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China Sci-Fi Technology

China's Arthur C. Clarke 187

HughPickens.com writes Joshua Rothman has a very interesting article in The New Yorker about Liu Cixin, China's most popular science-fiction writer. The author of thirteen books has retained his day job as a computer engineer with a State-run power plant in a remote part of Shanxi province, because it helps him to stay grounded, enabling him to "gaze at the unblemished sky" as many of his co-workers do. In China, Cixin is about as famous as William Gibson in the United States and Cixin is often compared to Arthur C. Clarke, whom he cites as an influence. Rothman writes that American science fiction draws heavily on American culture, of course—the war for independence, the Wild West, film noir, sixties psychedelia—and so humanity's imagined future often looks a lot like America's past. For an American reader, one of the pleasures of reading Liu is that his stories draw on entirely different resources.

For example, in The Wages of Humanity, visitors from space demand the redistribution of Earth's wealth, and explain that runaway capitalism almost destroyed their civilization. In Taking Care of Gods, the hyper-advanced aliens who, billions of years ago, engineered life on Earth descend from their spaceships; they turn out to be little old men with canes and long, white beards. "We hope that you will feel a sense of filial duty towards your creators and take us in," they say. "I doubt that any Western sci-fi writer has so thoroughly explored the theme of filial piety," writes Rothman. In another story, The Devourer, a character asks, "What is civilization? Civilization is devouring, ceaselessly eating, endlessly expanding." But you can't expand forever; perhaps it would be better, another character suggests, to establish a "self-sufficient, introspective civilization." "At the core of Liu's sensibility," concludes Rothamn, "is a philosophical interest in the problem of limits. How should we react to the inherent limitations of life? Should we push against them or acquiesce?"
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China's Arthur C. Clarke

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  • Clarke gave us the three laws.

    Gibson gave us cyberpunk.

    From TFA, it seems that Liu has more of a leaning to the utopian Star Trek. Has he pushed that anywhere new? Or even how humanity will be different in the billion years of his story?

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @03:12PM (#49210993)

      "Clarke gave us the three laws."

      I think the first one is, "any sufficiently clueless Slashdot poster is indistinguishable from a garden slug."

    • You think that a minor couple of lines really means that is what he writes?
      I would suggest that you wait until you have read the stories before drawing conclusions.
    • "Or even how humanity will be different in the billion years of his story?"

      Why should humanity be different in the next billion years? And - if he IS different, why should you know or understand that difference?

      I've an idea that humanity will continue to do exactly what humanity has always done. Grow, expand, consume resources, and compete with himself.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • From TFA, it seems that Liu has more of a leaning to the utopian Star Trek. Has he pushed that anywhere new? Or even how humanity will be different in the billion years of his story?

      Not to mention, the idea that "capitalism" is the bane of humanity is so hilariously false it's difficult to even find words. If it weren't for capitalism intruding into China's once-red-totalitarian-socialist economy, he'd still be digging up beets for a living, not working in a power plant or writing science fiction.

      • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Monday March 09, 2015 @05:12AM (#49213659) Journal

        From TFA, it seems that Liu has more of a leaning to the utopian Star Trek. Has he pushed that anywhere new? Or even how humanity will be different in the billion years of his story?

        Not to mention, the idea that "capitalism" is the bane of humanity is so hilariously false it's difficult to even find words. If it weren't for capitalism intruding into China's once-red-totalitarian-socialist economy, he'd still be digging up beets for a living, not working in a power plant or writing science fiction.

        Just because capitalism is better than totalitarianism doesn't mean that capitalism is good, and it certainly doesn't mean that capitalism is the high point of human evolution.

        • Just because capitalism is better than totalitarianism doesn't mean that capitalism is good, and it certainly doesn't mean that capitalism is the high point of human evolution.

          History does tell us it's certainly the best system found so far. Socialism and pretended attempts at Communism certainly didn't work very well. Anywhere.

          Even Sweden is getting tired of its failed experiment with socialism. When they started it, Sweden was one of the few top productive per-capita producing nations in the world. Now, it's... just average.

