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Chi Ta-wei

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

(1972-    ) Chinese author and academic, integral to the queer literature scene in his native Taiwan, whose work might be parsed in terms of a steady drift from Magic Realism, through sf into contemporary fiction, and thence into nonfiction in step with his own culture's gradual acceptance of his subject matter. While accumulating degrees in foreign languages and comparative literature from National Taiwan University and the University of California, Los Angeles, Chi translated several works into Chinese, including Manuel Puig's El beso de la mujer araña (1976 vt Kiss of the Spider Woman trans Chi Ta-wei as Zhizhu Nu zhi Wen 1994), several works by Italo Calvino, including Il visconte dimezzato (1952; vt The Cloven Viscount; trans as Fencheng Liang Ban de Zijue 1998) and Il barone rampante (1957; vt The Baron in the Trees; trans as Shu Shang de Nanjue 1998), and G K Chesterton's The Club of Queer Trades (coll 1905; trans as Qijiguai ye Julebu 2006). Reflections of all these authors may be glimpsed in Chi's own fiction, in which he engaged with homosexual identity as a Wainscot Society.

Propelled by taboo and the risk of censure, Chi's early works embraced Fantastika as allegory. His collection Ganguan Shijie ["The Sensual World"] (1995; vt Queer Senses: A Story Cycle of Sexualities) reimagined seven fairy tales from an LGBTQ perspective (see Sex). The novel Mo (1996; trans Ari Larissa Heinrich as The Membranes 2021) is set in the year 2100 after a climate Disaster strips away the ozone layer and forces humanity to migrate to habitats Under the Sea. A series of Conceptual Breakthroughs, prefiguring The Matrix (1999), challenge the initial presentation of the protagonist Momo, a human brain in a Cyborg body working as an indentured labourer in an arms factory in order to pay off the debt on her life-saving cybernetics, whose mother has arranged a series of artificial hallucinations (see Memory Edit) in order to soften the misery of her existence. Although the reader is ultimately appraised of the entirety of Momo's condition, she herself remains unaware of the full extent of her Dystopian life, which is glimpsed only through occasional flashes of insight or the recurrence of a Basilisk tune. Preferring to classify his work as "biopunk" rather than the Cyberpunk label it inevitably accrued, Chi smuggles in elements redolent of the feminist Utopia envisioned by Shulamith Firestone, including same-sex parentage and early speculations in Transgender SF (see also Feminism). From its very first page, however, it also reveals itself as a playful Fabulation, marrying multiple references from sf, film and literature, from the Japanese legend of Momotarō the foundling "peach-boy", to the Paranoia of Philip K Dick and the fungible bodies of Bruce Sterling's Shaper-Mechanist stories.

In later years, a thawing political climate made it possible for Chi to drift away from genre tales, although elements persisted in his writings of AIDS viewed as an unseen apocalypse or gay Pandemic, and of real-world issues presented with a Sense of Wonder more befitting a Technothriller. Works in this mode include "Yi ge Moshengren de Shenfen Zheng Ming" (in Lianwu Pi coll 1998; trans Fran Martin as "A Stranger's ID" in Angelwings: Contemporary Queer Fiction from Taiwan, anth 2003, ed Fran Martin), which focuses on the hair's-breadth distinction in contemporary society between "passing" as normal and being treated by the police in a manner more befitting an Alien or criminal. People, suggested Chi in 2011, were "already Cyborgs ... outfitted inside and out with artificial components: scaffolds for internal organs, prosthetic limbs, contact lenses, religious talismans procured from temples, back tattoos, the smartphones that never leave our hands."

Chi has argued that discrimination and stigma are forms of societal self-harm, a position that gained substantial weight after a Taiwanese scandal in which donor organs from a dead man were transplanted into five Taiwanese recipients, along with the AIDS virus, because the donor's family had been unaware of his condition or its implications. In an increasingly liberalizing Taiwan, such pronouncements have made Chi an icon and spokesman for marginalized groups, leading to a newfound fame and his more recent position as a chronicler of his own literary sub-genre, in Tongzhi Wenxue Shi: Taiwan de Faming ["A History of Gay Literature: A Taiwanese Invention"] (2017). [JonC]

see also: Chen Qiufan; Dung Kai-Cheung; Huang Fan; Maureen McHugh; Mariko Ōhara.

Ji Dawei

born Taichung, Taiwan (Republic of China): 3 February 1972


Note that the translations given below are sometimes at odds with what appear to be the author's own preferred rendering in English even when the works themselves are often untranslated; hence the use of variant titles within this entry.

  • Mo ["The Membranes"] (Taipei, Taiwan: Linking, 1996) [binding unknown/]
    • The Membranes (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021) [trans of the above by Ari Larissa Heinrich: in the publisher's Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan series: hb/]


  • Ganguan Shijie ["The Sensual World"] (Taipei, Taiwan: Lianhe Wenxue, 1995) [coll of linked stories: binding unknown/]
  • Lianwu Pi ["Fetish: A Collection"] (Taipei, Taiwan: Times, 1998) [coll: binding unknown/]

nonfiction (selected)


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