What’s the most-read Science Fiction Magazine in the World?

Found this in my mailbox today- Enjoy! Rob

China’s Science Fiction World

On the 30th anniversary (2009) of SFW magazine
Sherry Yao reflects on its history to date.

Quick links to below: Beginnings
A Period of Expansion, A Period of Consolidation, Into the Future.

Founded in 1979 magazine Science Fiction World (SFW) is China’s leading monthly science fiction magazine. It dominates the Chinese science fiction magazine market with a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue. So assuming 3-5 readers per copy it has an estimated total readership of at least 1 million and as such is the World’s most-read SF periodical.

Science Fiction World is published by the SFW group. Today the SFW group runs four magazines serving different age groups.: SFW (Science Fiction World) and FW (Fantasy World) is aimed mainly at teenagers; SFWT (Science Fiction World Translations) is read mostly by adults; Little Newton serves school pupils. All told the SFW group has a large amount of readers.


Founded in 1979, SFW was at first called Science Literature and had its editorial offices in Chengdu, Si Chuang. After the Culture Revolution Movement (1966-1976) many science fiction magazines were produced following the Spring of Science (1978): Chinese people welcome the imaginative, and were interested in science fiction which very much held the hope for a wonderful future. However, around 1983 science fiction stories were charged with causing ‘spiritual pollution’, and so most of these magazines gradually ceased publication. SFW struggled to go through this difficult period to become China’s only SF magazine.

In 1985, to encourage more people to write science fiction and develop good authors, SFW along with the Tree of Knowledge Magazine co-founded the Galaxy Award. However as The Tree of Knowledge Magazine ceased publication the same year, since then SFW has continued to run the Galaxy Awards by itself. Now, the Galaxy Awards have become the highest, and the only, SF/F award in China.

When the SFW group was founded, it was a subdivision of the state run Science and Technology Organization. All of the expenses were covered by the government. However, in 1984, the policy changed, the SFW group was told to either cease publication or operate independently, which means to manage and be responsible for its own profits and losses. After fierce discussion, Yang Xiao was elected as the first director. So, SFW started operating independently. In early days, SFW was crucially low on funds. So Yang Xiao and other SFW staff decided to edit books to provide a supplemental income stream.. The book non-science fiction/fantasy 365 Nights for children they edited was one of the top-sellers for years. Though this title was not SF it enabled the publishing house’s income to become more secure and so SFW started to develop with ancillary SF activities. In 1987, several editors participated in an SF conference in Japan. In May, 1989, Mrs. Yang went to Italy to attend the WSF Conference representing China by herself, yet won the right to host 1991 WSF Conference in China. According to Malcolm Edwards, the 1991 WSF Conference in China was the best WSF Conference ever with over three hundred SF authors and editors domestically and abroad contributing to the programme and socialising. Furthermore SFW representatives began attending some Worldcons.
In 1989 Science Literature changed its name to Amazing Tales. It conducted quite a lot of market research, especially among students in high school and college. In 1991 Science Literature eventually changed its name to Science Fiction World and it was decided that the new SFW would be a platform to present science fiction in a variety of forms, and to stimulate young people’s imaginations and for them to think innovatively.

Read the rest here.