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posted by n1 on Wednesday March 11 2015, @01:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the engineer-by-day,-writer-by-night dept.

Joshua Rothman has a very interesting article in The New Yorker about Liu Cixin, China’s most popular science-fiction writer, author of thirteen books who until very recently had retained his day job as a computer engineer with a State-run power plant in a remote part of Shanxi province. It helped him to stay grounded and enabled him to "gaze at the unblemished sky" as many of his co-workers do.

In China, Cixin is about as famous as William Gibson in the United States and Cixin is often compared to Arthur C. Clarke, whom he cites as an influence. Rothman writes that American science fiction draws heavily on American culture, of course—the war for independence, the Wild West, film noir, sixties psychedelia—and so humanity’s imagined future often looks a lot like America’s past. For an American reader, one of the pleasures of reading Liu is that his stories draw on entirely different resources.

For example, in “The Wages of Humanity,” visitors from space demand the redistribution of Earth’s wealth, and explain that runaway capitalism almost destroyed their civilization. In “Taking Care of Gods,” the hyper-advanced aliens who, billions of years ago, engineered life on Earth descend from their spaceships; they turn out to be little old men with canes and long, white beards. “We hope that you will feel a sense of filial duty towards your creators and take us in,” they say. "I doubt that any Western sci-fi writer has so thoroughly explored the theme of filial piety," writes Rothman. In another story, “The Devourer,” a character asks, “What is civilization? Civilization is devouring, ceaselessly eating, endlessly expanding.” But you can’t expand forever; perhaps it would be better, another character suggests, to establish a “self-sufficient, introspective civilization.” "At the core of Liu’s sensibility," concludes Rothamn, "is a philosophical interest in the problem of limits. How should we react to the inherent limitations of life? Should we push against them or acquiesce?"

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:19AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:19AM (#155875)

    What the hell is this summary trying to say?!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:30AM (#155883)

      What the hell do you expect?

      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:33AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:33AM (#155885)

        Who is Scab Pickens?

    • (Score: 0, Troll) by Ethanol-fueled on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:40AM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:40AM (#155888) Homepage

      I read plenty of Liu Citrix' books, and they're pretty damn good compared to Western Literature. Lotta cryptic high-context stuff in there, where words mean different things depending on the tone of voice you hear the syllables inside your head as you read them.

      For example, in a good mood, you pick up one of his books and read the passage as, "Robot-man teleported to the moon," but the next day you can read the very same passage as, "Robot-man sodomized your momma with a chainsaw."

      And there's a lot of things about becoming the wind to vanquish your enemy, and harnessing the other elements for your chi or some shit. And Kung-Pow chicken. And Wu-shu pork.

      • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:42AM

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:42AM (#155891) Homepage

        'scuse me, Moo shu pork.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:44AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:44AM (#155892)

        Can you make me some won ton soup?

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:50AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:50AM (#155895) Journal
          From TFM [xkcd.com], the correct syntax is
          > sudo "make me some won ton soup"
          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:52AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:52AM (#155896)

            Ethanol-fueled is a man, not an Ubuntu Linux installation. I don't command him to do things. I ask him. Maybe he will make me won ton soup. Maybe he won't. Regardless, I will treat him like the man that he is. I will not treat him like he is a computer.

            • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:22AM

              by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:22AM (#155904) Journal

              Maybe he will make me won ton soup. Maybe he won't. Regardless, I will treat him like the man that he is.

              As you wish, but you are doing him a disservice.

              Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline.
              This is a certain road to victory.

              Sun Tzu, The art of war, "The Army on the March" - para 43 [suntzusaid.com])

              --
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
            • (Score: 3, Funny) by aristarchus on Wednesday March 11 2015, @08:10AM

              by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @08:10AM (#155946) Journal

              Ethanol-fueled is a man, not an Ubuntu Linux installation.

              I would need to see some rather strong evidence of this claim.

              --
              You are currently banned from moderating. The last day of your ban is 2022-03-25.
              • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by VLM on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:49PM

                by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:49PM (#156028)

                Does he, or does he not, force you to soil yourself by running GNOME DESKTOP ENVIRONMENT? I think not. So much for that logical clause.

                Note that merely ruling out being an installation of Ubuntu does not necessarily prove what he is. He could be a sentient AI for example. Being fueled by ethanol I'm thinking he's the embedded entertainment system in some hippies eco bio-fueled car. That might, or might not, explain a lot.

              • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday March 11 2015, @06:29PM

                by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @06:29PM (#156207) Journal

                Yeah, his systemd installation is a little bit damning.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:12AM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:12AM (#155898) Journal

        plenty of Liu Citrix' books

        With a job like his, I just wonder how does Wei Liu Citrix [xenproject.org] have time to write books as well?