          China's economy has been doing FAR better since it allowed some capitalism in. The U.S. and Europe, on the other hand, have been doing WORSE economica

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @01:46PM (#49210599)

    The Clarke comparison certainly grabbed my attention. My next question was "where can I find these works in English?" I see that one of the links above [blogspot.com] leads to English translations of a couple of stories.

    Thanks for the tip!

    • by Mousit ( 646085 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @02:35PM (#49210809)
      His largest and arguably most popular/well-known (especially outside of China) book series is getting proper English translations and sold in Western markets. You can purchase the first book of the series, _Three Body Problem_, from Amazon [amazon.com] right now. Book two is due to be released in July.

      A number of his short stories are also available in Kindle format from Amazon, but do not appear to have physical book translations available.
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        I saw the "Three Body Problem" on the shelves of my local B&N today, while I was browsing.

    • Let's hope for decent translations. Bad translations ruined have ruined many a good foreign author for English speakers. A major example: Jules Verne.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Good translations are awesome. Ever read The Cyberiad?

        • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @04:10PM (#49211213)
          I was going to bring up Stanislaw Lem as someone who wrote outside of the American tradition for science fiction. In a lot of ways it's like he is descended more from Voltaire and Swift. And while I have no idea what Lem was like in the original Polish (and German, and French), there was a lot of great wordplay in English courtesy of his translator (Kandel?). Plus his jokes in Latin were funny too.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2015 @04:01PM (#49211179)
        From TFA:

        His most popular book, "The Three-Body Problem," has just been translated into English by the American sci-fi writer Ken Liu.

        It turns out Ken Liu (no relation) wrote "Paper Menagerie," the first work of fiction to win all three of SF's major awards [io9.com] (the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award) a few years ago.

        So I expect the translation to be excellent.

        • From TFA:

          His most popular book, "The Three-Body Problem," has just been translated into English by the American sci-fi writer Ken Liu.

          It turns out Ken Liu (no relation) wrote "Paper Menagerie," the first work of fiction to win all three of SF's major awards [io9.com] (the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award) a few years ago.

          So I expect the translation to be excellent.

          There is no necessary correlation between being a great writer and being a great translator. Really good writers tend to colour the works they are translating in their own image too much. For example, Ted Hughes's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses is a great Ted Hughes work, but not a very faithful translation.

        • I finished this book a week ago. The translation is excellent in my opinion. Where the cultural gap is too wide for normal translation, footnotes appear that you can ignore if you wish, but I found them helpful.
    • Visit Amazon - I just read this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      It appears that all of these stories are translated into English: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb... [amazon.com]

      Note that there are two names on each book - Liu's name, the author, and various other names, the translators.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @01:56PM (#49210651) Homepage

    This will probably come across as a kneejerk response, but the submission makes it sound like Liu's themes are almost entirely derived from PRC propaganda. You hear this sort of stuff all the time if you pay any attention to Chinese state media ... planned economies are best, the individual's primary responsibility is to the family unit, Western ideas have failed, and so on. If anything, these books demonstrate the poverty of a literary scene where everybody has to constantly watch what they say.

    • by Monkey-Man2000 ( 603495 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @02:29PM (#49210785)
      Or...if you have talked to any native Chinese in some depth you might realize that a lot of them actually have different values than Westerners about social responsibility and such. Far beyond what we are accustomed to with our emphasis on individuality, etc. Their system of government didn't develop in a vacuum and was certainly informed by their culture. So, I think you're right that your comment is a bit of a kneejerk response that assumes their authoritarian government has a hand in EVERYTHING.

      That said, I would also assume that if his books were promoting pro-capitalist or anti-government ideas they would have been censored immediately, so maybe we're missing all the "Westernized" Chinese sci-fi books because of this...
      • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @03:07PM (#49210971) Homepage

        Chinese have different values, but "Capitalism" might not mean what you think it means. If you read Adam Smith, you might find that Capitalism means the Government regulating business to ensure a level playing field, which causes Capital to rule because all a person needs to start a business and compete is the capital. Without those Government controls, existing business will conspire to keep out or at least disadvantage newcomers, and politics and connections will be required, not just capital. The thing that modern Westerners often push as "Capitalism" is exactly what existed when Adam Smith wrote his book; not the thing actually described.

