Chengdu Worldcon 1: Doctor Who in China

Before I start: Hooray! New Doctor Who episodes on 25 November, 2 December and 9 December!!!!!

I’ve been pondering how best to write up my experiences at Chengdu WorldCon last week. In summary, it was an amazing experience; tremendous hospitality from our Chinese hosts, a chance to engage with an ancient culture, and I saw the pandas.

Most convention reports just go chronologically through the two, or three, or four, or five days of the convention. I’ve decided to take a more thematic approach, looking at some of the things I really liked in a bit more detail.

Many aspects of Chengdu Worldcon were great fun. I will write about the things I especially enjoyed: the pandas, the set-piece events, and the friends I made along the way. (I enjoyed the WSFS Business Meeting even less than usual, so I won’t write about that.)

The thing that gave me the most unexpected joy was the love for Doctor Who shown by the Chinese fans. I have to give huge credit here to Yan Ru, 晏如, an English Chinese teacher from Wuhan, who may well be the leading Doctor Who fan in China. We had made contact before the convention, and had a lot of conversations about our shared passion.

Yan Ru invited me to participate in the Chengdu Worldcon panel on “Doctor Who in China” (in Chinese « 神秘博士 » 在中国 ) along with English fan Joseph B, and three other Chinese speakers. Joseph and I were I think the only non-Chinese participants in the room, which was packed.

The panel started with a joyous chant of the Doctor Who theme tune – all Doctor Who panels should start like that! – and a translator whispered to Joseph and me in English, as the other panelists and the audience engaged in intense discussions in Chinese. We spoke in English, and most people seemed to understand perfectly well (and those who didn’t were tolerant). I should add that a lot of the Chengdu Worldcon panels had simultaneous translation, but in this case, probably because Joseph and I were last-minute additions, that didn’t happen. There are some brilliant photos here from #154 to #322 – I especially like that they concentrate on my upper body rather than my tummy – here are two good ones.

With six of us on the panel, and only an hour, we only answered three questions. Not very surprisingly, the first two were 1) Who is your favourite Doctor? (a lot of love for Christopher Ecclestone in China) and 2) What does Doctor Who mean to you?; but slightly more surprisingly the last question was 3) what is your favourite Doctor Who book?

The Doctor Who books appear to be relatively bigger on the inside in China than in Europe or the USA. Yan Ru was running a Doctor Who stall (along with everything else) and sold out of the books on the second last day of the convention. I should say also that the main shopping area of the convention was graced by a large TARDIS, beside a screen showing the current Doctor Who trailer on continuous loop. It too sold out by the last day.

I had been assigned a young volunteer to keep me straight in the unfamiliar world of the convention, a young local student of English and French, who made sure that I went to all of the places I was supposed to go to on time, and also sorted out my phone issues and located my lost laundry.

As a parting present, I got her a signed copy of Yan Ru’s translation of Jac Rayner’s Ninth Doctor Novel Winner Takes All (and a cuddly panda). She seemed very pleased.

I’m glad to say that Yan Ru got home to Wuhan and discovered that she had been promoted at work, in recognition of her translating Who-ology and Winner Takes All into Chinese. She also received the prize for the best Chengdu Worldcon fan party for the Doctor Who party on the Friday night (which I missed for reasons which will be explained). More power to her.

I normally set my blog posts to go live after my working hours, but for this and the other Chengdu reports I’m setting then for lunchtime in Brussels, so that my Chinese friends can read them in the early evening.