Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

This literature produced ‘The Three-Body Problem’

By knl9j Mar23,2024

The science fiction works of Liu Cixin have propelled China to the forefront of the global literary scene. However, it has significantly deeper origins.

If the literary invasion of Chinese science fiction by fans weren’t a long-standing reality, we could declare that the Netflix version of “The Three Body Problem” is going to put Chinese science fiction on the map. Numerous languages have been translated into Liu Cixin’s works over the years, and the author has received public appreciation from figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, who are not often thought to have radical or underground tastes.

It would be ignorant, though, to assume that Netflix’s millions of subscribers are cognizant of the strange speculative literature that has emerged from China’s notoriously difficult-to-penetrate borders. So that you don’t become confused amidst the myriad of names and works that have been reshaping the genre on a global scale for years, we have crafted a brief introduction. Chinese science fiction awaits you.

Aspects of gender in relation to the state have persisted throughout the storied past of the all-encompassing Chinese Communist Party. According to Han Song, a writer and authority on the genre, the genre started in 1902 with the publication of a book called ‘The Future of New China’ by the Chinese political leader Liang Qichao. The book claimed that China will become a world power in 1962.

The genre was not new to Liang; he had already translated “Two Years’ Vacation” by Jules Verne. Moreover, he proposed that this style of writing could help with “spreading modern knowledge in the country, opening minds to new ideas and stimulating development.” Authors like Wu Jianren and Xu Nianci would help foster a new literary movement that would be called kexue xiaoshuo, which means “science fiction” in English.

Works like “From Earth to Mars,” a tale by Zheng Wenguang that described the voyage of a communist space mission, were vastly different from American consumption between 1949 (when Mao came to power) and the mid-sixties. America and Europe at the time of the New Wave of speculative fiction, which shook up the entire literary landscape. Science fiction in China prior to Mao drew heavily from Soviet realism and, from the beginning, framed scientific advancements through a propaganda lens.

While the subject is briefly broached in “The Three Body Problem,” the Cultural Revolution effectively outlawed any work that did not promote official ideology. The Netflix series barely skims the surface of this issue. However, genre literature persisted in Taiwan, with an emphasis on reflections on past tragedies and critical/dystopian future scenarios. Standing out among the most prominent authors of the period was SK Chang, who championed a significant exhibition of American pop culture motifs as the end of the seventies approached: alien invasions, mad scientists, laser rays, and apocalypses.

The Four Modernizations were initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Science fiction was not only tolerated and even encouraged by powerful people, but literature was also decriminalized. Here we are witnessing the zenith of the written genre in China, which lasted all of four years until the country’s resistance to Western ideas and influences recommenced in 1983.

However, things changed for the genre in 1991 when Chengdu hosted the inaugural International Science Fiction Convention, welcoming international writers and paving the way for the first translations of works by luminaries like Asimov and Heinlein. Importantly, it is happening little under two years after the Tiananmen Square protests and bloodshed.

Also, it’s been a few years since researchers first pinpointed the year that the New Wave of Chinese science fiction began. In any case, the nation’s goal was to improve its public perception. Thirty years on, the latest Hugo awards disaster—in which Chinese influence over nomination selection was criticized—shows that China is still far from projecting the image of openness it desires.

It should not be overlooked that there are contemporary Chinese authors who utilize science fiction as a means of propaganda. The aforementioned song alludes to Wang Jikang’s “Being with Me,” in which the entire world bands together to fight an extraterrestrial invasion—one that China is leading. But there are dissenting opinions, like that of novelist Ding Zicheng, who writes about how science has achieved economic victory over death and that anyone who wants to leave this world has to start a protracted administrative struggle.

Along with China’s ambitions for global growth and the Chinese Dream, the second wave of successful Chinese authors emerged with the turn of the century. A certain amount of subversion within the bounds of the avant-garde and characteristics of the literary style have been introduced to the genre by this New Wave. To a much higher extent than more traditional genres are reaching. To rephrase, science fiction is rapidly rising to the position of literary avant-garde in China.

In China Pictorial, Mingwei Song discussed this emerging trend, writing, “the New Wave is generating new modes of literary discourse that strange what is taken for granted, open our eyes to insurgent knowledge and subversive images, and evoke a range of sensations.” These sensations can be real or imagined, and they can cover a wide spectrum, from the chthonic to the sublime, the extraordinary to the spectacular, the enticing to the exuberant, the transcendental to the apocalyptic, and the human to the posthuman.

According to Song, this emerging movement is delving into “the binary correspondence between reality and representation” as well as “unorthodox non-binary forms such as cyborg, chimera, heterotopia, singularity, hyperdimensionality, multiverse, sympoiesis and metaverse.” Theorists and scholars are noticing the genre’s meteoric rise, and the proliferation of scholarly works exploring its various iterations and interpretations is a direct result of this.

‘The Three-Body Problem’s’ author is more than just a successful novelist; he is a genuine literary sensation in his home country. This is likely related to his achievement of the illusive global renown and prestige that comes with accolades like the Hugo of 2015, which he won despite not being fluent in English. This is why, rather than being merely another accomplished writer, Liu Cixin is a national hero and a symbol in China.

Gender pride like this mirrors the current national view of women: as a tool of regime-friendly soft power. Incidents like Liu Cixin’s were on President Xi Jinping’s mind in 2012 when he spoke of the Chinese Dream, an initiative he launched to improve China’s reputation abroad and win over skeptical foreign powers.

Today, meanwhile, readers should not ignore writers other than Liu Cixin. ‘Invisible Planets’ and ‘Broken Stars,’ anthologies of crucial tales to enter Chinese science fiction, were edited by Ken Liu, who was also his English translator. Marvels like the 2016 Hugo Award–winning short story “Between the Folds of Peking” and the rest of the genre’s rich diversity and complexity are beautifully presented in this collection.

Authors like Chen Qiufan, who has just gained a lot of followers, and the other fresh names in the anthology deserve your undivided attention. She delves into the issues of capitalism in her debut work, “Toxic Tide,” which offers a groundbreaking viewpoint. We meet an oppressed migrant worker on Silicon Island, which is polluted by electronic garbage in the South China Sea. Two uncontrollable forces, eco-terrorists and American financiers, collide in this story.

By knl9j

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