The Smog Society

Science fiction by Chen Qiufan – translated by Carmen Yiling Yan and Ken Liu

Lao Sun lived on the 17th floor facing the open street, nothing between him and the sky. If he woke in the morning to darkness, it was the smog's doing for sure.

Through the murky air outside the window, he had to squint to see the tall buildings silhouetted against the yellow-gray background like a sandy-colored relief print. The cars on the road all had their high beams on and their horns blaring, crammed one against the other at the intersection into one big mess. You couldn't tell where heaven and earth met, and you couldn't tell apart the people, either. Passels of pedestrians, dusty-faced under filter masks that made them look like pig-faced monstrosities, walked past the jammed cars.