Event report | Constructing a world view from the human perspective
Francesco Verso (弗朗西斯科·沃尔索) x Hao Jingfang (郝景芳)
In Folding Beijing (《北京折叠》), the writer Hao Jingfang describes the Beijing of the 22nd century as follows: The first space is the upper class, where five million people live; the second space is the middle class, where twenty-five million people live; and the third space is home to fifty million people, most of whom make their living by disposing of waste. These three spaces above do not exist in a syncretic state; they fold and shift into each other. Her novel’s worldview of three levels of space is a very clever way of addressing the problem of social stratification, for which Folding Beijing won the Hugo Award at the 74th World Science Fiction Congress. For this discussion as part of the China-Europe International Literary Festival, Chinese writer Hao Jingfang and Italian writer Francesco Verso discussed the theme of ‘World-Building and Imagination-Shaping in Science Fiction and Fantasy’, moderated by scholar, translator and science fiction expert Zhang Fan.
Constructing a world view from the human perspective
Hao Jingfang spoke of “two possibilities for constructing a world view of fantasy literature: one is from the view of science, and the other is from the human perspective.” She tends to adopt the latter when constructing her worldview in her novels, because the central point of her thinking is always that “According to the individuals I want to write and each individual’s own thoughts and emotions, I ultimately finalise what kind of society I want to build.” Hao Jingfang’s works such as Vagabonds (《流浪苍穹》, 2022, Guomai Culture) and Folding Beijing are typical works that construct a worldview from a human perspective.
In the discussion, she also stressed the need to focus on the people themselves. “So it is only when I found the protagonist and easily touch the emotional point in their heart, that I would really start to write a story like this. I think a big macro worldview only has meaning when it falls to the inner emotional changes. The world unfolds on humans.”
Italian science fiction writer Francesco Verso is the author of several science fiction novels including Antidotiumani (《人类解毒剂》), Nexhuman (《继人类》, 2022, Bofeng Culture), Bloodbusters (《猎血人》, 2022, Bofeng Culture). Speaking about the world he created in Nexhuman he said, “People in many parts of developed and underdeveloped countries are living in a condition of being surrounded by waste and trash, and this is really a side effect of richness and development, or the bad side of so-called shiny capitalism. So in this world I wanted to start an argument about the relationship between man and the environment.”
Using our influence to impact the world
In the conversation, Hao Jingfang and Francesco Verso talked about how to use their influence to change the world for the better. Hao said she wanted to break the “fold” through education so she founded Tongxing School, to give children the idea that “our core identity is that we are all earthlings. There are many civilisations and countries on earth, each with its own characteristics. But all these characteristics work together to contribute to the big family of the Earth people. And only to see the world form the perspective of the Earth, a unified perspective with humans at the core is it possible for us to make the world a better place and avoid cannibalism between very stupid humans and particularly short-sighted prejudice and hatred.”
For his part, Francesco Verso is a big advocate of promoting mutual understanding by supporting literature in translation, saying that “we need to work much more on translating the diversity which make us unique, making it a richness. Because our identity is based on the roots of our cultures and histories, and we do not have one future. We have multiple futures.” He also pointed out the dangers posed by focusing on a single culture or civilisation, arguing that a uniform standard is a stifling of imagination and possibility.
For more information about science fiction authors and their works, please stay tuned to the 7th EU-China International Literary Festival.