Narratives of Modernization: China’s History Of Science Fiction


I have a new feature article up on Barnes and Noble’s Science Fiction and Fantasy blog titled Narratives of Modernization: China’s History Of Science Fiction.

This particular article was a long time coming: earlier this year, I attended Vericon as a guest. Ken Liu was the Guest of Honor, and had a lot of things to say about translating science fiction, and had a presentation called Heroic Translators, which was a really interesting talk.

He spoke about how translation worked, and how Chinese translators really had to play with language to get science fiction ported over from western languages to their own.

Along the way, I realized that I didn’t know anything about Chinese history, other than the fantastic novel that Ken had just translated: Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem.

This led to a bit of an exploration on my part, and what turned into an incredibly difficult article to write. I had taken courses in Chinese Military history while taking my Master’s, and I struggled with what was really an unfamiliar tradition. While researching this article, I also had to brush up on the last century of Chinese history, in order to provide the proper context for how this strain of science fiction emerged. What I thought would be a fairly straight forward article turned out to be a much more complicated and interesting one – the best sort of stories.

I used a bunch of sources and interviews for this, all of which are linked in the article, but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Ken for answering a bunch of my questions over the last couple of months, and for providing some of the inspiration for this piece in the first place.