        Similarly, China doesn't have "Communism," or "Socialism" either. Modern China has Capitalism, along with a single party political system. China doesn't have the sort of central economic control that the Soviet Union had. Instead, the Government controls industry by investing in a large number of the successful businesses. For example, many of the technology fabrication companies are about 25% government owned. So they use Capital and their partial ownership in order to influence business. And if I go to China and meet a farmer with a big idea who wants to start a business, and I invest in it so that he has the capital, he can start that business and compete.

        Capitalism has nothing to do with Democracy. In many ways China is more capitalist than the US. If a Chinese business person goes to a village, buys all the bananas and creates an artificial shortage, and then raises the price 300%, that is punishable by death. Why? Because he's creating an illegal monopoly, and using it to ruin the market. Leveraging existing business to keep everybody else out and maintain a monopoly is the most anti-Capitalist thing you can do. China is one of the few places with clear bans on almost any anti-competitive practice. (Disclaimer: I'm only measuring the Chinese economy internally; foreigners like me don't have the same market access that Chinese people do. Just ask any US car company)

        The words are so misused, they don't usually have much meaning. Chinese people value national unity more than others. Some people just assert that means they're repeating propaganda; but in reality they threw out almost everything Mao taught. They don't have political freedom, but it also isn't what most people want. Chinese people claim to actually want good governance, not western political theory. And the current propaganda seems to mirror the cultural norms. If you use real popular ideas and phrases as your propaganda, it is natural for people then to complain mostly about if you're actually following it. It is a totally different situation than when propaganda is used to try to manipulate views, or frighten enemies. The whole concept that most westerns have of propaganda is absurdist anyway when it is applied outside the context of elections. Their government has no reason to push propaganda that differs from cultural norms; their goal is to maintain the status quo, they're not trying to indoctrinate anybody.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          If you read Adam Smith, you might find that Capitalism means the Government regulating business to ensure a level playing field, which causes Capital to rule because all a person needs to start a business and compete is the capital.

          That is utter nonsense. Adam Smith goes out of his way to describe how government regulations are abused again and again for what we now call rent seeking. While Adam Smith wasn't categorically opposed to all government functions (he favored publicly financed defense and justice

          • Adam Smith wrote that a man had a right to sell his labor. What protected that right during the slavery period, in the US? Capitalism needs something outside of it, because capitalism alone has no morality and perversely incentivizes lying and other sociopathic behavior.

            • "... because capitalism alone has no morality and perversely incentivizes lying and other sociopathic behavior." ALL systems provide some form of incentive but only the individual takes the course.
            • Adam Smith wrote that a man had a right to sell his labor.

              Right.

              What protected that right during the slavery period, in the US?

              Nothing. And in that aspect the US was not practicing the system that Smith was describing.

              Capitalism needs something outside of it, ...

              Almost - Smith presupposed a legal system that (at the very least) attempted to prevent murder, theft and fraud. Capitalism might need something outside of the market, but that's not outside the system.

              ...because capitalism alone has no morality and perversely incentivizes lying and other sociopathic behavior.

              That's true of every economic system - if someone is willing to lie to get money why wouldn't they lie to get a larger ration? The most you can hope to do is reduce the number of rational reasons to cheat, but yo

              • What protected that right during the slavery period, in the US?

                Nothing. And in that aspect the US was not practicing the system that Smith was describing.

                Yes, but the point is that pure laissez faire capitalism in itself does not provide the mechanism to prevent this.

                So you have to have government and laws, but then the extreme right wingers complain about paying taxes and not being able to beat their legally purchased slaves.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by dryeo ( 100693 )

            If a Chinese business person goes to a village, buys all the bananas and creates an artificial shortage, and then raises the price 300%, that is punishable by death. Why? Because he's creating an illegal monopoly, and using it to ruin the market.

            This kind of ludicrous horror story gets invented time and again by opponents of free markets and rent seekers and they make no sense. How is the would-be profiteer actually going to make a business out of that and earn a profit?

