Writers need scope to criticize global society

By Shan Renping Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/23 22:38:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese science fiction author Hao Jingfang, who is now in her early 30s, has won a 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the highest honor in science fiction and fantasy writing. Hao has since become the second Chinese writer to grab the award after Liu Cixin won the novel category last year with his work The Three-Body Problem. This time, Hao's novel Folding Beijing beat out the renowned Stephen King's Obits for a hard-earned victory.

In an unidentified era in Folding Beijing, the city within the sixth ring road changes constantly through folding, and three different dimensions that are isolated to each other have thus been created. About 5 million rulers and administrators live in the first dimension, 25 million white-collar workers and students are in the second, and the population of the third dimension is the most with 50 million people, who are mostly at the bottom of society.

In Hao's novel, a man surnamed Dao has to come and go through different dimensions to raise funds for his foster daughter's kindergarten tuition, showing the different societies in the three dimensions. The first one is full of upper-class scenes and beautiful things that exist in the reality. The second one looks busy, but is well-ordered. And in the third dimension, 20 million people are garbage men and the other 30 million make their living by selling clothes, food, fuel and insurance, as what's going on in the urban-rural intersection of big cities in China.

Some say that they sensed political criticism in the book, and that's why the West gave it the award. As the political game between China and the West is getting increasingly fierce, it is understandable for them to think that way. But it would be more rewarding to treat Folding Beijing and the Hugo Award on their own merits.

The solidification of the class structure displayed in Folding Beijing is not unique to China, but a common global problem. The story could also be Folding New York, Folding London, Folding Rio or Folding Mumbai. As the winners of the Hugo Award are decided by readers' votes, Hao has triggered a strong resonance among readers across the globe by touching the sore spot of their societies.

Over the recent years, an increasing number of Chinese writers have won international literary awards including Nobel Prize in Literature, Hugo Award and Hans Christian Andersen Award. Ideological factors can hardly be avoided in both literature and literary awards, but more importantly, the globe is paying growing attention to China so that the talent of Chinese authors are being discovered and recognized.

Furthermore, Chinese society should adapt to and accept criticism by writers. The positive side of literature cannot be simply comprehended as eulogizing or encouragement. We need more works to point out our problems sharply and make wake-up calls to the society.

After winning the award, Hao said that she did not wish her story to come true. This hope is also shared by her readers. Hao has pointed out the conundrum through exaggeration and has successfully attracted attention. This will beyond doubt help resist the social differentiation and solidification of different classes, bringing hope to the world.

With China's development for over six decades, particularly after the reform and opening-up, the gap between China and the developed countries in the world has been largely bridged in terms of overall scientific and cultural levels. Many Chinese creative works have historically appeared in the forefront of global competition. Liu and Hao's winning Hugo Award proved that Chinese can also become world-class masters in science fiction.

This trend is not limited to science fiction authors. Such experts in other fields will also emerge.

The author is a commentator of the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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