China Dreams

It’s impossible to speak of contemporary Chinese science fiction without starting with Liu Cixin, who has been sometimes described as a “neo-classical” writer whose novels and short stories are compared to the works of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, but with a modern, “Chinese” sensibility. Liu has won China’s most prestigious literary genre awards multiple times, and his masterpiece, the Three-Body trilogy (consisting of The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End), has been credited for single-handedly gaining Chinese science fiction respectability among the Chinese literary establishment. A massive work spanning the time from China’s Cultural Revolution to the end of the universe, the trilogy describes an alien invasion of Earth triggered by a Mao-era METI project, and the consequent scattering of humanity to the stars. Liu’s short fiction is similarly characterized by a grand imaginative scope, though he often roots his stories in the lives of China’s ordinary citizens who live far from the big cities and have little wealth.

The other two writers, Wang Jinkang and Han Song, are quite different. Wang Jinkang’s works are very much concerned with the intersection of science and ethics. His recent novel The Ant Life, for instance, features a young scientist who succeeds in creating a utopia by infecting the people of an isolated community with hormones extracted from ants to replace their selfish desires with altruistic ones directed to the good of the community as a whole. As one might imagine, this experiment backfires and unintended consequences come to dominate. Many of Wang’s stories are infused with this flavor of sociological SF.

Han Song, on the other hand, focuses his acerbic wit on the “science fictional” excesses of modern development, particularly as manifested in China’s breakneck rush toward “progress.” His High-Speed Rail, for instance, uses China’s high-speed train network as a postmodern metaphor to explore the rapid and grotesque devolution (or perhaps unmooring) of values in contemporary China through a series of surreal, dark, violent images.
— Ken Liu, writing in Clarkesworld on Contemporary Chinese SF