Science Fiction in China

Let me say that I am impressed with this book. James McGrath has done an awesome job pulling together different scholars to examine the interaction between science-fiction and religion.
Check out my previous posts:
‘Sorcerers and Supermen’ in James’ McGrath’s Religion and Science Fiction
From Dr. Frankenstein to Topher Brink
Mis-Reading Star Trek? Exploring Danna’s Chapter in ‘Religion and Science Fiction’.

Today, hospital we’re looking at Eriberto Lozado’s article, sale “Star Trekking in China: Science Fiction as Theodicy in Contemporary China”

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The thing I love about science fiction is that it does several things. First, it explores what will happen in the future because of policies we have now. It asks the question, “What will our society look like in x-number of years because of this worldview, this technology, these ethics?”, and explores both the good (world peace) and the bad (apocalypse) possible outcomes. Second, it reflects our dreams for the future. It asks the question, “What do we want our society to look like?” Third, it examines what makes us human. It asks the question, “how are humans unique?” And fourth, science fiction is ultimately a reflection of where we are in the present, just projected onto the future.

In his essay, Eriberto Lozado looks at the science-fiction of China, and how it is both different and similar to western science-fiction.
Early on, Chinese science fiction was influenced by translations of western sci-fi imports, largely due to the May 4th movement, which rallied the imperialist ideologies of the Chinese government.

By the 50’s, Chinese sci-fi was beginning to be influenced by Russian sci-fi:

…science fiction from the Maoist period was heavily structured by Soviet science fiction styles and techniques, such as the preference for stories that explore the uses of current science and technology instead of hypothetical scientific advances…science fiction stories were part of an effort by the [Maoist] state to popularize science. (67)

Overall, the main difference between Chinese science fiction and western science fiction is that the former is nationalistic in orientation, where the latter is universal.

To put it this way: In the west, we have the Star Trek ethos. One day in the future, all peoples will join together to be apart of a Federation of planets and the goal is to live in peace and harmony with each other. Our equality is more important than our individual cultures. Chinese science fiction, on the other hand, is about “the search for a modern Chinese society and its place in the world.” (pg 70).

While I have not been exposed to much Chinese science fiction, it is interesting how this theme of nationalism is prevalent in much of China’s current story-telling.

Take movies. I have been impressed with the quality of story that can be seen in Chinese films over the last couple of years. Movies like Bodyguards and Assassins, Fearless, and Legend of the Fist, are all action/kung-fu movies in which a main theme is the establishment and preservation of Chinese national identity in the face of internal strife and external threats.

Lozado talks about the various media that are used to explore science fiction, (including the ever-growing popularity of video/computer games), saying that “Science fiction movies are well-represented among the Western and Hong Kong movies that people watch in China…” (pg. 73), and he mentions Star Wars as an example.

Does anybody know if there are any good Chinese science fiction movies or television shows available on this side of the world?

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  • As far as I’m aware there aren’t many sf fiilms made in China. The majority of course veer towards the genre of fantasy rather than sf. There is one called 2050, if I remember correctly – but I didn’t watch the whole thing.

    One point of interest a propos science fiction in China is that the longest running science fiction magazine in the world (Kehuan shijie – science fiction world) stems from Chengdu in Sichuan. It’s been running for more than 60 years.