Monday, August 9, 2010

Chinese Social Sci-Fi Follow-Up

Since my essay, “The Return of Politically Charged Science Fiction in China,” appeared in Foreign Policy, I’ve heard from a number of readers seeking further information on Chinese Sci Fi.  Interested readers should check out Joel Martinsen’s blog post "Social commentary in Chinese SF: 2013, Han Song, and others" for a more complete picture of the present Chinese SF scene.  I find the post, in which Joel (dubbed by a reader as "truly a Chinese SF fan") noted a number of recent SF works that are “socially conscious,” is very interesting and informative.  Joel concluded that, Chen Guanzhong’s China 2013 “may be the first political fantasy to take such direct aim at the modern social order and to discuss politics in such depth, but these and other science fiction stories also engage with contemporary Chinese society in
thought-provoking ways.”

I sent Joel an email to thank him for providing the additional information that was overlooked in my FP essay, and he very kindly replied, with good insights as usual:
I enjoyed your article, which I thought provided a nice bit context that's been lacking in other reviews of the book.
It's true that Chinese SF is a fairly small movement, and the socially conscious stuff is an even smaller subset, so it's not surprising that it doesn't get much attention. Books go out of print fairly quickly -- I was lent a copy of *2066* by a BNU professor back in 2003 but wasn't able to locate a copy of my own until last year (and the author didn't receive any payment from the publisher until last month!). And new novels rarely receive any media attention, although that's been improving a bit: Liu Cixin's *Three Body II* was the subject of essays in 书城, 小说界, and a few other journals, and SF authors were invited to present papers at a recent conference in Shanghai on the past decade of Chinese literature -- Jia Liyuan spoke on the image of China in Chinese SF, and Han Song spoke on the use of self-mockery (I've only seen the titles, but the papers sound fascinating). So mainland-based social SF could conceivably find a wider audience in the future.
In all, it seems that China 2013 is part of a small but growing emergence of politically themed Chinese science fiction, even though almost all of the works to date have had to run around the censorship machine. Hopefully, the substantial popularity the book has enjoyed will engender even more of this in the future.

In addition to Joel's blog, here are a couple of websites for fans of Chinese SF:

No comments: