The Melon sci-fi conference: a stimulating clash of worlds
The inaugural Melon science fiction conference took place on April 19-20 in Hong Kong. A modest, two-day event, it brought together writers, producers, lawyers and entrepreneurs who work in science fiction and its adjacent industries. One of the main draws of the conference was its mix of speakers from both Greater China and the West, a rare get together in the sci-fi world. The bulk of the conference comprised talks, fireside chats and panels, almost all 20 minutes long, which kept the conference running at a healthy, clipped pace.
Even though there wasn’t an official theme or subject, the topic that ended up taking center stage was the burgeoning sci-fi scene in China. To begin with, there were quite a few speakers (including some prominent authors) from the Chinese sci-fi scene. On top of this, there was palpable excitement around the scene because it is still in its infancy with plenty of room to grow. Multiple speakers mentioned the award-winning novel The Three-Body Problem as an unexpected, first breakthrough, and how it has opened the way for future books (and films) to be produced. But as it stands, the sci-fi scene in China is still small. As author Xia Jia reminded us, there’s a a running joke Chinese sci-fi writers make at conferences that if the elevator they’re riding in breaks down (and kills them), then China would be left a nation bereft of science fiction authors.
The most interesting part of the conference, however, lay between the lines – in the clash of worlds between authors and non-authors, between practitioners in the US, UK, Hong Kong and China. One minute an author was talking about how they scraped together a living as a writer; several minutes later, a startup executive was talking about how they scaled their livestreaming platform. Or there was the stark difference between how to get published in and outside of China: while Western authors generally work under well-established publishing routes (agent → publisher → bookseller), Chinese authors raised concerns about companies “buying [their] IP” and hoarding them in hopes that they will appreciate in value once the author gains fame.
We spoke to a few of the conference organizers after the event, and they seemed quite pleased with how things went. So there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing year two of Melon in 2018. Stay tuned by following them on Facebook or Twitter.