Chinese SciFi in the 21st Century

UNSWChinese Studies Seminar Series, UNSW, Sydney

Representations of the Invisible: Chinese Science Fiction in the Twenty-first Century

A/Prof. Song Mingwei of Wellesley College with cameo appearance by acclaimed author Liu Cixin

3pm – 5 pm Wednesday 4 November 2015;
Central Lecture Block 3, High St., Gate 8, Upper Campus, UNSW

A/Prof. Song’s discussion of Chinese science fiction will center on representations of the invisible: science fiction as an invisible genre; the new wave of Chinese science fiction’s representation of the “invisible” reality of China; and the invisible body and universe in Liu Cixin’s alternative vision of what is sublime. He argues that contrary to the common belief that science fiction is the opposite of realism, the language of science fiction operates as a representation of the reality with “high-intensity mimesis” (Seo-Young Chu’s term), which presents the metaphorical, the figurative, and the poetic as the literal.

He will discuss two major writers: Han Song and Liu Cixin. Han’s uncanny narrative turns ordinary daily experience into surreal adventure. He often observes that “China’s reality is more science fictional than science fiction,” implying that what he writes is not merely the metaphorical, figurative, or poetic, but instead through his writings, the textual fabrication of China’s “reality” as scientific speculations illuminate the truth of the otherwise invisible reality, and thus decides the subversive nature of the genre that defies the “fear of seeing [the truth].” Compared with Han, Liu also seeks to transform the invisible and infinite into a plausible physical reality in a different way. The sublime, wondrous sensation lifts science fiction from determinism or national allegory—or whatever is rooted in certainty—into a transcendental imaginary realm that opens up to possibilities and perceptions beyond ordinary reality. The sublime becomes visible and functions as the very magnetic force of science fiction.

Song Mingwei is Associate Professor of Chinese literature at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. He is the author of Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959 (Harvard Asia Center, 2015), Criticism and Imagination (Fudan University Press, 2013), Sorrows of a Floating Life: Eileen Chang (Taipei, 1996; Shanghai, 1998) and dozens of research articles on modern Chinese literature and culture. He has recently done research on Chinese science fiction and published on the topic in Science Fiction Studies, China Perspectives, Renditions, Dushu, Renmin Wenxue, and Shanghai Wenhua among other scholarly and literary journals. He also guest edited a Renditions special issue on Chinese science fiction: late Qing and the contemporary (2012).

Liu Cixin is an international prize-winning science fiction author. His best-selling novel The Three-Body Problem, which has just been translated into English, tells the story of an alien invasion set in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Convenor: A/Prof. Jon Eugene von Kowallis, tel. 9385-1020