The Birth and Growth of AppleCore – The Largest SFF Fandom in Eastern China

This article is dedicated to all my dear AppleCorers

Special thanks to Shaoyan Hu for his contribution to this article


Founded in 2009, AppleCore is still quite young, but compared to other existing Chinese fandoms, it has a relatively long history.

It was in May 2009. I learned from the internet that a University Fantasy Festival was held in Xi’an. My favorite fantasy writers at that time were guests of the event. Why not holding one in Shanghai and inviting them as well? The idea came to my mind and then was discussed among the members of Science Fiction Association of Fudan University. Afterwards, I posted an ad on the internet and my fellow members contacted other university sf clubs in Shanghai. As a result, more clubs and more people joined our ranks. We finally gathered the support of another three SF clubs: Science Fiction Association of Shanghai Jiaotong University, Starry Fire SF Club of University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, and The Ally of Sun-chasers – SF Club of Tongji University.

All the four university sf clubs reached an agreement that we should do something together, like what our predecessors had done in the past. In June 2007, initiated by the Ally of Sun-Chasers SF Club, the 1st Shanghai SFF Forum was held in Tongji University. So we decided to call our event the 2nd Shanghai Science Fiction & Fantasy Festival.

There are two names that I have to highlight here.

The first one is Ding zicheng (or Dingdingchong), a mature fan and translator, who has translated much Japanese sf into Chinese. He had organized a lot of sf activities in Shanghai even before AppleCore was founded. The idea of establishing a congregated union for SF fans in Shanghai had always been on his mind.

Ding Zicheng
Ding Zicheng

The other name is Jing Shanyao (or Yam), cofounder of Sun-chasers as well as AppleCore. She was a student in Tongji at that time and had devoted a lot of time to sf events before she graduated. She was the one who named AppleCore.

In July 2009, it was reported that a total solar eclipse would be observable in the Yangtze River Basin, which was quite rare for the region. Scientific Squirrels, a popular science organization in China, set up an observation camp on a farm in the suburbs of Shanghai. You know that most sf fans love star-gazing and are interested in astronomy, right? So it was a perfect opportunity for us to win support from various groups of people.

I talked with Ding Zicheng and core members of Scientific Squirrels about our idea of organizing this event in a joint effort. It turned out that they were all willing to support us. Although we were unable to witness the total solar eclipse due to the rain and clouds, it was a successful journey for building contacts.

Then it was the slow season of summer vacation, during which not much was happening except for the drafting of a rough proposal. The first meeting that promoted real progress was held in early September, when the new semester began and everyone was back from hometown or field work. We had a discussion face to face and settled down the overall plan for 2009 Shanghai Science Fiction & Fantasy Festival. According to the plan, each of the four university sf clubs would organize an event in its own campus.

As I mentioned before, Ding Zicheng always had the idea of establishing a SF union in Shanghai, which was of course supported by all the university sf clubs. On Oct 11, 2009, we had a meeting in a McDonalds near the city center, to decide the name for our union. We had several choices such as Ke Ai Meng (可爱萌, Cute and Moe or 科幻爱好者联盟, Union of Science Fiction Fans) and Ephemera Association(蜉蝣会). Finally, SF AppleCore (科幻苹果核) stood out as the winner. Apple is the fruit of wisdom. Newton was inspired by a falling apple for the understanding of gravity. Allen Turing bit a poisonous apple to commit suicide. Apple has many connections in meaning. Meanwhile, ”core” can be interpreted as the core of science fiction, core of imagination, core of science and core of fans.

We all devoted ourselves to the event after that. FDU held the opening ceremony, SJTU were responsible for the movie screening, USST hosted a contest of debate and TJU organized a meeting with editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World Magazine and concluded the festival with a closing ceremony.

Yang Sumin, or Susu, made a promotion video for the whole festival:

Apart from these independent events, we had a series of competitions, for which, all the four universities had built their own teams, each with around four members. Those teams would participate in a live-action role playing game in one of the other three universities excluding their own. That means each university had to design a game with plots and tasks on campus. We did not even know the concept of LARP at that time, but we managed to reinvent it!

