“Imagination from the female perspective is a new possibility for science fiction literature”
Interview | Regina Kanyu Wang
Regina Kanyu Wang is a Chinese writer, researcher, academic and editor who writes science fiction, nonfiction and academic essays in both Chinese and English. On the occasion of the 7th EU-China International Literature Festival, she discussed her latest work, women and science fiction, pure literature versus science fiction, creative writing and sources of inspiration.
“In the last year or two, there have been several anthologies composed entirely of works by Chinese women science fiction writers,” Wang said. “She – A Collection of the Classic Works of Chinese Women Science Fiction Writers curated by Ling Chen and edited by Cheng Jingbo; She SF series edited by Stanley Chan; and Running Red published in Japan, edited by Wu Tianjing, Teruyuki Hashimoto, and Kazumi Oe. It’s great to see so many people coming together to focus on women and non-binary creators.
“The first all-female-and-non-binary anthology of Chinese speculative fiction in English translation, The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories was initially planned as a simultaneous Chinese-English anthology, and during the selection process we also maintained close communication with our foreign editors, and I realized that China and the United States have different judgments about what is science fiction, what is speculative literature, and what makes a good story, and I am glad that we were able to select good works that both sides agree on. Also, I have worked with many excellent translators for this anthology, and I am grateful to them for making these stories available to English-speaking readers.”
Female depictions in Science Fiction
“Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic The Left Hand of Darkness imagines a society without a fixed gender, where all people are normally asexual, only randomly transforming into male and female at certain biological cycles; in another of her works, The Matter of Seggri, a world is depicted where men have all the privileges and women all the rights. In The Worm’s Nest, on the other hand, Chi Hui depicts an alien society in which women and boy-trees are interdependent,” Wang said.
“Science fiction writers excel at imagining different possibilities, not by simply reversing the current gender order in patriarchal society without destroying its essential structure, but by offering a new way of thinking that allows us to think more deeply about the complexities of gender issues. Of course, the work of female writers does not necessarily have to be approached from a gender perspective either, but can be of a more diverse and expansive dimension, as the possibilities of science fiction reaching into the unknown and the future offer more possibilities for female creators.”
Pure Literature and Science Fiction
The Seafood Restaurant is Wang’s practice of applying prose writing techniques to the creation of science fiction. Talking about the stylistic balance between pure literature and science fiction, she said, “I am also figuring out this path. Often, we feel that science fiction is about faraway places, distant time or space, not related to our personal experiences in the present reality, and always focuses on novel settings and ideas. But science fiction can also be about the human heart, about the present and the past, about the human condition in the face of change. I try to put more of ‘ego’ into my writing, to imagine how I would feel and what I would do in that situation, and by doing so, I replace the objects of my imagination with people or beings different from myself, thus reaching a wider world.”
Creative writing and inspiration
Creative writing courses in Chinese universities are developing rapidly over the past decade with nearly 200 universities now offering MFA creative writing courses. Wang, who has an undergraduate degree in business from Fudan and a postgraduate degree in MFA from the same university, said of her experience in the creative writing programme: “If I hadn’t done the MFA in creative writing, I wouldn’t have started writing at all. During those two (now three) years, I was able to put aside other things in my life for a while and explore a possibility to read, write and communicate. Writing can indeed be trained, but I think beyond training, it requires sustenance and precipitation. Young creatives shouldn’t be impatient, it’s certainly great to have a surge of creative enthusiasm, but if you can’t write at the moment, or if you can’t get it published, you might want to take a moment to observe and practice more, or go to a writing group or workshop and find peers to move forward with.”
Her latest story, Timefall, is featured in Harvest’s March 2022 “Science Fiction Album”, and she has also recently published a new work, Zhurong on Mars. When it comes to inspiration, she said, “Inspiration is not hard to come by. A paper I’ve read, a novel, a news story I’ve seen, a movie, etc. can all be sources of inspiration. It is finding the appropriate story for the inspiration that is the hard part. I usually start with a lot of research, and in the process I gradually expand my knowledge of the field, while trying to think of characters and events, and trying to write the beginning and find the right tone of voice. There are always a lot of detours or ideas in this process, so I write slowly and always have a lot of scraps, perhaps a parallel universe developing with each scrap in a word document.”
Join us for the 7th EU- China International Literary Festival, which will be held online from 7-25 September, 2022, under the theme “Explore·Imagine·Inspire – Science Fiction, Fantasy and Worlds Beyond”. Regina Kanyu Wang will be joined by Swedish author Ina Rosvall in a conversation with writer and scholar Zhang Yiwei, Associate Professor of Chinese at Fudan University, on the topic “Literary Intersections: Assessing the Philosophical and the Technological in Science Fiction”.