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“Science Fiction is a Laboratory of Ideas that Challenges Humanity”

As a famous science fiction writer and one of the representatives of the new generation of Chinese science fiction, He Xi first set his foot in the science fiction realm in 1991. To date, he has won the Galaxy Award 17 times and Chinese Nebula Award multiple times. At the opening of the 7th China-EU Literature Festival, He Xi expressed his views on topics such as technology and human nature, science fiction and science.


Technology and Humanity

He Xi created many well-known works. His novel The Doomed Year (《天年》)won the Gold Award for Excellent Popular Science Works of the 4th China Popular Science Writers Association. In addition, his representative works include Natural Born Talent(《天生我材》), Who am I(《我是谁》), Never Meet Again(《爱别离》), Sad People(《伤心者》), No Mercy(《人生不相见》), The Six Paths of Lives (《六道众生》)and so on. He Xi’s works focus on the exploration of the future of macro science and the good and evil of human nature, closely integrating science fantasy with social reality, involving various themes such as human nature exploration, cosmic adventure, time travel, and parallel time and space. He uses writing to continue his quest for the eternal propositions of time and space, leads readers to imagine the vast galaxy with engaging stories. Dong Renwei, the former chairman of Sichuan Popular Science Writers Association, once defined He Xi as “the first person in Chinese romance science fiction”.


 “Science-fiction writers are often asked a question, which is whether our humanity would be changed by technology in the future. I personally think this is a false proposition, because our humanity has long been changed by science and technology.” He Xi said, ” Human beings’ loyalty to their spouses, their strong love for their children, their desire for friendship… These core elements are closely related to the development of technology. The rapid development of contemporary science and technology constantly poses challenges and breakthroughs to the old ethics of human nature. Chinese traditional literature, however, is limited by inherent thinking and pays little attention to this aspect. On the other hand, science fiction writers have a unique creative space.”


Science Fiction and Science

In addition to focusing on human nature, He Xi’s works often present new sci-fi words, such as: photon business, JT industry, brain domain, brain room, brain room phobia, willingness completion system, Philippine star, reproductive isolation, cascading space, illegal transition , the Seam of time, cosmic blink, star virus, macro circle, planet bottle, etc. “Science is a form of creative writing after all, and many concepts are often beyond the scope of existing scientific and technological common sense, that’s why new words are appearing in my works. The naming standards are, first, to define as accurately as possible, and to be able to properly describe the characteristics of these new things; second, they must relate to the known things in the real world, and should not be completely disconnected, so as to facilitate the reader’s understanding.” He Xi said.


One of the classic characters in science fiction is the scientist. Most of these scientists have IQs and visions that are far above the ordinary people, but they are also often in a difficult situation of loneliness and lack of resonance with the times. He Xi said, “Scientific exploration is supposed to be a difficult and lonely process, and it is impossible for some Ph.D. supervisors who are well-rounded to achieve truly valuable scientific and technological achievements. I once put forward the concept of ‘useless technology’ in my works, referring to the technology that cannot bring short-term benefits but can promote human progress in the long run.”


In Sad People(《伤心者》), there is a mother who gives unconditional supports to her son, a mathematician. The reader will find that the choice of a mother is completely opposite to the society. Social resources only favour the strong, while the mother cares for the weakest among her children. Basic scientific research often cannot create short-term practical benefits, just like the weakest child, but it determines the future pattern of the world. I hope our society can learn from the mothers in this regard.” He Xi said.


Science fiction can convey difficult scientific knowledge to readers in a lively and interesting form, promoting the scientific spirit of seeking truth beyond books, which has a positive effect on the development of science and technology. “A large proportion of people who work in scientific and technology fields are science fiction fans. I have seen many young science and technology experts say to science fiction writers that they are influenced and inspired by their works which encouraged them to get on the road of scientific research.” He Xi said, “On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, the influence of modern science and technology on human nature and society is increasing, many new topics are brought to the society, while traditional literature is unable to do this. Science fiction is good at setting extreme environments, just like a thought laboratory, where human nature is being challenged. This will help the humankind to know themselves clearer, understand the meaning of a community with a shared future, and then treat themselves and the world kindly.”


At the 7th China-EU International Literature Festival, He Xi will join Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvalt, in conversation with Yang Feng, to discuss their writing lives and “Human nature, fantasy, social reality and the supernatural”.



– Interview by the EU-China International Literary Festival Team
– Translated into English by Helen Qiu