Tales from the Middle Cosmos

Over at Marginal Revolution Tyler Cowen positively mentioned an anthology of Chinese science fiction, Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation. I got a copy and I have to say it really is good (on reading only a few stories). #Recommended and #Seconded.

It is often said, correctly, that science fiction is mostly a window upon the sensibilities of the society in which it is written. In the American context this matters in relation to time. Though Isaac Asimov was a liberal on sexual matters (and frankly, a sexual harasser at conferences by even the most lax modern standards) he admitted that the fact that he came up in the “Golden Age” period when there were many taboos in regards to sex had a lifelong impact on the depiction of those matters in his fiction. In contrast writers who came up in the 70s or later didn’t have these restrictions and so did not have the same hang-ups in their fiction.

And I’ll also admit I have Amish Tripathi’s work in part because I’m curious at an Indian take on fantasy (and also because too much Western fantasy is pretty derivative).


3 thoughts on “Tales from the Middle Cosmos

  1. As for western SF/F being derivative, we sit under a long shadow cast by Heinlein, Doc Smith, and Asimov for SF, and by the “Appendix N” giants for F. Also Sturgeon’s Law applies: 90% of the bookstore shelf in any given genre at any given time is you-know-what.

    Right now Chinese tropes won’t seem derivative to Westerners. But there’s so little of it in translation, we’re only seeing the 10% cream off of Sturgeon’s Law.

    So I’d like to pose this to any Chinese-literate readers of this blog: to what degree is Chinese SF/F derivative? From whom are they taking their tropes? (Japan, we know, borrows a LOT from Western literature, and from their own, and we have tons of their stuff in translation, so I’m wondering about China.)

  2. For the love of G-d (pun intended), don’t read Amish Tripathi! Yes, the fantasy is great with respect to how mythology and pop pre-history are mixed. But the writing, dear G-d, my 3rd grader could write better. He could’ve used a good editor.

    Expect an interesting story but with poor presentation (parts of it read as Indian soap operas and Bollywood masala). Better yet, may be just watch Bahubali-2.


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