Mission complete - Take a picture in front of the Mao statue
Mission complete – Take a picture in front of the Mao statue

The background story of our game was set in Shanghai. In that story, Shanghai was going to be destroyed by the sff writers, so the fans had to save the city by winning the game. The first round of the game was carried out in Fudan University after the opening ceremony. Of all the four rounds, this might be the most special one because the SJTU team was set up to compete with a guest team composed of the sff writers and editors who had attended the opening ceremony. The two teams were assigned with different tasks and led to different routes. They could purchase clues with rings and get rings when completing a task. Most of the guests were from the magazine Odyssey of China Fantasy, the contents of which were closely based on the settings of an original Chinese fantasy world – Novoland. To honor their participation, the plots of our game also had strong ties with Novoland. Running around the campus seemed to be one of the challenges. A video was compiled out of the recordings during the four rounds of the game by Zhang Zilong. Although it is in Chinese, you can get a rough impression of how we played:

The closing ceremony of Shanghai Science Fiction & Fantasy Festival in Tongji University turned out to be a great success. Many big names in Chinese science fiction and fantasy attended as guests, for example, Wang Jinkang, Han Song, Chen Qiufan, Chu Xidao, Ming Ling, A Tun, Jun Tian, Pan Haitian, etc. The founder of Scientific Squirrels and, Ji Shisan also appeared in the event. The hostess of the ceremony was Ji Shaoting, who would become the bid chair of the Beijing 2016 Worldcon bid a few years later. Outside of the ceremony hall, we set up a small market place, where fans could purchase our T-shirts, calendar and books, or win small gifts by answering quiz questions.

The festival lasted for about one month, with a variety of activities in all the four universities at weekends. Everyone was exhausted, but felt a full sense of achievement when the month had run its course.

Han Song giving a lecture, Ji Shaoting listening
Han Song giving a lecture, Ji Shaoting listening

Since then, AppleCore has strived hard to accommodate this annual event in each and every year and managed to do so from 2009 through 2014, except in 2010. The festival is usually in May, except for that in 2009 it was in November and December. Up to Dec 2014, there are seven university sf clubs in Shanghai: Science Fiction Association of Fudan University, Science Fiction Association of Shanghai Jiaotong University, The Ally of Sun-chasers – SF Club of Tongji University, Parallel Universe Science Fiction Club of Donghua University, Shanghai University Science Fiction Society, Shanghai Maritime University Fantasy Star SFA and Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Club of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

During all these years, AppleCore is growing larger and stronger. Nowadays, it is more than just a union of university sf clubs in Shanghai. Since Oct 2013, AppleCore has started a monthly gathering program in Shanghai – AppleCore Party. It was supposed to be the Chinese style pub meeting, or the equivalence of the mafia style gathering I learned from Finnish SF fans. Since pub culture is not so popular in China, we usually hold lectures, movie screenings, panel discussions or other kinds of programmes in the afternoon and then have dinner together – the Chinese way of socializing. Recently, we also organized visits to an observatory and a virtual reality laboratory. The essential idea is to get science fiction and fantasy fans together, providing them the opportunities to learn new things and have fun. The targeting group of AppleCore Party is mainly fans who have already graduated from school and work in Shanghai. Of course students are also welcomed. The gathering is open to everyone with free admission. Attendants only need to pay for their meals if they choose to stay until dinner.

The first ever AppleCore Party was the only one actually in a pub
The first ever AppleCore Party was the only one actually in a pub

In Nov 2014, we started another project – AppleCore Reading Group. We encourage the members to read a specific book every month and meet to discuss about it. There are supposed to be two meetings in a month, one in the university and one outside. We began with Asimov’s The End of Eternity in November. In December, we will discuss a Chinese SF novel, The Waste Tide, written by Chen Qiufan. Next January, China Miéville’s The City & The City will be on the list. For better understanding, we read the translated version in Chinese language. The plan is that the book club will start within a limited circle of members and gradually extend to a larger group.

Group picture of the books
Group picture of the books

We also co-organize events with Shanghai Science & Technology Association. Those events are usually more formal and serious, facing a larger audience and bearing the official function of science popularization.

AppleCore has a cartoon endorser – the APC Girl, a cute girl holding an apple with a crystal core. Her image appears in different situations and on various products designed by AppleCore. We even have a real APC Girl! She shows up in important Chinese events like the Chinese Nebula Award Ceremony.

APC Girl – YA version
APC Girl – YA version

We are still young, but working hard to grow up. We believe that one day, there will be the idol girl group APC 48. Well, I’m just kidding. But we do aim to bid for Worldcon in Shanghai in the future when we are mature enough, and hopefully, not a future too far away.

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