Event Report｜Literary Intersections: Assessing the Philosophical and the Technological in Science Fiction
Ina Rosvall (Sweden) x Regina Kanyu Wang (China)
Acclaimed writers Ina Rosvall from Sweden and Regina Kanyu Wang from China came together at the 7th EU-China International Literary Festival, joined by moderator Zhang Yiwei, to discuss how science fiction serves as both a platform to explore a raft of philosophical questions and as a way to probe how technological advances may affect our minds, our lives and our very consciousness.
Ina Rosvall is the author of science fiction books Harungen (The Young Hare ), her critically acclaimed debut that explores the physical aspects of consciousness, and Livbärarna (In vivo), which was released this year. As well as being a writer, she works as a clinical psychologist in Sweden. Regina Kanyu Wang is an award-winning writer, researcher and editor of several titles, including The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories , an all-women-and-non-binary anthology of Chinese speculative fiction.
Wang discussed her novel In Search of Sound which tells the story of the heroine returning to Earth to her hometown after exploring outer space, in contrast to the common outer space exploration sci-fi theme. Wang said: “In the end, I set up these two paths for the protagonist, but in the end they both lead to the same result. The direct separation between human beings and the environment in which they live will become more and more serious. So I hope that through this story the protagonist can rediscover their connection with nature and the land on the Earth.”
Rosvall said she appreciated Wang’s unorthodox approach to science fiction writing in the story, with the focus being on our own complex planet rather than the extra-terrestrial world the protagonist had come from.
“I really like the theme of her coming back and seeing that the world we live in is so full of detail and myriad [meaning]. We don’t always have to look outside for something spectacular and big because even the smallest things are divided into smaller and smaller and smaller. The world we live in is so rich and full that sci-fi doesn’t always necessarily have to leave this world.”
In Rosvall’s critically acclaimed debut novel Harungen (The Young Hare) she explores the physical aspects of consciousness with the narrator a scientist performing animal experiments to document neurological reactions to various aspects of life. The worked stemmed from her inquisitive desire to understand how animals might perceive the very experience of life.
Rosvall’s second novel Livbärarna is set in a world where technical advances have made pregnancy redundant, an originating concept that also had deeply personal connections for her.
“I wrote it when I was pregnant with my second child and I wanted to really write about pregnancy as a philosophical phenomenon. And I wanted to make a sort of set up where pregnancy was abnormal and through technical advances we don’t need to do that anymore,” she said, adding the premise then gave rise to a whole set of philosophical questions.
Contemplating technology and the impact it can have on our wider world, Wang said: “We may sometimes think about things too simply, thinking that technology can solve all problems. It can help us make progress and help us to communicate better but we neglect the cost and consequences behind it.”
The meaning of life itself, and with it the meaning of death, was also discussed with Rosvall saying “I think with life the value of life isn’t always our happiness. It’s something much bigger than happiness and not happiness. It has a sort of value, but that value also comes from the fact that we die.”
As both writers discussed their love for literature and the creative scope that the science fiction genre could bring, Wang said “in my stories I try to set up different scenarios and then explore different possibilities because I believe science fiction itself is a genre with infinite possibilities.”
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”.