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Xia Jia

What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?

Article translated by Ken Liu.

In the summer of 2012, I was on a panel on Chinese science fiction at Chicon 7. One of the attendees asked me and the other Chinese authors: “What makes Chinese science fiction Chinese?”

This is not at all an easy question to answer, and everyone will have a different response. It is true, however, that for the last century or so, “Chinese science fiction” has occupied a rather unique place in the culture and literature of modern China.

Science fiction’s creative inspirations—massive machinery, new modes of transportation, global travel, space exploration—are the fruits of industrialization, urbanization, and globalization, processes with roots in modern capitalism. But when the genre was first introduced via translation to China at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was mostly treated as fantasies and dreams of modernity, material that could be woven into the construction of a “Chinese Dream.”

[What happens when “where are we going?” can no longer be treated as an answered question?]