            I paid an extra $15 to fill my gas tank yesterday compared to last week, every gas station had raised its price by exactly the same amount while the price of the raw product dropped slightly. Seems the oil companies want to continue earning record profits and as they collude and because people such as I need gas to get to work they can raise prices to increase their profit margins with impunity.
            Now if it was really bananas, I could easily switch to apples but when its something you need rather then a luxury

            • Well, if you're here in the US we have a "mixed economy" and there is no general ban on collusion. Price-fixing is only banned in narrow circumstances. There are a wide variety of specific tactics that the oil companies use to push up retail prices. Most of them just push prices up, they don't create monopolies or disadvantage other oil companies. If you were to build a refinery, those tactics wouldn't hurt you, actually you'd share in the benefit. So it isn't the same type of thing at all. I'm not sure tha

          • Captialism is necessary, though not sufficient, for a free society.

            And this is utter nonsense. A free society can coexist just fine with a simple barter system or even when everything belongs to the commons, which was one of the ways the tribal societies worked. Economic systems are completely orthogonal to the societies. It takes a completely brain washed person to insist otherwise.

            • For example, take a bunch of die-hard communists, settle them all in the same village, give them local rule, and force them to hold elections every few years.

              They'll be totally free, and have representative government. They might even vote for people who promise to put in strict central economic control, and to protest forced-elections. They might even believe themselves unfree, except they can institute their own rules; they just have to verify every few years that they are indeed the rules they want. So t

          • My advice is to read his book.

      • Actually Chinese people greatly admire the Western system and know their own ways are crap. Social responsibility? Are you kidding? Whenever people see photos of a Westerner hitting a person with a car and then stopping to render aid, they are always full of admiration. Chinese don't do that crap. The system of government didn't develop in a vacuum, it's a foreign system that has committed terrible crimes to preserve its own power. If there were elections tomorrow, the Communist Party would be reduced
        • Maybe I wasn't clear, I mean they fundamentally value the society over the individual more than Westerners. What you describe with a car hitting a person and delivering aid is perfectly consistent with that. What degree that is learning or innate is not clear. And I think you are projecting admiration on them because otherwise more people would act in such a way that they so admired (according to you), and then you wouldn't have an example like this to provide.
      • Narratives Change (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @05:59PM (#49211619)

        Or...if you have talked to any native Chinese in some depth you might realize that a lot of them actually have different values than Westerners about social responsibility and such. Far beyond what we are accustomed to with our emphasis on individuality, etc. Their system of government didn't develop in a vacuum and was certainly informed by their culture. So, I think you're right that your comment is a bit of a kneejerk response that assumes their authoritarian government has a hand in EVERYTHING.

        That said, I would also assume that if his books were promoting pro-capitalist or anti-government ideas they would have been censored immediately, so maybe we're missing all the "Westernized" Chinese sci-fi books because of this...

        This--very much this. Values, and as crucially *narratives*, are very much formed by the culture in which you grew up. If you've ever had a serious discussion with an intelligent politician, you'll learn that they understand the narratives they need to draw on to sell policy positions. Lawyers do a microcosm of that in jury arguments, where they try to put together a story that fits a comfortable narrative that the jury will believe, based on who the jury is and what they've experienced.

        The great thing about science fiction using another culture's narratives is that it does what science fiction does best--explores the human condition in a new way.

        Like reading Childhood's End after the Asimov robot novels (which are mostly more hopeful), seeing science fiction explored from a different cultural context can give us profoundly different insights.

    • Exactly. Much of this stuff looks like communist agitprop. Capitalism will destroy civilisation, woo! Except everywhere (regulated) capitalism breaks out, wealth and prosperity follow.

      He reminds me of Machiavelli writing The Prince to flatter Lorenzo de Medici, a proven and trusted means of accumulating wealth but worthy of little respect.

      • In Venezuela, people create markets in commodities like toilet paper, just because they can, creating inflation. They are inserting themselves as middlemen driving up prices. It would be better to have a first-come-first-served policy in cases of shortage, or rationing. Capitalism just creates inflation, and don't forget about slavery.

        • Feel free to move to North Korea friend, you'll find out about slavery under that marxist regime.

