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SF in China



The Appearance of a New Generation of Science Fiction Writers in the People’s Republic of China during the 1990s: Between Ideological Emancipation and Commercial Logic 


SF literature in mainland China suffered for a long time due to its relegation to a subgenre of children’s literature that primarily had to serve to popularize scientific knowledge. Although at the beginning of the 1980s, some writers began to explore new themes beyond natural science and technology, such as politics, religion, and sociology, their venture soon gave rise to harsh criticism. Eventually, the entire SF community was gravely affected by the so-called “Campaign against Spiritual Pollution”, causing most of the established writers to abandon their favorite genre.

It was only in the 1990s that SF reemerged in China, a development not least due to the commercial success of the Science Fiction World magazine which was redesigned to attract juvenile readers. Many writers of the new generation who started to write SF at that time became widely known after having published their stories in Science Fiction World. Having grown up in a more liberal and culturally pluralistic environment and possessing of a much better knowledge of foreign science fiction literature than their predecessors, these writers naturally adopted quite diverse (and sometimes controversial) viewpoints on SF. Whilst some of them continued to advocate SF as an efficient means to educate China’s youth, others vigorously rejected that kind of utilitarian approach to what they felt ought to be defined as a literary genre in its own right.

This paper presents a partial translation of three novels written by three different authors considered to be representatives of this period of time: Han Song, Wang Jinkang, and Xing He. Their novels dealing with religion, life sciences and information technology show that the new generation of writers took up themes which Chinese SF had barely or never explored before and increasingly turned its interest away from natural sciences towards human sciences. At the same time, the depiction of Chinese scientists as infallible and intrepid heroes which had been characteristic for SF in mainland China since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 was replaced by a more finely nuanced and often ambiguous representation. Meanwhile, the works of the new generation of Chinese SF writers also reflect the rising ambitions China nurtures regarding its national resurgence as a powerful and influential international competitor economically as well as in the field of scientific research.


M.A. Thesis, University of Geneva

Date of publication: February 2006

Language: French