The contemporary new wave of Chinese science fiction presents a subversive vision of China’s pursuit of power and wealth, a dystopian counterpart to the government-promoted “Chinese dream.” This lecture explores the cutting-edge literary experiments that characterize the new wave, which evoke sensations ranging from the uncanny to the sublime, from the corporeal to the virtual, and from the post-human to the transcendent. We will discuss some important science fiction novels such as Mars over America (Han Song, 2000), The Three-Body Problem (Liu Cixin, 2006) and The Waste Tide (Chen Qiufan, 2013). The new wave has a dark and subversive side that speaks either to the “invisible” dimensions of the reality, or simply the impossibility of representing a certain “reality” dictated by the discourse of the national “dream.” Representing the impossibilities and uncertainties, as well as imagining a future history and larger space beyond the known and visible in scientific and political terms, has made sf a distinctive literary genre that cut sharply into the popular imagination and intellectual thinking of those who are, even faintly, aware of the alterity. Science fiction functions as a passage to heterotopia, where self is found in the other, brave new world beneath surface reality.

Mingwei Song is an associate professor of Chinese literature at Wellesley College. He was an Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (2016). His research interests include modern Chinese literature, cinema studies, youth culture, and science fiction. He is the author of numerous books and research articles, including Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959 (Harvard, 2015), Criticism and Imagination: Collected Literary Critical Essays (Fudan, 2013), and Sorrows of a Floating World: Eileen Chang (Taipei, 1996), in addition to two collections of literary essays (Shanghai, 2006; 2012). He has been researching on Chinese science fiction since 2010. He edited three special journal issues on Chinese science fiction: Renditions 77/78 (2012), which features English translations of thirteen Chinese science fiction stories and novel excerpts; China Perspectives 1 (2015) on utopia and dystopian in Chinese literature; Chinese Comparative Literature 100 (2015) on global science fiction. He organized two conferences on science fiction: “Global Science Fiction” (Wellesley College, 2013); and “Science Fiction Workshop” (Fudan University, 2016). He has given lectures on science fiction at MIT, Harvard, UBC, Middlebury, Charles University (Prague), Einstein Forum (Berlin), Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and University of Cambridge. He served as the jury for numerous major Chinese science fiction awards. He is currently co-editing The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chinese Science Fiction (Columbia, forthcoming) and completing a monograph on contemporary Chinese science fiction.