Genres are in general difficult to define, but CSF is especially complicated. Both the terms Chinese and science fiction defy any clear definition, yet are used so commonly that every user has their own pre-assumed definition. One popular assumption in the West is that CSF should always be read in terms of political dissent or complicity with state power. As much as that might be true for some, it is an unhelpful generalisation. After all, we do not assume that British SF is only about Brexit, or American SF only about Trump. In one sense, all storytelling is inherently political, and within Anglophone SF especially, the racist and queerphobic attack on representational diversity is often disguised as a demand to “remove the politics” from our stories. However, the necessarily political nature of storytelling is complicated in the case of the Anglophone reception of CSF. The insistence of many Western readers on interpreting CSF exclusively in relation to government censorship can itself have a paradoxically censoring effect. Some CSF authors have even resisted writing stories set in China, or allowing the translation of their work into English, for fear that readers will ignore its actual aesthetic and intellectual qualities, while using it as material for simplistic speculation: Whose side are you really on? To quote Ken Liu — for what is a publication on CSF without mentioning the writer who, it feels like, has single-handedly brought CSF to Anglo-American readers? —The BSFA has done us all a huge service with a special issue of Vector devoted to Chinese SF, 80 pages of really interesting pieces about the genre in the language with most native speakers in the world. I must say there isn't a dud piece here - I thought I was going to bounce off Angela Chan's interview with artist Beatrice Glow, but in fact it developed into a really interesting narrative about colonialism and representation. I won't attempt to summarise what I learned from the magazine, but I went straight out and bought An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King, and Waste Tide, by Chen Qiufan, to add to my TBR list. I assume that the interested non-BSFA member can make arrangements to get a paper copy from the source, or wait a few months until it appears on the back issues page.Like writers everywhere, today’s Chinese writers are concerned with humanism; with globalization; with technological advancement; with development and environmental preservation; with history, rights, freedom, and justice; with family and love; with the beauty of expressing sentiment through words; with language play; with the grandeur of science; with the thrill of discovery; with the ultimate meaning of life.
— Ken Liu, Invisible Planets, 2016.
Vector 293: Chinese SF
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