Mingwei SongOct 29, 2023
Fear of Seeing
A Poetics of Chinese Science Fiction
Columbia University Press 2023
I am talking today to Mingwei Song about his new book, Fear of Seeing: A Poetics of Chinese Science Fiction (Columbia UP, 2023). The book is a sweeping account of contemporary Chinese science fiction that begins by asking, has “anything new arrived with the new century that redefined contemporaneousness?” As listeners might guess, in Song’s account, the aesthetics of science fiction are the new and invigorating arrival on the scene of Chinese literature. Whether it be the technological sublime of Liu Cixin or the bodily horrors of Han Song, new wave Chinese science fiction engages with the problem of representing China with what Song identifies as the poetics of the invisible. Song shows how the invisible functions in chapters dedicated to both the major contemporary figures mentioned above, as well canonical writers like Lu Xun, and the newest and edgiest science fiction writers that have recently emerged onto the literary scene in China. Fear of Seeing shows how science fiction given “a country deprived of liberal imagination” a “multitude of new dreams.” At the same time, he suggests, the utopian (as well as quite dystopian) possibilities, political and aesthetic, opened up by new wave Chinese science fiction exist in an ambivalent relationship to state power. We will discuss these points as well as many others in detail in the following interview.
Julia Keblinska is a postdoc at the East Asian Studies Center at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.