The success of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (published in Italy by Mondadori) has brought with it great interest in Chinese science fiction, including from the international media. However, while Liu—in his main work—comes across as an author of sci-fi pure and simple (what is called “hard science fiction”), in China a new generation of authors, the balinghou (“those born in the ‘80s”), increasingly connected and able to recognize and follow international trends, are affirming themselves through works that explore “possible presents,” short stories and novels which show a future that in China is already a reality.
This is a new wave of great impact: these authors are in the privileged role (but not without its pitfalls) of investigating a reality like China’s, already dystopian in many of its features (for instance, social credit scores, video surveillance, the use of robots in factories).
Chen Qiufan—in whose work one finds cyberpunk elements, to such an extent that he has been called “the Chinese William Gibson”—is one of the most important of these authors at the moment. His body of work (composed so far of one novel and short stories) deals with real problems: the evolution of apps, the consequences of pollution, the control of information, all inserted into futuristic plots and developments. This kind of “augmented realism” is able to describe the anthropological complications inherent in the process that is transforming China into an increasingly technological society: instead of describing possible futures, Chen investigates the potential changes at the human level arising from facing a world—the Chinese world—that is now becoming accelerated in every aspect.