Research Project


Fantasizing Science: Science Fiction in the People's Republic of China (PRC): 1955-85

Dr. Rui Kunze

Science Fiction (SF, kexue xiaoshuo or kexue huanxiang xiaoshuo) dramatizes and/or fantasizes a constellation of problematics surrounding Chinese modernity, including the notion of "science"in the discourse of modernity and its role in giving rise to the views of individual and collective fates and the ways of coping with them. This project proposes to examine the SF texts and theories created and published between 1955 and 1985 in the PRC, which have remained largely unexplored so far. The source materials will be studied as two interrelated parts according to their time of publication: SF in the Maoist era (1955-1965) and SF in the early reform period (1976-1985). The project takes a particular interest in the interplay between the notions of "science" and "fantasy" in imaging the future as well as in shaping the literary genre of SF in China. The major research questions this project poses include: How did the Chinese generic term for SF and its meanings evolve from kexue xiaoshuo in the late Qing Dynasty and the Republican period to kexue huanxiang xiaoshuo in the PRC, especially in relation to Soviet nauchno fantastika? How did the SF created during 1955-65 (mainly as children's literature) rationalize and dramatize a technology-empowered communist future and the idea of the child as "the man of future"? How did the SF texts created by both scientist-authors and hack writers in the early reform era, with their various approaches to the SF tradition ranging from didactic literature to pulp fiction, suggest diverse ways of imagining the future on both elite and popular levels at this historical moment?

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