Grace Bromage ’23
The new wave of Chinese science fiction that has emerged into the public eye in the last decade is one which seeks to reveal the deeper and nightmarish truths of reality. These were the points made by Mingwei Song, a guest lecturer from Wellesley College, who made an appearance at Holy Cross on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. Song, who first became fascinated with Chinese science fiction in the early 2000s, spoke to a large room of students and faculty members on the topic of this new age of science fiction. Song stressed that writers of contemporary Chinese science fiction seek to understand the deepest truths beneath the reality that we take for granted.
Answering a question about its origin, Mingwei Song explained that for many years Chinese science fiction operated underground as it was often a criticism of the Chinese government. In the beginning, many Chinese science fiction writers used foreign names in their stories to disguise that their stories were political critiques. There are many pieces that remain unpublished due to the current political situation in China even today. In many of these stories, technology and higher powers that have control over people’s minds are metaphors for the Chinese authoritarian rule. “My Fatherland Does Not Dream” by Han Song is one of these stories that proposes the idea that the economic system of China was created through the use of microwaves in the news. Those waves turned people into sleepwalkers at night who kept the economy, and society, rolling. Mingwei Song confided with the audience that, while “My Fatherland Does Not Dream” is unpublished and unavailable on the internet, he managed to secure his own personal copy. Many audience members laughed with him over his enthusiasm to have a copy of this restricted text.
In his lecture, Mingwei Song stressed that the unique thing about Chinese science fiction is that it is able to reveal the deeper truths about the world. He gave several examples about books and short stories that have highlighted that everything people know is actually a lie and that the true world is abstract and horrific. Song titled his lecture “The Fear of Seeing” after a short story of the same name with the theme that there is a fear of seeing the true reality, which is darkness. Other genres such as realistic fiction and romance like to end stories with comfortable endings. Chinese science fiction does not. Instead, it takes liberty in exploring the darkness and the unknown, uncovering what is feared. Writers explore the darkness of reality through the creation of dream-like, technologically controlled states. Chinese science fiction is a place where writers can pursue conspiracy theories as a reality.
When asked about how he became involved with Chinese fiction, Mingwei Song said that he started reading it when he was finishing writing his book, “Young China,” in the early 2000s. He became enthralled in this genre and put together a team of translators to translate these Chinese stories into other languages so the world could see them. Song said that afterwards he began to be commissioned to write about Chinese science fiction. Song ended his lecture with the idea that this new wave of Chinese science fiction, which explores hidden truths and continues to fascinate him today, is full of nightmares.