          Communism, we can all lounge around navel gazing our way through coffee table philosophy books as equals. Oh wait, no, someone has to make the coffee table and write the book, and if they don't feel like doing that, hey, looks like power does flow from the barrel of a gun after all.

          • I thought anyone can self-publish on the internet these days? Unless the capitalists trying to kill net neutrality get their way, of course.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )

            Feel free to move to North Korea friend,

            Right, because the only possible alternative to capitalism is Maoism.

            Communism, we can all lounge around navel gazing our way through coffee table philosophy books as equals.

            Sure, an economic system based on the value and dignity of labor and the idea that the system should be run by and for workers rather than a state-backed aristocratic capitalist class, leads to lounging around all day navel gazing. Obviously.

            • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @04:55PM (#49211383)

              Marx believed firmly in the labor theory of value, and as such all economic power derived from human labour, not from mechanical power. Communism was about combating the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few people who owned the means of production, at the expense of the masses who provided the labour and hence the real value.

              His view was misguided in many ways, not least in that it almost completely ignores the value of intellectual work; the guy who figures out the right way to apply labour to raw materials is fantastically more effective than the one who does it the wrong way, and in fact this applies at all levels of the chain, up to and including the allocation of capital.

              Marxism and all of its derivations are inherently horrible at effectively allocating resources since they lack the price signals that bundle cost and relative value and communicate them in a way that enables efficient allocation of resources to maximise what people collectively perceive as good, which is why communist economies always fail, and will always fail, even in the presence of automated systems that produce and distribute all of the essentials of life to everyone equally, even if said essentials include what we'd call luxuries. Those essentials will become the baseline expectation, much like oxygen, and economic competition will be around something else.

              Marxism which is based upon class divisions, has failed as a predictive model of economic and social revolution. This is demonstrated in pure Marxist terms by the continued existence of bourgeois capitalism. In terms of a scientific method based on Popperian logical positivism, do you think these theories should now be rejected as null hypotheses?

              • Marxism and all of its derivations are inherently horrible at effectively allocating resources since they lack the price signals that bundle cost and relative value and communicate them in a way that enables efficient allocation of resources to maximise what people collectively perceive as good, which is why communist economies always fail, and will always fail, even in the presence of automated systems that produce and distribute all of the essentials of life to everyone equally, even if said essentials include what we'd call luxuries. Those essentials will become the baseline expectation, much like oxygen, and economic competition will be around something else.

                No, you're wrong, because most people don't really care about economic competition or maximising their goods past a certain level.

                For instance, if I was really desperate for a more expensive car or house than I have now, by your reasoning I would be working at another job in addition to my main one, as I could be buying twice the stuff.

                Whereas, in reality, I would rather spend those eight hours a day enjoying myself by reading a book or having a drink, as my current job provides more than enough to live

          • Communism, we can all lounge around navel gazing our way through coffee table philosophy books as equals.

            You don't sound sure whether that is a good or bad thing.

            Oh wait, no, someone has to make the coffee table and write the book

            Yes, but not everyone is able to make a coffee table or write a book. Society as a whole needs coffee tables or books.

            and if they don't feel like doing that, hey, looks like power does flow from the barrel of a gun after all.

            Whereas in a purely capitalist society, you would be perfectly free to do nothing and starve.

        • Please note that higher prices is NOT the same as inflation.

          • Please note that higher prices is NOT the same as inflation.

            Higher prices on necessities drive inflation.

        • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

          In Venezuela, people create markets in commodities like toilet paper, just because they can, creating inflation. They are inserting themselves as middlemen driving up prices. It would be better to have a first-come-first-served policy in cases of shortage, or rationing. Capitalism just creates inflation, and don't forget about slavery.

          I think you are right, in some niche circumstances, for example where there are shortages of essentials capitalism may not be the answer and rationing would be better. I don't see that altering the fact that for the vast majority of situations it is the best way we know of of matching supply and demand and increasing efficiency.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Equally, when you read western literature it is often based on western ideals like the power of capitalism and markets (for better or worse), fear of socialism and communism (how many "evil" extreme socialist aliens have we seen over the years?), even basic assumptions like everyone having access to ray guns because in America today everyone has access to conventional guns.

