Story Club


A shocking story by Chen Xiwo – translated by Nicky Harman


Does it hurt? Have you got a headache? The kind that makes life not worth living. The kind that hits you when you wake up in the morning, even though there was nothing wrong when you went to sleep – no cold, no bad dreams, nothing. You just fell asleep, and when you woke up, there it was. Now your whole day is wrecked. All you can do is blunder through until it’s time to go to bed again.

Then again, a toothache’s much worse. Worse than anything. A toothache grabs hold of you and forces you to do something about it.

I’ve always had toothaches. I blame my mom. All our suffering is genetic, unless you get smashed up by a car.

Story Club

Discussion: Convince Me

The author and translator answer your questions on Jiang Yitan's 'Convince Me'


Olivia Humphrey: How do you think through the tensions between the emotions and physiology that play out so beautifully in your work?

Jiang Yitan: The inspiration for 'Convince Me' came from a small article describing the dissection of a crocodile. Suddenly I knew the identities of the two main characters in the story. I have always believed that every animal has a spirit and that animals are the observers and witnesses of humanity. They are unable to change humanity but their presence is enough to show people their selfishness and ugliness.

Story Club

Convince Me

Story Club continues with tantalising short fiction by Jiang Yitan

There were three of us in the lab, and our goal was to extend the life of white mice. To be more precise, we were researching the flaws in the DNA of every mouse, and finding ways to repair each one. Ultimately, we hoped to find the secret to giving mus musculus a longer lifespan. We would selectively breed them, observe their breeding cycles, their behavior and their growth, and test whether the next generation came out a little more healthy.

Story Club

Discussion: Finished

We invite experts to answer reader questions about ‘Finished’ by Han Song


Steve Bewcyk asks: Did Han Song specifically make the statement that this story refers to migrant workers? Or is the story an allegory of the petition system of China?

Nick Stember: As far as I know, Han Song hasn’t gone on the record anywhere saying that this story is about migrant workers or the petition system. I don’t think it would take a huge stretch of the imagination to conclude that he is gesturing in this direction, though. In a 2011 interview, for example, Han Song talked about using the subway as a metaphor for contemporary Chinese society:

Story Club


A modern fable – by Han Song

As with our last story, we invite readers to write to [email protected] before November 21 with questions and comments about the story for us, the editors, to reply and respond to. Feel free to also ask more general questions about Chinese science fiction, a booming and multi-faceted genre in China that this story is just one surreal example of.

It was a dark and gloomy but bright and shining place, like a construction site – the kind of construction site that was just about hell and might just as well be heaven. A bell rang out, sharp and piercing over the clamor of the place, and all was suddenly quiet. Wang Gu nearly jumped in fright. He'd been busy for some time, but now they’d called a halt to work. Which was to say – he had nothing to do. Finally finished! But, suddenly idle, Wang Gu found himself at a loss. Thunderstruck, he felt a cold shiver of fear cut through him, like a knife to the vitals. It was as if he'd awoken unexpectedly from a dream he wasn't meant to ever recover from. What happened? It took him a long time to adjust to it all. And then something welled up from deep within in his chest: Now that I'm finished it’s time to collect my pay.