From The New York Times:
Sunlight is so scarce that it is rationed based on economic class. Schools are so packed that the poorest parents must wait in line for days to secure spots for their children.
Those are the grim scenes of Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing,” a science-fiction novelette that won a Hugo Awardin August, beating out Stephen King. The story is set in a futuristic Beijing, though many of its scenes seem grounded in the problems vexing Chinese society today.
Ms. Hao, 32, is the first Chinese woman to win a Hugo, conferred by the World Science Fiction Society.
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Science fiction has taken off in China in recent years, and more and more Chinese authors are gaining international recognitionfor their work. What do you think makes Chinese science fiction unique?
Some Chinese science fiction reads like nonfiction with a few sci-fi elements mixed in. Chinese science fiction isn’t necessarily about the universe, the future, artificial intelligence or technology. It might be about the present or even ancient Chinese history.
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In “Folding Beijing,” you portray a deeply stratified society in which even mingling among economic classes is forbidden. Why focus on inequality?
We see from history that, at the beginning of every new empire, equality was one of people’s aspirations, but as the empire grew older, inequality appeared again, and people had to overthrow the empire and start all over again. It seems even now there isn’t an ideal solution. Inequality will continue to be a challenge for human society in the future.
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You have a deep interest in Chinese history. What do you think defines the modern era in China?
I think now is a time of free thought if you look across the broader picture of thousands of years of Chinese history. Thirty years ago, culture and tradition were shattered during the Cultural Revolution. Our generation doesn’t have the same connection to past traditions, and we’ve absorbed so much from Western culture, which is popular.
That has advantages and disadvantages. The bad side is that foreign culture doesn’t have its roots in China, so no matter how much we learn about it, it’s not ours. We don’t know much about traditional culture, which means we are lost. The good side is that we don’t have traditional burdens and are eager to learn unfamiliar things. It’s a time full of uncertainty and potential, and nobody knows where we’re heading.
Link to the rest at The New York Times