Chinese Science Fiction and the Search for Lost Time

Sponsor: Centre for Chinese Research
Place: Room 120, C.K.Choi Building
Location: 1855 West Mall, Vancouver, BC
Type: Talk
Date: April 13, 2016
Time: 12 – 1:30PM


About the Event

When Liu Cixin’s novel The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo Award for Best Sci-Fi Novel in 2015, global readers showed a sweeping interest in its Chineseness: how did a Chinese author master a genre so underdeveloped in his home country? Liu Cixin seems to have connected with a genuinely enthusiastic global readership, and Tor, the leading sci-fi publisher, is rushing to get the translation of the final volume of the Three-Body trilogy out this year. Mo Yan may have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but Liu Cixin enjoys fame and fans.

This talk argues that the Chineseness of the Three-Body trilogy lies in its representation of memory and history. Three-Body presents an impending destruction to human civilization by aliens, but the crisis turns out to be rooted in historical trauma of 20th century China: the Cultural Revolution. Yet the trilogy’s subtitle, rendered in English as Remembrance of Earth’s Past, indicates its connection to a different, literary genealogy: Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Liu Cixin’s characters, in search of lost time, turn a futuristic narrative into an intensely nostalgic one. The future, no matter how hostile or alien, is but a continuation of the past—and human history a continuous gaze back.

About the Speaker

Wu, Meng holds an MA degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Western Ontario and is currently a fourth-year doctoral student in Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.

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