Magazine editor under fire

By Bao Daozu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-23 07:50
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BEIJING - Editors with the nation's most popular science fiction magazine have issued an open letter asking for the editor-in-chief to be fired, accusing him of being corrupt and dictatorial.

The letter was published on the popular website on Sunday evening, entitled, "A public letter to the nation's science fiction fans from the Science Fiction World. We're ready for the storm!"

Liu Zhuang, a staffer from the magazine's editorial office, confirmed with China Daily on Monday that the letter was sent jointly by all the editors.

He declined to disclose further details about the event, which is considered rare in China's media circles.

Magazine editor under fire

The alleged wrongdoings of the editor-in-chief, Li Chang, who has held the position since the end of 2008, was listed in the letter.

"He (Li Chang) doesn't know either science fiction or publication or editing. He doesn't respect the readers or the writers. He is of bad morality and is unqualified for the job," the letter said.

"However such a person managed to climb his way up to the editor-in-chief of a magazine that has enjoyed a high reputation nationwide. Now people in the science fiction circle are in anxiety. The entire editing group of the magazine is ready to resign at anytime. The last flag in China's science fiction world is about to vanish," it said.

The note said Li has insisted on using photographs of some local campuses on the magazine covers to make profits, and has replaced professional writers with editors.

Li's other alleged deeds of misconduct include illegally selling book license numbers and granting privileges to his friends' companies to publish ads in the magazine.

The post has collected 1,086 comments and has been recommended to fellow readers 4,216 times by netizens as of Monday evening.

Founded in 1979, at it highest point the monthly magazine had a monthly circulation of about 300,000, according to the magazine's website.

Li could not be reached on Monday for comments, with his colleagues saying he was on vacation in Taiwan.

Wu Yan, an education professor with Beijing Normal University who was closely involved with the magazine, said he is angry over the situation .

"I watched over the magazine as it grew during the past years. As the only place that offers a master's degree in science fiction research and study, we had long maintained a tight cooperation with the magazine. But everything ended after Li took the position," Wu told China Daily on Monday.

Li suspended all the spending on writing and editing improvements, and also canceled the annual meeting for their science fiction pen association, Wu said.

"He said it was not necessary to maintain relationships with us," Wu said.

Wu said the magazine had been successful before Li took office, because it has hired lots of science fiction fans to work as editors during the past 10 years.

"They're pretty dedicated to their careers. Perhaps that's why they raised the issue in such a high-profile manner," he said.

Tan Kai, one of the earliest co-founders of the magazine and its former editor-in-chief, told China Daily he was disappointed at Li's work.

Tan said since Li took over the magazine's management, its circulation had seen a sharp drop. Li also canceled some staff benefits, such as annual health check-ups.

One major reason for Li's being appointed to his current position is because he had good personal relationships with some leaders from the Sichuan Association for Science and Technology (SAST). The association appoints some high-level staffers for the magazine, Tan said, adding that he has known Li personally for more than 10 years.

Tan said he text-messaged some complaints to SAST people when Li was appointed to the post. One of his texts read: "Handing the magazine over to him is like sending my own daughter to the brothel." But his comments were ignored, he said.

Wu Kai, the Party secretary of SAST, could not be reached for comment on Monday as his mobile phone was turned off.

Some readers also said they are disappointed at a decline in the quality of the magazine.

"I used to be a loyal fan of the Science Fiction World when I was in college. An article called Santi (The Three-body Problem) got me started reading science fiction. Since then I bought the magazine every now and then," said Liang Liang, a 25-year-old female planner with an advertising company in Beijing.

She said she stopped buying it early last year, "because the articles became very similar, without anything outstanding".

(China Daily 03/23/2010 page6)