It would be refreshing for utopian/dystopian fiction featuring China to be less realist. Annalee Newitz offers a helpful if troubling anthology of fantasy novels and film devoted to worlds where China dominates the planet. I’m embarrassed to admit, that, of all the impressive efforts described, I’ve only read David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series, and only the first trilogy, and William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
In North America, it’s become almost a cliché in science fiction to turn Japan and Korea into superpowers of the future. From William Gibson’s first cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (now a movie), we are bombarded with images of a hyper-futuristic world dominated culturally and economically by these Asian countries. And yet, despite intense political debates (and fearmongering) over China’s growing hold over the U.S., we rarely see science fiction stories that depict it becoming a superpower. It’s like we’re afraid to imagine in fiction what the U.S. presidential candidates argued over repeatedly in their debates. Even the remake of Red Dawn shies away from a Chinese future; the movie was about a Chinese invasion, but that detail was changed in post-production to North Korea.
What about Blade Runner?
I’m always amused by laypeople and artistic types whose first foray into political topics takes on a realist hue. I’m beholden to the “Complex Interdependence” variant of the liberal paradigm. Realism appeals to a certain impulse to be parsimonious and badass at the same time, in a Kissinger baritone. What would an Indian sci-fi drama say about China? I recently devoured Charles C. Martin’s 1491 and 1493, bookended discussions respectively of our complex planet in all of its facets both before and after Christopher Columbus blundered onto Hispaniola in 1492.
Another limitation is realism’s tendency to value binary antagonisms over complex alliances and multivariable transactions. In the latter volume, Martin argues that the China we recognize now, with teeming billions that still manage to need more landmass, is a post-Columbian mistake born of the collision between Manila-based Spain dreaming of exotic goods and a Chinese economy based on silver. If there’s one theme I learned from Martin, it’s that humans created this mess together.
Pardon me, but I have some kimbab, which I like to eat with my fingers, and fish cakes in a spicy broth from a street vendor to ingest, but I’m sitting in a chair and drinking a dark beer while watching Jenna Jameson porn.