Monthly Archives: August 2022

[Review] 贾立元《“现代”与“未知”:晚清科幻小说研究》(Jia Liyuan: The “Modern” and the “Unknown”. A Study on Late Qing Science Fiction)

Jia Liyuan 贾立元, “Xiandai” yu “weizhi”: Wan Qing kehuan xiaoshuo yanjiu《“现代”与“未知”:晚清科幻小说研究》(The “Modern” and the “Unknown”: A Study on Late Qing Science Fiction). Beijing: Beijing Daxue Chubanshe 北京大学出版社, 2021. ISBN 978-7-301-32379-3, 316 pages, 59 RMB.

Reviewed by Sabine Weber (Universität Bonn)

Since the English translation and the subsequent international success of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (Santi 三体) in 2014, Chinese science fiction has experienced a “new wave” in production and consumption, causing an equivalent rise in scholarly attention. Previously, the genre had been marginalized ‒ disregarded as “juvenile” at best, forbidden as “counter-revolutionary” or “escapist” at worst.

Given the genre’s unsteady history, the rudimentary coverage in literary criticism and studies is to be expected. While this changed over the course of the 2010s, a scholarly backlog still haunts more specific branches of the field, including the genre’s early history. The first monographic study on early Chinese science fiction was defended as a PhD thesis in Comparative Poetics only in 2012.[1] Such was the state of the field when Jia Liyuan (贾立元, *1983), himself an acclaimed author of science fiction under the pseudonym Fei Dao 飞氘, wrote his thesis about the beginnings of science fiction literature in China. This thesis, defended successfully in 2015, is the basis for the book under review here and is one of the first monographs specifically on early modern Chinese science fiction.

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