New Wonders of a Nonbinary Universe: Gender and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction

Does science fiction have gender? As genre fiction, it is often marked with a series of binary categories. It is a so-called masculine hard-SF that is usually dominant in SF discursive spaces. But after the success of Liu Cixin’s Three Body novels, I have discovered the newest generation of women and nonbinary authors, who are decades younger than Liu Cixin. Their visions of the “Möbius” time-space without beginning or end and their identifications with “chimera” as the monstrous self-other combination create new breakthroughs for the new wave Chinese science fiction. These new writers make kinship in a nonbinary posthuman universe, with more radical notions about sex, gender, class, cyborgian constructions, transspecies lives, symbiosis and sympoiesis. This younger generation comprises Tang Fei 糖匪 (b. 1983), Wang Kanyu 王侃瑜 (b. 1990), Peng Simeng 彭思萌 (b. 1990), Shuangchimu 双翅目 (b. 1987), Gu Shi 顾适 (b. 1985), Mu Ming 慕明 (b. 1988), Duan Ziqi 段子期 (b. 1992), Wang Nuonuo 王诺诺 (b. 1991), and Liao Shubo 廖舒波 (b. 1988). This talk tried to redefine SF from a nonbinary point of view and proposed to read Chinese SF as fundamentally a break with the old-fashioned dualist thinking and mimetic realism. I did not only analyze the new writings by these women and nonbinary authors, but also attempted to reread the so-called “masculine SF,” even The Three-Body Problem, from a nonbinary perspective. This talk identified the female temporality (deep time) and a nonbinary posthuman structure in Liu Cixin’s trilogy.

Mingwei SONG is the Chair and Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Wellesley College. His research interests include modern Chinese literature, the Bildungsroman, science fiction, posthuman theories, and the Neo-Baroque aesthetics. He is the author of Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959 (Harvard, 2015) and Fear of Seeing: A Poetics of Chinese Science Fiction (Columbia, 2023). He is the co-editor of The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First Century Chinese Science Fiction (Columbia, 2018). He currently serves as the President of the Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature.