China and Inner Asia
Valparaiso University, United States
By 2019, that Chinese literature has entered a golden age of science fiction is no longer in dispute. My presentation will take a look specifically at recent time-travel texts from China, how they can broadly be categorized, and the interpretive issues that arise from such categorization.
It is probably safe to say that the more popular form of time-travel text is the chuanyue story, which is more aptly called "time-travel romance" in English translation. In a chuanyue story, a modern-day hero or heroine miraculously finds themselves in the past, usually in a tumultuous and historically significant time in Chinese history. In these stories, the direction of travel is usually toward the past, the mechanism is unimportant, and the primary goal of the stories is to allow the reader to live vicariously through the characters’ wish-fulfillment scenarios.
Another major mode of time-travel literature exists as what might be called "hard sf," which has not received enough attention in English-language scholarship. In this mode, more importance is placed on the mechanism of time travel, as well as the ethical and philosophical implications of time travel. I will discuss the specific features of this mode by analyzing two texts by promising young sf writers Liu Yang and A-Que, respectively. I will also compare the two modes side-by-side and investigate their use of the time travel plot device, and explain why the latter genre is more conducive to incorporating bigger questions about humanity.