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Chinese sci-fi writer beats Stephen King for top fiction prize

A futuristic tale of urban life in Beijing has won a Chinese novelist a top international prize for science fiction, beating out heavyweight Stephen King for the honour.

Hao Jingfang, 32, won the Hugo Award for best novelette with Folding Beijing, a year after another Chinese writer, Liu Cixin, won the best novel prize for The Three-Body Problem, Xinhua reported on the weekend.

The best novelette category is for short works between 7,500 and 17, 500 words.

Receiving her award in Kansas City, Missouri, Hao said she was not surprised she had won but had also been prepared to lose.

“In Folding Beijing, I have raised a possibility for the future and how we face the challenges of automated production, technological advances, unemployment and economic stagnation,” she said.

Asian writer is first to win Hugo Award for best novel … but will it open new chapter for Chinese sci-fi?

The story describes a Beijing where people of different social status are separated into different spaces, and where low-skilled workers are replaced by robots.

Hao said her book offered a solution to those challenges, but she hoped the situations she described would not become reality.

“I have raised a solution, which may seem a little dark,” she said. “It is not the best outcome, but neither is it the worst – people do not starve to death, young people are not sent to battlefields, like what happens in reality.”

Asian writer is first to win Hugo Award for best novel … but will it open new chapter for Chinese sci-fi?

Hao wrote Folding Beijing in three days in 2012, China Radio International reported.

Hao is from Tianjin, and graduated with a physics degree from Tsinghua University in 2006.

The Hugo Awards, established in 1953, are regarded as the highest honour in science fiction and fantasy. They are named after Hugo Gernsback who was the founder of the American science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.

American writer NK Jemisin won best novel with The Fifth Season, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti was named best novella and Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer was the best short story.