Nathaniel Isaacson’s study of Chinese science-related literature and popular culture from 1903 to 1934 asserts the centrality of science fiction to efforts at cultural renewal in the early twentieth century and beyond. The main claim of the dissertation is that science, fiction, and science fiction played a crucial role in facilitating empire building, and that Chinese sf writers were deeply anxious about co-opting Western means for their pedagogical goals. Based on the premise that in the West the genre is inspired by the imagination of the colonial Other, the dissertation investigates how imagination and knowledge of the Other shapes Chinese sf. Hence, it argues that orientalism, and more broadly, the material and ideological consequences of the encounter with the West, are the most salient elements defining Chinese sf.
The next issue of Renditions, no. 77/78 (Spring and Autumn of 2012), a special issue on late Qing and contemporary science fiction, is now available for order, guest edited by Mingwei Song 宋明煒. He writes:
As a popular genre, science fiction has energized modern Chinese literature by evoking an array of sensations ranging from the grotesque to the sublime, from the utopian to the apocalyptic, and from the human to the post-human. It mingles nationalism with fantasy, sharpens social criticism with an acute awareness of China’s potential for further reform as well as its limitations, and envelops political consciousness in scientific discourses on the power of technology or the technology of power. Science fiction today both echoes and complicates the late Qing writers’ vision of China’s future and the transformation of human society.
Juxtaposing writings from the first two decades of successive centuries has proven to be a meaningful project. Both epochs are characterized by heightened aspiration for change as well as by deep anxieties about China’s future. A comparative reading of the stories from the late Qing and the contemporary sheds light on their common themes. Yet recapitulations of the earlier age’s literary motifs also lead to self-reflexive variations that point to the latter period’s uniqueness.
The history of Chinese science fiction has never been continuous. Only three short booms can be identified: the last decade of the Qing dynasty (1902-1911); the first four years of the New Era (1978-1982); and the beginning of the twenty-first century. These booms alternated with long dormant periods. This Renditions special issue showcases representative works of Chinese science fiction from its first and latest booms, focusing on the late Qing and the contemporary. An earlier anthology Science Fiction from China (New York: Praeger, 1989), edited by Wu Dingbo and Patrick D. Murphy, introduced English readers to the second generation of Chinese science fiction writers.
The works selected have all been translated into English for the first time. This special issue is also the first English-language collection of Chinese science fiction since the publication of Wu and Murphy’s anthology in 1989. The thirteen pieces included are divided into two groups: the first four are stories and novel excerpts from the first decade of Chinese science fiction’s development; the other nine pieces are recent works by contemporary authors. I will welcome any comments and criticism.
Here’s the Table of Contents:
Preface: Mingwei Song
Part One: The Early Twentieth Century
Xu Nianci, “New Tales of Mr. Braggadocio” (Translated by Nathaniel Isaacson) 徐念慈: 新法螺先生譚
Wu Jianren, New Story of the Stone: excerpts (Translated by Sterling Swallow) 吳趼人:新石頭記（節選）
Louise Strong, “The Art of Creating Humanity” (Translated by Suozi [Lu Xun]; Re-translated by Carlos Rojas) 索子[魯迅]: 造人朮
Xu Zhuodai, “The Secret Room” (Translated by Christopher Rea) 徐卓呆: 秘密室
Part Two: The Early Twenty First Century
Liu Cixin, “The Poetry Cloud” (Translated by Chi-yin Ip and Cheuk Wong) 劉慈欣: 詩雲
Liu Cixin, “The Village Schoolteacher” (Translated by Christopher Elford and Jiang Chenxin) 劉慈欣: 鄉村教師
Han Song, “The Passengers and the Creator” (Translated by Nathaniel Isaacson) 韓松: 乘客與創造者
Wang Jinkang, “The Reincarnated Giant” (Translated by Carlos Rojas) 王晉康:轉生的巨人
La La, “The Radio Waves That Never Die” (Translated by Petula Parris-Huang) 拉拉: 永不消逝的電波
Zhao Haihong, “1923-a Fantasy” (Translated by Nicky Narman and Pang Zhaoxia) 趙海虹: 一九二三年科幻故事
Chi Hui, “The Rainforest” (Translated by Jie Li) 遲卉: 雨林
Fei Dao, “The Demon’s Head” (Translated by David Hull) 飛氘: 魔鬼的頭顱
Xia Jia, “The Demon-Enslaving Flask” (Translated by Linda Rui Feng) 夏笳: 関妖精的瓶子