Rubbish Chinese fiction which is rife with mawkish and sexual elements has cast an insidious spell on a large number of Vietnamese teenagers and young adults and been thus a great cause for concern among parents and the general public.
Shelves topped with around hundreds of books of such kind are now easily seen at most local bookstores and invariably packed with buyers and perusers, who are mostly middle and high school students.
Such books’ magnetic appeal is even more evident among the online community, as the books always receive staggeringly huge numbers of views and comments.
An oversentimental Chinese book published in the “Literature” section of a popular online forum receives an average of several hundred thousand or up to some million views.
A few are even read over 10 million times and receive some thousands of comments.
The English translations of the titles of several slushy Chinese books currently all the rage on the local market include “Do You Like America?” “Moonlight Doesn’t Understand How I Feel,” “Let Me Look Toward You,” “Forever Together,” and “I’m Just Like Radiant Sunlight.”
The boom in online “translators,” most of whom have a fragmentary command or none at all of the Chinese language, has added to the bountiful supply of such books.
They generally use software to convert the Chinese versions into awkward Vietnamese stories before clumsily “editing” them into finished “works.”
Such “translators” as Yingli, Dennis Q, and Greenrosetq are “venerated” by their fans as much as the Chinese writers themselves.
Many of their “works” are purchased by local publishers to release them in books.
Diep Lac Vo Tam, one of China’s four currently most-loved oversentimental writers, whose pen-name is written in Vietnamese transcription, has been pampered with profuse adoration from her Vietnamese fans just like any K-pop stars.
Her exchanges held earlier this month in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi were filled to the rim with local buffs.
Films adapted from fiction give a boost
Young Vietnamese’s adoration for soppy fiction is fueled further by the recent success of Chinese films adapted from trendy works of such fiction.
Around two or three years ago, Vietnamese publishers predicted the downfall of the mawkish fiction in Vietnam.
However, the trend has shown no signs of abating, and has even gained in popularity. Among the four publications by NanuBooks, a local publisher, in January 2015, three were soppy Chinese stories.
Similarly, five out of seven publications by Amun, another local publishing brand, in February and March 2015 fell into the slushy genre.
Some 1,000 young fans are seen scrambling at an April 5, 2015 exchange with one of China's most popular oversentimental fiction writers. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Rife sex content
According to insiders, slushy Chinese fiction is primarily about oversentimental storylines, perfectly dreamlike protagonists and their embellished romances and far-fetched dreams.
Many of them are casually written and sloppily edited.
However, the genre has grown into at least two derivatives in recent years.
One comprises shoddily written soppy stories which depict promiscuous characters and their casual sexual relationships.
The other is those in which the writers make it a point to describe sex scenes between characters in great, obscene detail. Several are also plagued by a worrying frequency of sex scenes, incestuous relationships, and sexually deviant elements such as polygamy.
Among hugely popular stories are those depicting in great depth homosexual relationships.
While conventional oversentimental stories cause young readers to stray away from reality, indulge themselves in fantasy and far-fetched dreams, and shy away from school work, such sexually-riddled prose is considerably more damaging and even obsessive to youngsters.
Hoai Huong, 17, admitted that she was addicted to slushy Chinese fiction when she was as young as 12 years old.
“These obscene love-making scenes described in full detail embarrass even adults, and thus unquestionably leave a detrimental lasting imprint on teenagers,” said a person who launched a site to voice resentment at the rubbish genre.
Such rubbish, “toxic” prose is not only rife online, but has also been released in books by a number of local publishing companies, who purposefully turn a blind eye to its destructive effects because of its high lucrativeness.
Those already published online still sell like hot cakes in printed versions, though the books are quite expensive, according to local fans.
A Facebook user told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that he recently noticed a middle school student offering an oversentimental book for online sale for VND600,000 (US$28). The book was soon purchased by another student.
Readers choose oversentimental books at a bookstore in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Efforts to wipe out slushy Chinese fiction
Members of a group which was launched last month on Facebook are making efforts to eradicate the detrimental prose.
Several members have snapped photos of the book pages with offensive sex content to cement their objections.
Others straightforwardly accuse publishers who overlook public reactions of releasing such books for its high profitability.
Nguyen Minh Nhut, director of the Tre (Youth) Publishing House, one of the country’s major publishing companies, stressed at a seminar late last year that his company has adamantly said no to oversentimental Chinese fiction.
Chu Van Hoa, director of the publishing department under the Ministry of Information and Communications, told Tuoi Tre that his department is stepping up efforts to combat the plague, including holding workshops to work out the problems involved in such fiction and citing public outcry to stop publishers from releasing rubbish works.
Competent agencies are also urged to impose penalties on violating publishers.
Efforts should also be made to raise forum administrators’ awareness of the genre’s adverse impacts and encourage them to better check the content posted by their members.
This approach is considered by many to be more effective than coercively closing down infringing websites, as similar sites will keep mushrooming following some closedowns.