What China is reading and why it matters: A conversation with author Megan Walsh

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This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser chats with Megan Walsh, journalist, literary critic, and author of the brand-new book The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It MattersThe book offers an accessible overview of China’s literary scene, from better-known writers like Mò Yán 莫言 and Yán Liánkē 阎连科 to writers working in fiction genres like crime and sci-fi, and from migrant worker poets to the largely anonymous legions of writers churning out vast amounts of internet fiction. Megan talks about the burden of politics in the life of writers, the wild popularity of dānměi 耽美 (gay-male-themed web fiction), and the surprising streak of techno-optimism in Chinese science fiction.

7:09 – The long shadow of the May Fourth Movement

12:09 – Politics and the western gaze

17:51 – Why Yan Lianke is Megan’s favorite Chinese writer

26:51 – The literary scene in Beijing in the 2000s

29:05 – China’s ginormous and mostly terrible internet fiction industry

39:19 – What makes Chinese science fiction Chinese?

A transcript of this interview is available on SupChina.com.

Recommendations:

Megan: Yiyun Li’s memoir, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life; and the New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding

Kaiser: The Audible Original epistolary audio drama When You Finish Saving the World by Jesse Eisenberg