ARC Review: The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories Edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang

From an award-winning team of authors, editors, and translators comes a groundbreaking short story collection that explores the expanse of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.

In The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, you can dine at a restaurant at the end of the universe, cultivate to immortality in the high mountains, watch roses perform Shakespeare, or arrive at the island of the gods on the backs of giant fish to ensure that the world can bloom.

Written, edited, and translated by a female and nonbinary team, these stories have never before been published in English and represent both the richly complicated past and the vivid future of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.

Time travel to a winter’s day on the West Lake, explore the very boundaries of death itself, and meet old gods and new heroes in this stunning new collection. 

After enjoying quite a few translated collections of Chinese SFF short stories, I was very very excited for this one since it was first announced. And I was ecstatic when I got the arc to read. This was definitely more fun among all the collections I’ve read before and I loved how we got a mix of genres like hard sci-fi, a bit of fantasy, some contemporary, thoughtful dystopia, a historical lens and even some xianxia influences. I think the only thing I missed was having an out and out wuxia story but that’s just a personal preference. Other than the stories themselves, the idea of a collection of female and non-binary authors and translators is awesome because it gives us a hint of the vast scope of creative works being put out by these amazing authors.

The multiple essays we got about the technical and cognitive aspects of translation, both from Chinese to English and vice versa were very illuminating. I also loved getting to know the history of internet novels and it’s influence on works created by women. Overall, this was some excellent time spent and I can only hope I’ll get to read more works by all these creators in the future.

Below are my thoughts on the individual stories and essays.

The Stars We Raised by Xiu Xinyu
Translated by Judy Yi Zhou

I’m not sure I got what the story was actually about but I felt a lot of loneliness in it – a lonely boy trying to find some companionship in the stars.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Tale of Wude’s Heavenly Tribulation by Count E
Translated by Mel “etvolare” Lee

The story of a fox trying to achieve immortality through cultivation and his troubles as well as relationships with his friends, this was quite fun and entertaining.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What Does the Fox Say by Xia Jia

This is not exactly a story but the author’s exploration of language and what might happen if an algorithm attempts to write a story. How the author interprets the algorithm will string its sentences together was fascinating to read about.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Blackbird by Shen Dacheng
Translated by Cara Healey

Set in a elderly home, this is the story of a young nurse trying to get used to her new job and the oldest woman in the home, refusing to leave the world until she is given no choice. This felt both atmospheric and melancholic, with its very beautiful descriptions.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Tai-Chi Mashed Taro by Anna Wu
Translated by Carmen Yiling Yan

I don’t want to say much about this tale of the rise and fall of a noble, his love for literature and the forever ongoing battle between beauty and fate – except that this was beautifully written and despite being melancholic, I loved it.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Futures of Gender in Chinese Science Fiction by Jing Tsu

Interesting essay about Chinese science fiction, it’s historical influences, the growth of authors from marginalized genders and how this changes the way SFF is written and consumed.

Baby, I Love You by Zhao Haihong
Translated by Elizabeth Hanlon

Another fascinating story about parenting, raising children, people’s changing attitudes about having children in this day and age, and what does it take to actually love your child. This was equal parts interesting, heartbreaking and infuriating.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Saccharophilic Earthworm by BaiFanRuShuang
Translated by Ru-Ping Chen

The story of plants having the ability to experience abs demonstrate emotions and helping their humans understand their own – this was unique and very vivid and imaginative.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Alchemist of Lantian by BaiFanRuShuang
Translated by Ru-Ping Chen

Told through the POV of an immortal alchemist, we follow his travails and experience his exhaustion of living many lifetimes and suffering humans but I’m glad he gets to help atleast one person.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Way Spring Arrives by Wang Nuonuo
Translated by Rebecca F. Kuang

A story about how earth’s rotations and revolutions work and how seasons change told through the amalgamation of science and fantasy, this was a very lush and vivid tale evoking a lot of beautiful imagery in my head. I truly could feel the arrival of spring and the land coming to life again.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Translation as Retelling: An Approach to translating Gu Shi’s “To Procure Jade” and Ling Chen’s “The Name of the Dragon” by Yilin Wang

This is an essay by the author about the next two stories which they have translated and I loved how they explain their process of translation, the choices they’ve made about keeping the original mandarin words vs translating the words, and how much work goes into ensuring the story retains its cultural and mythological context while also not feeling too unfamiliar to an anglophone reader. A perfect essay to be a part of this collection.

