Following China’s large-scale process of urbanization, the distinctive characteristics of China’s “city(s)” has also begun taking shape. Descriptions and imaginative writings about the city found in contemporary Chinese science fiction have demonstrated unique and yet very specific ways of understanding the city. They have displayed discontentment with the high-level fragmentation of urban space as well as its implicit social inequality, yet also have reflected upon the urban individual’s resort to acquiescence and self-justification as a result of their inability to effectively dismantle such predicaments. In these kinds of imaginary relations, the city becomes an object which is difficult to fathom yet unable to be resisted. Though science fiction novels are able to reconceptualize the city through the reconstruction of space and time, thus bringing about seemingly new visions of the city, yet when these narratives begin to deviate from topics such as the “social property of time,” or that of “social labor,” they themselves then become problematic.
Jerry D. Schmidt
This article explores Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin’s 刘慈欣 novelette “The Poetry Cloud” (Shi yun, 1997) by contextualizing it within the debate between scientism and humanism in 1990s China, an event that has been downplayed in its significance in shaping Liu’s ideas. The first section of this article will investigate how the narrative framework of science fiction represents and refreshes the symbolic meaning of poetry in the abovementioned context. Secondly, by analyzing the three main characters, Yiyi, Big-tooth, and Li Bai, with a focus on their perceptions of poetry, the next section will discuss the different opinions they represent with regard to the debate. Finally, by studying Liu’s work in the context of Martin Heidegger’s reflections upon technology, the last section examines his solution to the tension between scientism and humanism in the programming of a poetry cloud that marries poetic imagination with technological means. This article argues that the story demonstrates how Liu, a technological elite, vacillates between technological determinism and humanism, and tries to provide a possible solution to their inherent contradictions.
Chinese science fiction (sf) writer Liu Cixin (b. 1963) has constantly been dubbed as China’s Arthur C. Clarke (1917−2008) ever since he won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel. He himself humbly states on several occasions that everything he writes is just clumsy imitations of Arthur C. Clarke. One similarity between Liu and Clarke is the obsession with the imagination of the alien encounter. But their imagination of the alien other has one major difference: While the aliens in Clarke’s sf are mostly benevolent, those in Liu’s are mostly malevolent. This essay compares the differences between their alien encounter sf, focusing on Childhood’s End and The Three-Body Trilogy (Santi sanbuqu). I will especially look at how the narrative point of view and the consequence of the alien encounter differ in the two texts. And I argue that Childhood’s End is an unapologetic justification of (British) colonialism (dressed up as the benevolent Overlords) and propaganda for colonial logics, whereas Liu’s trilogy is a representation of the colonial encounter story written from the point of view of the (semi-) colonized, for whom this experience is characterized by dehumanization. The Three-Body Trilogy could be considered as resulted from the revival of the national humiliation discourse in the 1990s.
spirituality over material reality. At the same time, Zhu overemphasizes the discourse of the May Fourth literary canon when talking about the “tragic historical fate of science in the New Literature” (p. 136). Recent scholarship has begun to look at the discourse of Chinese science fiction in the early