      When Chinese people express ideals that run along the same lines as the government ones they are brainwashed. When westerners do the sam

      • Really? Because movie franchises like Aliens and Bladerunner, most sci-fi movies that deal with these issues in fact, revolve around a terror of corporate dystopias. I've yet to see the corporate dystopia that comes within a million miles of actual real life marxist government dystopias of the sort which claimed the lives of over 100 million innocents in the 20th century. China, in particular, should be aware of the horrors inflicted by those who dreamed themselves philosopher princes leading the way for th

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I don't really think of either the Alen or Bladerunner films as being terribly good examples of corporate dystopia.

          Weyland-Yutani may have done evil, but the society itself didn't seem as if it was entirely run by them economically and politically. They also didn't seem anymore than run of the mill greedy in the same way Kerr-McGee was with Karen Silkwood. The same thing seems even more true of the Tyrell Corporation -- if anything, Tyrell's problem seems largely connected to the somewhat existential moral

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          That was my point. Everything is framed in western terms. Dystopia is capitalism out of control, utopia is the abandonment of capitalism. There isn't much else.

          Even in Star Trek a socialist utopia is only possible once replication makes everything plentiful. It doesn't seem possible for any other kind of utopian society to exist. Star Fleet is modelled on the US military ranking and naval traditions, not because they are best but because that's what the obvious choice of an American TV show is.

          • Even in Star Trek a socialist utopia is only possible once replication makes everything plentiful.

            You can be forgiven for not watching Enterprise, but they had just recently achieved utopia yet they didn't have replicators yet.

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      This will probably come across as a kneejerk response, but the submission makes it sound like Liu's themes are almost entirely derived from PRC propaganda.

      An author's themes probing the questions and answers the culture he was raised in grappled with?

      You hear this sort of stuff all the time if you pay any attention to Chinese state media ... planned economies are best, the individual's primary responsibility is to the family unit, Western ideas have failed, and so on.

      None of those are remotely settled questions; and all of them are frequently explored in SF.

      If anything, these books demonstrate the poverty of a literary scene where everybody has to constantly watch what they say.

      Are you high right now? Or just close minded? Or perhaps both?

    • by ideonexus ( 1257332 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @05:37PM (#49211547) Homepage Journal

      Neil DeGrasse Tyson likes to remind us that "culture is what you don't notice." You might see PRC Propaganda in this description of Cixin's work, but if you think about what movies like "American Sniper" and "Top Gun" and the Superbowl must look like to non-Americans, then "propaganda" becomes a relative term. I have long been under the impression that Chinese culture is heavily censored and controlled, so I am perpetually amazed at the things I find portrayed in Chinese media, like the reoccurring themes of government corruption and the importance of a strong press.

      I just finished reading The Three Body Problem, and I did not see anything propaganda-like at all in the book. Cixin presents some pretty complex moral issues for the reader to wrestle with and an extremely damning portrayal of the Cultural Revolution as being anti-science, anti-intellectual, and horribly destructive to the environment. The book opens with a physics Professor on trial for the crime of teaching modern physics, which is considered Western propaganda. Later we see the Cultural Revolution slash-and-burning entire forests and turning them into deserts and one of the characters gets hold of and is influenced by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which is banned by the government for pushing capitalist ideology (how ironic from my American perspective). It is only decades later, when China experiences a renaissance of free public education and science that things are portrayed as getting better.

      --------Spoilers--------

      In fact, part of the aliens' plan to keep humanity weak is to undermine science and promote magical thinking in our culture. Despite the seemingly pro-environmentalism message early in the book, the aliens consider using environmentalism to halt our scientific progress. The reader is left to thinking about how we balance scientific progress against extreme environmental crimes like those committed during the Cultural Revolution.

      The bad guys in the book are a cult of of human beings who want an alien race to provide a central totalitarian government to the entire world. That doesn't exactly endorse central planning. The book portrays overt nationalism as detrimental and unsophisticated, as when a proposed nationalistic message to extraterrestrials is scrapped for a universal statement about humanity.

