East Asia Student

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Writing an undergraduate dissertation on Chinese science fiction

I’m in my fourth and final year of Chinese Studies at Cambridge now, which involves writing a ~12k word dissertation on a freely chosen topic. People generally write about something related to their specialist module, though, in order to make the most of their supervisor for that module who will be an expert on it. My specialist module is Modern Chinese Literature.

I had vague plans of writing about 王蒙 (Wang Meng) and 刘宾雁 (Liu Binyan), but nothing very specific. Then the other day I was going through previous dissertations in the faculty library and happened to spot a small reference to science fiction in the conclusion of one of them. Then it seemed obvious!


Doing a dissertation related to 20th century Chinese science fiction seems like a good bet for me because:

  • I actually like science fiction as a genre so hopefully I’ll be fired up about the work.
  • I get to read fairly modern, natural Chinese whilst doing my research.
  • I might discover some authors I love.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of accessible information on it available online, so I can address that slightly here.

I really have no idea about the topic at the moment though, so I’m going to be doing a lot of reading in the coming days. To begin with I’m going to read as much as I can from the journal Science-Fiction Studies, just to get a sense of what the field is like and hopefully get some inspiration for concrete topic ideas.

I’ve actually managed to have my access to JSTOR suspended for downloading too many editions of it at once :-S It was for personal research purposes, honest!

I’m planning to post ideas and drafts related to the dissertation here as I work on it, mostly to motivate myself by completing chunks of it, but also to get some eyeballs on it as it goes along. I think I’ll also be posting about Chinese science fiction around my topic. Anyway, watch this space!