London Chinese Science Fiction Group

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

"The Plague / 《瘟疫》(2002) by Yang Leisheng
Translated by Andy Dudak (2020)

Our reading and meeting for October 2021

Sunday 31st October

Story Summary

We're very pleased to invite Yan Leisheng to our October videocall session to chat with our readers about his short SF story.

* * *

It’s hard to say when the Plague began to spread.
When the first cases were announced, people didn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation. Some foolish biologists even celebrated.

Scarier still, it was highly infectious. Just breathing air could infect you, and in the early stages, because there were no symptoms, it was nearly impossible to detect. You could emerge from a crowd and already be infected, doomed.

In the early days, some nations had not yet detected the virus, by whatever chance of fate. These took pleasure in the misfortune of infected countries, maligning them, even accusing them of creating the Plague. When the virus reached these accuser nations, they aggressively denounced the containment measures of their rivals, claiming not enough had been done. But when the Plague attained the force of a prairie fire, people no longer wasted breath on superfluous words. Ideologies didn’t matter. State systems and national prestige didn’t matter. Before the Plague, everyone was equal.
---from “Plague” / 《瘟疫》(2002)by Yan Leisheng

* * *

Plague and disease have always been the literary themes that no one can ever neglect. During the two years since the covid-19 pandemic broke out, readers and scholars have been paying close attention to the current “plague era” of literature, while at the same time discovering and retelling historical classics about epidemics and pandemics. Yan Leisheng’s “Plague” was published in 2002, even before SARS. It holds now familiar descriptions of the virus at the beginning of the epidemic and the disputes and tussles between different countries. “It’s hard to say when the Plague began to spread.” And now it is hard to tell when covid-19 will end. Unbeknownst to us, the pandemic became part of our lives, and our economic structure and social routines all needed to be transformed as a result. Of course, the plague in Yan Leisheng’s story does not cause direct death. Those who are unfortunate enough to be infected are gradually petrified and turned into statues. The main character is a “crow” whose job is to walk around the streets in heavy protective clothing, throwing patients who have been turned to stone into incinerators, in order to stop the spread of the virus. In this process, he gradually discovers a great secret, and the truth of the epidemic and his work becomes hideous.

You may find it in its English translation by Andy Dudak in Clarkesworld Issue 167 (August 2020) 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 Clarkesworld magazine showing an illustration of a red and yellow clothed monk on the edge of a cliff and facing a mirror

The author

Yan Leisheng (1970-) is a writer from Hangzhou. He started writing online poetry in 1998, and later ventured into writing martial arts novels, fantasy and gothic stories, with masterpieces such as “Tian Xing Jian” (《天行健》), etc. He has been nominated for the 14th, 17th, and 19th Chinese Galaxy Award (in 2003, 2006 and 2008), and also the 3rd Chinese Gravity Award in 2020.

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.