Though an anthology can never average out to a five star read, I very much enjoyed my time with this one and would recommend anyone who enjoys SFF short stories to give it a try. Below are my thoughts on each story or essay, though I'm purposefully keeping the summaries brief to try not to spoil anything.
The Stars We Raised 逃跑星辰 by Xiu Xinyu 修新羽, translated by Judy Yi Zhou 周易 - 3.5 stars
A story of a lonely boy growing up and caring for a star, as told by one of his classmates. A bit ambiguous, I'm not sure I fully grasped the narrative, but it conveyed a lot of emotion.
The Tale of Wude’s Heavenly Tribulation 五德渡劫记 by Count E E 伯爵, translated by Mel “etvolare” Lee - 3.5 stars
Lighthearted story of a fox having to outsmart a trickster and pass a test of lightning on his way to achieving immortality. This one was mostly just a bit of fun for me.
What Does the Fox Say? 狐狸说什么？by Xia Jia 夏笳 - 4.5 stars
An exploration of linguistics and AI, an algorithm generating a story, and how meaning is derived. The note I wrote after finishing it was "slightly unhinged, overall a great time."
Blackbird 黑鸟 by Shen Dacheng 沈大成, translated by Cara Healey 贺可嘉 - 4.5 stars
Very atmospheric story set at a nursing home about the refusal to let go. Just the right amount of creepy and didn't overstay its welcome.
The Restaurant at the End of Universe: Tai-Chi Mashed Taro 宇宙尽头的餐馆之太极芋泥 by Anna Wu 吴霜, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan 言一零 - 5 stars
My first favorite in this collection. Hard to explain much without spoiling, but I loved the structure (a bit of a story within a story) and how things are gradually pieced together. Once again, great atmosphere, with two opposite settings: a vibrant space restaurant and a frigid snowy vista.
Essay: The Futures of Genders in Chinese Science Fiction by Jing Tsu 石静远 - 4 stars
An essay about the history of Chinese scifi and its relationship with gender. Honestly I felt like some of it went over my head, but even still I learned a lot.
Baby, I Love You 宝贝宝贝我爱你 by Zhao Haihong 赵海虹, translated by Elizabeth Hanlon 韩恩立 - 3 stars
Zero out of ten for the protagonist, he's a fucking asshole. Deals with themes of parenthood, virtual reality simulation, and the hard work it takes to raise a child. Not my cup of tea, but I suppose my infuriation points to it being well written and is kind of the point since I think it's meant to be a disturbing critique of modern society.
A Saccharophilic Earthworm 嗜糖蚯蚓 by BaiFanRuShuang 白饭如霜, translated by Ru-Ping Chen 陈汝平 - 4 stars
A shorter one about an ambitious but homebound woman, her lover, and her (anthropomorphic) plants. I was surprised by how much I liked this, the imagery really worked for me.
The Alchemist of Lantian 蓝田半人 by BaiFanRuShuang 白饭如霜, translated by Ru-Ping Chen 陈汝平 - 4.5 stars
Another short one, about a (more-or-less) immortal alchemist who's very fed up with life. Absolutely loved the protagonist's voice; I think the audiobook in particular really made this one.
The Way Spring Arrives 春天来临的方式 by Wang Nuonuo 王诺诺, translated by Rebecca F. Kuang 匡灵秀 - 4 stars
A imagery-rich story on the changing of seasons and the cycles of life, following a girl who must bring about spring with the help of many fish and her young protégé. I enjoyed this depiction of the gods and all of earth's processes being manually initiated. I'm curious as to the choice for this to be the title story, though it certainly made for a great cover.
Essay: 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 王艺霖 - 5 stars
I very much appreciate the background this provided around all the decisions translators have to make to maintain the balance between preserving the original text and making it approachable for a new audience. The in depth explanations of some of the specific choices Yilin Wang made for these two stories were so interesting, including transliteration versus translation, how much explanation to provide for things that would be general knowledge to Chinese readers, and choice of pronouns. I'm glad I had both the audiobook and the ebook to hear the pronunciation alongside how things were written, but then again I'm very much a geek for linguistics.
