Aperture - China, the future of science fiction


In this edition of APERTURE, we find ourselves in the dichotomous, strange, fantastic world of China, mingling with its people, seeing their successes and struggles, experiencing their lives with only a thin pane of glass separating our lives. The Atlantic's In Focus photo galleries are once again the source for these inspiring photographs, and In Focus recently released two breathtaking essays on China, each one filled with stories yet to be written.

When I read about China or see photo essays like the ones below, science fiction comes rushing to the surface of my brain. There is no country in the world, America included, that stirs such futuristic wonder for me. The Big Brother Communist state, the massive population, unprecedented infrastructure, a burgeoning super military, and a speed of life and production unparalleled in the world makes China a primordial soup of storytelling.

Chinese science fiction is still very much an untapped source of material. Part of that has to do with the censorship of the Chinese state; science fiction often deals with projections or metaphorical realities that shine bright fucking spotlights on the horrors of the modern world. But other than Joss Whedon's nod to China's futuristic influence in the language of the "Firefly" series, as well as a handful of Paolo Bacigalupi's short stories in the incomparable "Pump Six and Other Stories" and much of Ken Liu's short fiction, most science fiction stories trend more toward culturally-neutral (by modern Earth standards) space/future focused societies. It all seems a bit short sighted. The reality is that cultures will continue to develop, Earthly cultures, as our species progresses in space, just as they have for thousands of years already (China, Japan, Egypt, etc.). To ignore the prevalence of existing cultures in forward-thinking science fiction isn't really forward thinking at all, is it?

China: Portrait of a People - Shows the breadth of Chinese culture, from the rural, outcast Tibetans to the colorful-haired Fujian hipsters of modern Fuzhou.

China's Toxic Water - The harsh undercurrent of rapid societal growth. The buildings and cities continue to rise, but the runoff from an exploding population still leaves fatal marks on the less-fortunate of Chinese society.

Looks like it's time for some flash fiction.