Formerly Slow grasps at how this intersects with family life, friendships, impending death and urban living, while speculating the benefits and frictions of what it could mean to slow down and 'live the life to the full'.

You may find it in its English translation by Andy Dudak for The East Asia Special Issue, Issue 9/December 2020 of Future SF here, support Future SF here. The original Chinese version is available here through 不存在科幻 (Weixin ID: non-exist-SF) .

Please read ahead for this month's online video call, but if you don't get a chance to do so, you are still warmly welcome to join in. Share your thoughts and questions, engage with others, and chat with us and Wei Ma about the story in this upcoming session!

cover of Future Fiction's January East Asia special with landscape of a blue sky, sea, a yellow beach and flying birds

The author

Wei Ma is an anime playwright and SF writer who began her professional writing career in 2008. She spends most working hours on serialized comic playwriting, and writes children stories, screenplays, and SF stories, as well.

She is a lifelong SF fan, ever since she subscribed to SF World magazine in elementary school, and hopes to have more time to write SF in the future, meanwhile earning enough to cover the living expenses for her children. She now lives in Shanghai, China, raising two kids.

The translator

Andy Dudak is a writer and translator of science fiction. His original stories have appeared in Analog, Apex, Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Rich Horton's Year's Best, and elsewhere. He's translated twelve stories for Clarkesworld, and a novel by Liu Cixin, among other things. In his spare time he likes to binge-watch peak television and eat Hui Muslim style cold sesame noodles.