The Name of the Dragon 应龙 by Ling Chen 凌晨, translated by Yilin Wang 王艺霖 - 4.5 stars
Human's never-ending thirst for power and a dragon who just wants to be left alone. Lush and bright descriptions in what is essentially a very depressing story.
To Procure Jade 得玉 by Gu Shi 顾适, translated by Yilin Wang 王艺霖 - 3.5 stars
A legendary spring no one has been able to find and a resourceful man just trying to make ends meet. This one surprised me with the direction it went it.
A Brief History of Beinakan Disasters as Told in a Sinitic Language 衡平公式 by Nian Yu 念语, translated by Ru-Ping Chen 陈汝平 - 4 stars
I really enjoyed the concept of this, imagining an alien species who have hereditary memory capsules and the lengths we'll go to to avoid extinction. However, there were a couple places where I simply got confused about what was being described.
Essay: Is There Such a Thing as Feminine Quietness? A Cognitive Linguistics Perspective by Emily Xueni Jin 金雪妮 - 5 stars
I loved this essay and especially how understandable it was, with a specific example pulled from the subtitles of the Mulan live action. Explores how translators' choices when one word can be mapped to multiple words in another language can support stereotypes, and questions whether a translator can "ungender" parts of a text while maintaining the authenticity of the translation.
Dragonslaying 屠龙 by Shen Yingying 沈璎璎, translated by Emily Xueni Jin 金雪妮 - 5 stars
Dragonslaying is an exclusive, torturous, and costly art undertaken for the entertainment of the rich. This one was incredibly dark, gory, and depressing. Another favorite of mine.
New Year Painting, Ink and Color on Rice Paper, Zhaoqiao Village 年画 by Chen Qian 陈茜, translated by Emily Xueni Jin 金雪妮 - 4 stars
An unusual painting is unearthed and found to be connected to tales of a small village and a bullied girl. We get a bit of a look into how legends form, and how much might be the truth. I really enjoyed the perspective this was told from of a young art restorer.
The Portrait 画妖 by Chu Xidao 楚惜刀, translated by Gigi Chang 张菁 - 3.5 stars
The best painter in the land is stumped in completing his work A Hundred Beauties when he cannot cannot capture the last woman's soul. I'm not sure why I didn't quite connect to this one, but it's definitely beautifully told.
The Woman Carrying a Corpse 背尸体的女人 by Chi Hui 迟卉, translated by Judith Huang 錫影 - 4 stars
A repetitive tale of a woman carrying a corpse. Feels allegorical. I'm sure this is saying something very important, I'm just not sure what it is.
The Mountain and the Secret of Their Names 山和名字的秘密 by Wang Nuonuo 王诺诺, translated by Rebecca F. Kuang 匡灵秀 - 4.5 stars
Interesting take on the old moving into the new. A village directly in the path of satellite launch debris. A young boy taught shamanism by his grandfather who grows to be a young man and comes to see magic as an algorithm based on his ancestors' names and the secrets the mountain holds from all it's lived through.
Essay: Net Novels and the “She Era”: How Internet Novels Opened the Door for Female Readers and Writers in China by Xueting Christine Ni 倪雪亭 - 5 stars
I've heard more and more about Chinese web novels and their popular adaptations in the past couple years, but had hardly an inkling of how the industry works and how it came about, let alone the impact it's had on allowing for works by female writers for female readers in China. This was so informative, outlining the history of this new publishing phenomenon and many popular examples. There's so many works mentioned in this essay that I want to look further into.
Essay: Writing and Translation: A Hundred Technical Tricks by Rebecca F. Kuang 匡灵秀 - 5 stars
I'd never thought of translation as a way to improve your own writing, though it makes sense. In my own experience, there's so much more you realize about your native language while learning a second one, and I can only imagine how much more that would extend to all the technicalities of translating from one language to another that she describes.