China Bestsellers in January: A Three-Adaptation Problem

From Publishing Perspectives:

You’ll recall that in our November 2022 China bestsellers update, we looked at the arrival in China of a new animated adaptation of Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning The Three-Body Problem (Chongqing Publishing House).

As anticipated, the production has driven Liu’s trilogy to the top of Beijing OpenBook’s fiction list. And, furthermore, there’s now a doorstopper-sized boxed set appearing in the January charts, also from Chongqing Publishing House, punching its way onto the January bestseller list for the first time, and at No. 14.

And there’s now a three-adaptation problem going on, as well—a problem, at least for those trying to keep up with all this, if not for fans of Liu’s popular work or for the profoundly popular computer engineer Liu Cixin, now 59 and winner of the Chinese Nebula.

In lieu of Liu’s success, we’d be talking about Ma Boyong’s Lychee in Chang’an from Hunan Literature & Art Press, which made a remarkable jump in January from No. 23 to No. 5 on the fiction list. Instead, we need to take a pause for disambiguation for you and chart the three adaptations of The Three-Body Problem.

  • In November, we had seen the arrival of the animated Chinese piece. You’ll recall that there was some discussion at the time about whether that program’s start with the second book was the best choice, purists feeling a bit rooked.
  • We also were tracking a live-action English-language series adaptation now in post-production from Netflix and Bighead Littlehead for release later this year. That’s still underway, with Minkie Spiro and Derek Tsang directing and showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss in charge.
  • As it has happened, there’s yet a third adaptation, also live-action and made by China’s CCTV (distribution CCTV-8). This one began landing on Chinese small screens on January 15. And it’s being hailed for a telling more loyal to the books than the animated interpretation.

In terms of market impact for the books? That third adaptation, the Chinese live-action piece, “allowed audiences who have not read The Three-Body Problem [trilogy] to immerse themselves in the story [with] interpretive content, which lowered the obstacles for viewing and understanding.”

So say our associates on OpenBook’s research team, who also would like to call your attention to No. 19 on the list: a revised 2015 translation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, which was initially read as a group of short stories and novellas starting in 1942 and released in its own trilogy format between 1951 and 1953.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives