I’ve spent the last couple of weeks doing research for a dissertation topic on Chinese science-fiction. The most helpful resources I found were books by David Der-wei Wang and Rudolph Wagner”), and articles from the journal Science Fiction Studies, and they helped me narrow down to some sort of topic on the boom in science fiction just after the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s.
However, it quickly became apparent to me that whilst the science fiction of that time could certainly provide material for an undergraduate dissertation, in terms of literary quality it really was pretty painful. The vast majority of it is excruciatingly shallow propaganda-esque material.
It seems like good stuff didn’t arrive on the scene until later, but I’d prefer to play it safe and pick something a little further in the past so that I’m not stumbling around in the dark with no established academic sources to guide me.
The final straw came when I was reading an article about late 70s science fiction in China, and the two authors Wang Meng and Liu Binyan got mentioned as a pair, and were used as an example of more daring, controversial writers at the time (especially Liu Binyan with 《人妖之间》 in 1979). That settled it in my mind that they would make a much better dissertation topic.
There’s a lot more scholarship about them, both in English and Chinese (it’s very important that we make heavy use of Chinese language source material for the dissertation, something like a minimum 60-40 Chinese-English split if possible). It’s also easier to get hold of their work compared to the sci-fi stuff, a lot of which is only available in back issues of magazines in China that might’ve been very tricky to track down.
So today I met with my supervisor, Dr Susan Daruvala, and she helped me settle on the title, which is….
Conflicts of Ideals and Practice: Trajectories of Wang Meng and Liu Binyan
I initially wanted to add a date range to the end of this, perhaps 1956 to 1989 but Dr Daruvala advised me not to for a few reasons, mainly because not including the date allows more leeway to explore different areas if they become interesting during research. The early stages will be a lot of reading, and I’m going to be posting translated excerpts from both authors here.
Onwards and upwards!