As science fiction (sci-fi) — whether films or stories — has become increasingly popular in China in recent years, Chinese sci-fi literary works have been playing a greater role in the international arena. Many Chinese women sci-fi writers have created compelling fantasies. As many readers struggle to cope with a world of rapid change, the women, with their fascinating stories, have led readers in exploring how scientific and technological development might influence life in the near future.
"Reading science fiction stories and/or watching science fiction movies will enable you to look at the world from a broader perspective. You might realize how insignificant you are in the vast world, so you will be more respectful of other people and/or other civilizations," says Ji Shaoting, founder of Future Affairs Administration (FAA, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting science fiction stories and movies), and cofounder of Songshuhui Association of Science Communicators (a nongovernmental organization dedicated to publicizing scientific information among Chinese) and guokr.com (an online platform through which Chinese, especially young people, share their scientific and technological knowledge).
As Liu Cixin, a nine-time winner of the Galaxy Award (China's most prestigious literary sci-fi award) and winner of the Hugo Award (given each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention, organized and overseen by the World Science Fiction Society) says, "Ready or not, we must face the future … Reading science fiction stories will enable us to look at the world from a broader perspective, and to embrace the near future." Indeed, an increasing number of Chinese women fiction writers are producing original contents with a futuristic vision of a golden age of Chinese science fiction.
Outlining Common People's Lives in Outer Space
After she graduated from the physics department of Capital Normal University, Ling Chen taught physics, in a middle school in Beijing, for seven years. During the past 24 years, she has used her scientific background to create worlds filled with humor, inventions and wonder. Several of her works have earned her the Galaxy Award and the Global Chinese Science Fiction Nebula Award, which are awarded by the Global Chinese Science Fiction Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. In many of her novels, Ling depicts the fate of common people in the rapidly changing world, and she outlines their lives in outer space. Numerous readers have been impressed by her fine, delicate words and her unique writing style of integrating future and present lives.
Ling attributes the motives for human's ceaseless exploration of aliens to our thirst for a better understanding ourselves, and to our fear that aliens might plunder our resources.
Since she gave birth to her daughter eight years ago, Ling has written many science fiction stories for children. Ling believes a good literary work should cater to the aesthetic tastes of people — of all ages. In addition to the novels with outer space as a theme, she creates works with AI (artificial intelligence)-related themes.
"Given the rapid scientific and technological development … one can hardly draw a clear line between the present and the future," says Ling.
She hopes her 82-year-old father will live another 20 years, so he can watch his granddaughter grow up. Ling told her dear old man he will be able to accompany his great-granddaugher in the future, as the rapid scientific and technological development will make it possible to upload, download and save human minds.
"How wonderful it is that we can foresee our future through science fiction stories! That makes us feel like we can prolong our lives … I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in depicting our future lives," says Ling.
Zhao Haihong is somewhat of a celebrity in China's science fiction community. During the past 22 years, her science fiction novels have earned her many prizes, including the Galaxy Award and Soong Ching -ling Children's Literature Prize. She has also translated some English science fiction stories into Chinese.
Zhao received her Ph.D., in art history, from China Academy of Art. She earned her master's degree, in British and American literature, from Zhejiang University. She lectures at the School of Foreign Languages, under Zhejiang Gongshang University.
Zhao delivered a speech, entitled The Nature and Functions of Aliens or Intelligent Lives, during the Asia-Pacific Science Fiction Convention (APSFcon), hosted by Future Affairs Administration and organizers of the Global Innovator Conference (GIC). The event was held in Beijing on May 19-20, 2018. APSFcon is the first science fiction convention to be based in the Asia-Pacific Area. The main purpose of the convention is to facilitate exchanges and communications among writers, moviemakers and scientists from the Asia-Pacific Area, based on science fiction culture and highlighting science and technology communication.
Zhao notes the development of AI technologies in recent years has had a positive influence on people's lives. For example, AI technologies have been used not only to assist with teaching, but also to emancipate people from household chores, so they will have more freedom and time to study and work.
"I often remind my students to invest more t i m e a n d e n e r g y i n interdisciplinary studies, so they can stay ahead of AI in the workplace in the future," says Zhao.
In one of her articles, Ji wrote, "Zhao always reminds me of Galadriel (a fictional character in The Lord of the Rings, an epic, high- fantasy novel written by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien), who is tough, but gentle. Surrounded by a halo, Galadriel stands there quietly, looking as if she were aloof from the world. She is like a woman knight, who is always fully armed for a battle."
Sticking to Her Dream
Xia Jia, an associate professor with the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Xi'an Jiaotong University, is a well- known Chinese science fiction writer. She is one of China's best-educated youths, and she has put much effort into improving her interdisciplinary studies. She began her engineering education in 2002, as a student of the School of Physics, under Peking University. From 2006-2008, she was in the master's program (Chinese film history) at Communication University of China. In 2014, she completed a Ph.D. program, in Chinese and English comparative literature, at Peking University.
Over the years, Xia has made persevering efforts to realize her dream of becoming a top science fiction writer in China. Several of her works have earned her the Galaxy Award and the Global Chinese Science Fiction Nebula Award. In June 2015, Nature (a British multidisciplinary scientific journal) published Let's Have a Talk, an English novel written by Xia.
She was born into an intellectual's family in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, in 1984. Influenced by her parents, she developed an interest in reading during her early childhood. She also enjoyed telling stories that she created.
While she studied in senior middle school, some of Xia's schoolmates enjoyed reading her science fiction stories. Xia was thrilled when she learned The Bottle That Imprisoned a Spirit, her first science fiction novel, was published in April 2004. Also that year, the work earned her the Galaxy Award. Since then, she has had a dozen science fiction novels published. Many readers have been impressed by her beautiful writing and her fertile imagination.
Xia notes many people believe women tend to focus on writing about families and emotions. She suggests the women should break their stereotypical images and begin to write from broader perspectives.
Xia believes a writer should cross the "borders" of space, nations, languages and various academic disciplines while he/she creates a work of science fiction. Xia's educational background in physics, films and Chinese and English comparative literature has allowed her to broaden her understanding of her career and life.
(Source: Women of China English Monthly January 2019 issue)