Event Report | “Science Fiction helps us explore ethical questions about science and technology”
Julie Nováková (Czech Republic), Xia Jia (China)
Czech author Julie Nováková (朱莉·诺瓦克娃) and Chinese writer Xia Jia (夏笳） engaged in a profound discussion, in conversation with Regina Kanyu Wang（王侃瑜）, on “The Relationship Between Science and Science Fiction（科学与科幻）” at the 7th EU-China International Literary Festival.
Both writers were firm advocates of the idea that science fiction was the perfect vehicle to encourage young people to become interested in the sciences and the STEM subjects.
“Using science fiction in this way can help us get not just the science closer to students and help them imagine the future but also to explore the ethical questions about science and technology,” Nováková said.
As a lecturer at Xi’an University, Xia Jia opened a course introducing engineering students and other disciplines to science fiction. In this course, she said she hopes not only to bring science fiction topics to students, but also to encourage students to break through the limitations of disciplines and have a more comprehensive and open perspective.
“Actually, you can think about this issue from different angles. There are a lot of things that I have been talking about. I hope that we can reflect and criticise the imagination we have taken for granted about sci-fi issues,” Xia Jia said.
Science fiction can be used as both a tool and a plaything to stimulate creativity and generate new concepts, Nováková said. “Science fiction is a great sandbox where we can realize different ideas, we can see all possible outcomes, and we can predict what might happen in the future. A lot of science fiction just depicts some new science or technology without really reflecting on how these technologies will change our society.”
Regina Kanyu Wang mentioned that a review of Nováková’s critically acclaimed The Ship Whisperers（ 《船舶私语》） said the collection actually challenged “the definition of man”. Xia Jia added that “science fiction is a kind of literature that explores the frontier … Science fiction is a way of thinking that crosses borders. Science fiction can not only help us expand our horizons and increase our knowledge, but science fiction can help us to constantly discover the edge of our cognition, and then constantly jump out of what we know at that edge.”
Nováková and Xia Jia are both able to write fiction proficiently in English as well as in their native language. They agreed that having a second language at their disposal opened up interesting creative opportunities.
“Writing in English really enabled me to do new things. So I would say writing in more languages expands writers’ possibilities, their points of view, and artistic approaches that they can take,” Nováková said.
Xia Jia explained how the title story for her English-language story collection Let’s Have a Talk came about. She noted one day that the Chinese translation for the English phrase ‘let’s have a talk’ was more like ‘shall we have a real conversation’ in Chinese.
“The tone change between the two languages was very interesting, very subtle. So when I wanted to write an English story I immediately thought of this phrase ‘let’s have a talk’, so I used that,” she said.
The 7th EU-China International Literary Festival brought leading European and Chinese writers together to embrace the core theme of “Explore·Imagine·Inspire – Science Fiction, Fantasy and Worlds Beyond”.