The Name of the Dragon by Ling Chen
Translated by Yilin Wang

An enchanting tale told through the POV of a dragon which has been imprisoned by humans for centuries because human’s desire for immortality is never ending and even a powerful creature like a dragon can never satiate all of them. Very anguish invoking tale.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

To Procure Jade by Gu Shi
Translated by Yilin Wang

Another story where I don’t wanna give anything much but it was super fun and I have to give credit to the main character Deyu for being such a resourceful person as well as having some good luck.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Brief History of Beinakan Disasters as told in a Sinitic Language by Nian Yu
Translated by Ru-Ping Chen

A very interesting but also devastating and ruthless tale about the effects of climate change, what lengths humans will go to for survival, anyone else be damned. And I thought the one point which felt extremely realistic was how despite knowing climate change would cause a lot of damage, we would choose to neglect it and destroy our planet.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Is There Such a Thing as Feminine Quietness? A Cognitive Linguistics Perspective by Emily Xueni Jin

This was an interesting essay about translation, especially when a word in one language can map to many in another lexicon and the correct translated word to choose becomes a task based on additional context. The author takes an example from the recent movie Mulan and explains the issues that can arise when translating words that may have gendered connotations and how one must be careful with not enforcing stereotypes in such instances. Very informative.

Dragonslaying by Shen Yingying
Translated by Emily Xueni Jin

This story about the age old process of how a dragon like water based creature is tortured and operated upon to change its aesthetic to please humans is brutal to read and just makes you feel revolted at the injustices being committed on the creatures as well as on the families whose occupation this is. Excellent writing though because it’s very vivid but that just makes it more of a difficult read.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

New Year Painting, Ink and Color on Rice Paper, Zhaoqiao Village by Chen Qian
Translated by Emily Xueni Jin

The story of a young girl who is bullied incessantly but turned into a goddess due to some legend that forms around her after her disappearance. This is also about karma and regret and the innocence of childhood. I found it very haunting and melancholic, but very engaging.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Portrait by Chu Xidao
Translated by Gigi Chang

I don’t wanna give away the story but just mention that every single word here is enchanting. The descriptions are utterly beautiful and evoke very strong emotions. Just gorgeous writing overall.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Woman Carrying a Corpse by Chi Hui
Translated by Judith Huang

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make sense what this story was about. Maybe it’s about resilience. Or maybe it’s about the fact that we get into this routine and rut in our life that we forget living and enjoying the life we’ve been given.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Mountain and the Secret of their Names by Wang Nuonuo
Translated by Rebecca F. Kuang

A seamless amalgamation of the devastation caused by satellite launch debris on nearby villages with the rituals of shamanism and the blessings of the ancestors, this story was fascinated and I was hooked all throughout.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Net Novels and the “She Era”: How Internet Novels opened the door for Female Readers and Writers in China by Xueting Christine Ni

I was most excited for this essay – one, because I love interacting with the author Christine on Twitter and have been very impress by some of her reviews and critiques on her website; secondly, because this essay topic feels very close to my heart. My journey into cnovel and cdrama fandom began with watching adaptations and reading fan translations of these so-called Net Novels by female authors, so I was very interested to get to know more about this industry. And the author does a great job tracing the history of this way of publishing, how many of these internet authors have succeeded in bypassing traditional publishing gatekeepers, and became very influential in the emergence of more three dimensional female characters across genres. I also ofcourse loved it when Christine mentioned some of the popular internet authors and their works, some of which I knew and had read or watched. The familiarity just makes me feel wonderful.

Writing and Translation: A Hundred Technical Tricks by Rebecca F. Kuang

What a way to end this collection. Because the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Chinese American authors is Rebecca and her Poppy War trilogy. And as she talks a lot about her ongoing PhD and the technicalities of translation on Twitter quite a bit, it was interesting to see her expand upon it in this essay. And I love her unique perspective as a diaspora author who’s relationship with both English and Chinese are different, which informs both her original writing as well as translation.

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