      I'm sure there are ways to interpret Cixin's writings as PRC Propaganda, but--like most complex texts--there are ways to support many criticisms of the text, even contradictory hypotheses.

    • the individual's primary responsibility is to the family unit

      Wouldn't communist propaganda be that the individual's primary responsibility is to society as a whole, and that the family unit is simply a bourgeois socio-economic construct?

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      also asimov already explored the same themes in his writing.

      including the non-expansive civilization(that banned atomic research through time machines and shit and limited discovery of interstellar travel as a consequence), which was a failure in his grand plot thing.

  • I read some ancient American sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and you'd be amazed at what ideas they cover.
    I apologize for not being able to remember the names of any of them right now, but one story springs to mind rather easily.
    A guy ends up going to the future (don't worry about how) from the when the author wrote the story. It's about the characters experiences in the imagined future.
    In it, everyone was rather well off as your income was essentially a production dividend from the government. As one characte
    • It sounds like you're referring to "Looking Backward" by Francis Bellamy (the guy who wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance) from the 1880s.

      And "saving or hoarding money" in the modern world doesn't "lock up potential resources" - it isn't backed by anything, so taking money out of circulation just raises the value of the remaining currency.

      • And "saving or hoarding money" in the modern world doesn't "lock up potential resources" - it isn't backed by anything,

        Depends on the form. If you put it in a bank, then the bank will loan it out to people and commerce will happen, so that's OK. At least in theory... the bank could always just squander it and then ask for a bailout, and then you could pay them twice

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @02:17PM (#49210729) Journal

    He is one of the best hard sci-fi writers of all times. Sadly, the genre of hard sci-fi is the tiny minority of all sci-fi works produced nowadays, so the few authors who did work in it, stand out for the fans.

    "The Three Body Problem" is a truly HARD sci-fi work by Liu Cixin, and if I'm to judge by this book only, then yes, this man indeed is China's A. C. Clarke.

  • From the description of "The Devourer," it sounds like Cixin could relate to "The Pagan Bible [majorityrights.com]" by Melvin Gorham and "The Social Conquest of Earth [longnow.org]" by E. O. Wilson.

    Both describe civilization as a eusocial superorganism [washington.edu] -- with Gorham being more pessimistic than Wilson as to the potential for containing its ecological conquest of sexual species.

  • Never heard of him, but the BAnQ in Montreal is ordering Carbide Tipped Pens, and I reserved it! Heheh, I'm #1 on the list.

  • ok. i made that up. fiction.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @06:59PM (#49211787) Journal

    retained his day job as a computer engineer with a State-run power plant in a remote part of Shanxi province, because it helps him to stay grounded,...

    Ouch!

  • At least western sci-fi writers make a little effort to conceal their socialistic beliefs.

  • by renzhi ( 2216300 ) on Sunday March 08, 2015 @10:41PM (#49212629)

    It's unfortunate that a good sci-fi book and a good hard sci-fi writer appears on Slashdot, and the discussion turns around PRC propaganda, anti-Chinese sentiment, bad communism, eviltotalitarian government, etc, etc, just because the author is from China? You might want to read the book first before commenting, you might be surprised. It might even open your eyes to a whole new world from your stereotypical veil.

    A couple of people here had already read the book, and given a pretty insightful comment, kudo to them. I read the whole series, in Chinese, last year, in one week, and I couldn't give a better comment.

    The Three Body Problem is a serie of 3 books, involving science, philosophy, religion, world conflict, environment, culture, love, etc. If you like the Clarke's Space Odessey and the Rama series, and the Asimov's Foundation series, and the Herbert's Dune series, you would like these books as well. The books leave you with a lot of issues to ponder upon, from a humanity, as a whole, perspective. Theses issues are not specific to one people or one culture.

    Please put down your stereotypical glasses and forget for a moment that the author is Chinese, and read the book just like you would do any other book. You might enjoy it a lot more.

    • One concern, do you think the significant differences in the language will cause the translation to miss the mark? I see other people enjoyed it, but I think you're in the perfect position to evaluate how the translation effects the book's delivery, given you initially read it in Chinese. Of course, this would require you to read it in English, so no worries if you don't have an English copy available.

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