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Han Song

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1965-    ) Chinese author and journalist, a multiple recipient of the Yinhe Award and considered one of the leading figures of the genre in China. Han Song spent the period 1984-1991 at Wuhan University, studying English and journalism, and eventually graduating with a Master of Laws. He subsequently became an editor and contributor to the government-owned journal Liaowang Dongfang Zhoukan ["Oriental Outlook Weekly"], for which he often writes on cultural and social dynamics, and new developments in science, some of which saw print as Renzaoren ["Artificial Humans" vt "Can We Clone Humans?"] (1997) (see Clones). His continued position as a respected member of a high-profile publication allows him to effectively shrug off the fact that many of his fictional works soon vanish from bookshelves. Embracing science fiction's subversive potential in a culture that once proclaimed itself to already be a futuristic utopia, Han's works often run afoul of the official censor, but endure in online samizdat form or elsewhere in the Chinese diaspora or Japanese translation. His first notable success, "Yuzhou Mubei" ["Gravestone of the Universe"] (1991 Huanxiang) appeared in a Taiwanese magazine, and its subsequent anthologization was unavailable for ten years in the People's Republic, reputedly because of its dark tone. Similarly, his short story "Wo de Zuguo Bu Zuomeng" ["My Fatherland Does Not Dream"] (2007 Zhongguo Kexue), in which an authoritarian state drugs its citizens to both optimize labour and redact memories of atrocities (see Memory Edit) was swiftly banned. For this reason, many of the publication dates given in the checklist below are for the first sanctioned appearance in China, and not necessarily of the date of authorship or first appearance.

Much of Han's work is downbeat or decidedly pessimistic, even in his description of grand schemes such as that in Hongse Haiyang ["Red Ocean"] (2004) which sends genetically-engineered humans Under the Sea in order to escape Climate Change and ecological disaster on land. His English translation of his own "Gezhanshi de Zhuanjingtong" (2002 Kehuan Shijie trans Han Song as "The Wheel of Samsara" in The Apex Book of World SF, anth 2009, ed Lavie Tidhar) seems to playfully accentuate the story's inspiration in Arthur C Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God" (1953 Star Science Fiction Stories, anth 1953, edited by Frederik Pohl) even to the Tibetan location and the tone of its apocalyptic ending. A recurring theme is the rise and possible supremacy of China in contention with the West, which Han often treats with an ambiguity of tone sure to confuse the authorities. Ditie ["Subway"] (coll of linked stories 2010) explores the Ruins and Futurity of the Beijing metro system, held up since the 1970s as a triumph of modernity, reimagined as a Kafka-esque Dystopia in which the Chinese pointlessly struggle to emulate the bustle and energy of Western capitalism. He has repeated this mode in several other stories, such as "Chengke yu Changzaozhe" (August 2006 Kehuan Shijie trans Nathaniel Isaacson as "The Passengers and the Creator" November 2012 Renditions), a surreal tale in which the entire population of China is forced to live out its existence in a fleet of mid-air jumbo jets. Huoxing Zhaoyao Meiguo: 2066-nian zhi Xixing Manji ["Mars Shines on America: An Account of a Westward Journey in the Year 2066" vt "Red Star Over America" in some reportage] (2001/2012) focuses on a balkanized and declining United States in a Sinocentric world, notoriously featuring a terrorist attack on the New York World Trade Center several months before reality imitated fiction.

Han's work also appears in other forms, including his young adult book Rang Women Yiqi Xunzhao Waixingren ["Let Us Look For Aliens Together"] (2011), poetry and essays, particularly his writings on the matter of science fiction as collected in Xiangxiang Li Xuanyan ["A Declaration of the Power of the Imagination"] (1999). This latter work purports to be an investigation of the mindset of genre fiction, but veers into a polemic about the suffocating, repressive nature of modern China, suggesting that the People's Republic "will not produce a Bill Gates" without public support for and acceptance of imaginative fiction. [JonC]

Han Song

born Chongqing, China: 1965

works (selected)

  • Renzaoren ["Artificial Humans" vt "Can We Clone Humans?"] (Beijing: Zhongguo Renshi Chubanshe, 1997) [pb/]
  • Yuzhou Mubei ["Gravestone of the Universe"] (Beijing: Xinhua Chubanshe, 1998) [coll: pb/]
  • Xiangxiang Li Xuanyan ["A Declaration of the Power of the Imagination"] (Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 1999) [nonfiction: pb/]
  • Gui de Xianchang Diaocha ["Haunted Site Investigations"] (Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 2002) [pb/]
  • Shamao Guchuan ["The Ancient Ship of the Desert"] (Beijing: Haitian Chubanshe, 2002) [pb/]
  • Hongse Haiyang ["Red Ocean"] (Shanghai: Shanghai Kexue Puji Zhiban, 2004) [pb/]
  • Ditie ["Subway"] (Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe, 2010) [coll of linked stories: pb/]
  • Rang Women Yiqi Xunzhao Waixingren ["Let Us Look For Aliens Together"] (Chengdu: Sichuan Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 2011) [pb/]
  • Huoxing Zhaoyao Meiguo: 2066-nian zhi Xixing Manji ["Mars Shines on America: An Account of a Westward Journey in the Year 2066"] (Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe, 2012) [new version of book originally published in 2000: pb/]

about the author

  • Echo Zhao. "The 3 Generals: today's top Chinese sci-fi writers reveal how they 'talk to the future'" (May 2011 The World of Chinese) [mag/]


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