        Lotta cryptic high-context stuff in there

        Necessarily so, otherwise it wouldn't pass the censorship.

        a lot of things about becoming the wind to vanquish your enemy

        You got the tonality wrong on this one, better try reading it again this evening (hint: sobriety doesn't help when reading Liu Citrix' spiritual writings; the mind really need cleaning of any parasitical thoughts, what better way to do it other than with high quality spirits).

        Harnessing shit for your chi doesn't required the identification with your inner wind.
        On the contrary, it requires expelling it, in long bursts forming the all powerful whaaaa [youtube.com] syllable.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:40PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:40PM (#156025)

        I sympathize with the unpredictability day to day, the same thing happened to me when I installed systemd, chainsaw and everything.

        Brings to mind the "Manchurian Candidate" story from some time ago. Westerners were not the first to invent EEE or FUD.

        becoming the wind to vanquish your enemy, and harnessing the other elements for your chi or some shit

        I'm pretty sure I read that exact line as one of the arguments in the Debian init system debate. You should really quote your sources when cutting and pasting.

      • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday March 11 2015, @06:27PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @06:27PM (#156205) Journal

        And Wu-shu pork.
         
        Is that the sequel to Kung-Fu Panda?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:41AM (#155890)

      Don't bother. You're clearly illiterate.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by kaszz on Wednesday March 11 2015, @10:02AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @10:02AM (#155974) Journal

      That there's a popular science-fiction writer like Arthur C. Clarke that is called Liu Cixin, in China. And that this Chinese author is worthwhile to read about. In particular he uses other inspirations than the American author which opens up another angle of sci-fi.

      Otoh, Chinese censorship perhaps does limits what he can write about..

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @05:04PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @05:04PM (#156157)

        It's a shame that we have to waste the first block of replies for complaints about summaries/submissions/etc. I feel bad for possibly expanding it more by replying to your post, but assuming the first poster was genuinely asking and not just another whiner who didn't want to take a minute to think, your reply could and should have been the simple end of issue first and last response and we might get on to other discussions of the stories.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:45AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:45AM (#155907)

    AMURIKA, FUCK YEAH!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:57AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:57AM (#155912)

      It's not possible to be racist against Americans. American is a nationality, not a race.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @08:40AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @08:40AM (#155954)

        "Only thing worse than dragons; Americans!" Reign of Fire, and as true now as it will be in the post dragon-apocalypse future.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:37PM (#156023)

        > It's not possible to be racist against Americans. American is a nationality, not a race.

        race: noun [oxforddictionaries.com]
        1.1: A group of people sharing the same culture, history, language, etc.;
        'We are trying to find out why the British as a race find it amazingly funny to take their clothes off.'

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by CRCulver on Wednesday March 11 2015, @01:04PM

        by CRCulver (4390) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @01:04PM (#156031) Homepage
        Prejudice against a nationality can be fairly labelled racism. It has been many, many decades now that the term "racism" has applied to more than simply innate genetic qualities. (See the entry for "racism" in the OED, for example.) NGOs whose focus is "fighting racism" typically include prejudice against an ethnicity, religious identity, and xenophobia within their mandate.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by cubancigar11 on Wednesday March 11 2015, @06:57AM

    by cubancigar11 (330) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @06:57AM (#155938) Homepage Journal

    I have mod points but since all the comments so far are way beyond the limits of tolerable puerility, I will just add that I for one am thankful for introducing Liu Cixin to me. I will surely buy The Devourer as well as Taking Care of Gods.

    Btw, I personally feel no filial duty or piety towards old men or women because if they have actually created this whole world, and they have created at least this society - that is not fiction, then they have done a very bad job of creating it. They created this world and for their own pleasure and there is no reason why their old age should be better than the youth they have been crushing all these years.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:33PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:33PM (#156022)

      I personally feel no filial duty or piety towards old men or women

      Your culture probably doesn't come from asian style villages, at least not recently.

      We've got our own cultural hangovers like the neopuritan losers, and they've got their totally different cultural hangovers like filial duty.

      Its a "balance of power" thing in an asian village. Much as dictatorial autocrats are assholes in the west because the people they victimize don't know them personally and aren't related to them, it confuses westerners that in an asian village small scale dictatorship works fantastic because the boss man is a direct ancestor of everyone he rules, he would never screw over some random villager when that dude is either his own descendant or an in-law or (obviously) really really deserves it for complicated reasons. So the balance of power for filial loyalty isn't necessarily because a middle aged dude directly benefits by supporting and obeying grandpa, its because the kids grow up seeing the parent obeying then rather optimistically when they're adults they'll obey you when you're old and in charge! And it helps that by definition the "old guy" who's now in charge has had philosophical wisdom preached at him his whole life, so rather optimistically, the old guy probably is, in fact, the wisest of all the dudes in the village, not some idiot kid who merely has a good sword arm western style.

      Obviously this doesn't make any societal sense if you move to a giant Chinese city, or your parents/grandparents don't live with you (although "moms basement" modern lifestyle could predictably result in some kind of filial duty meme developing and spreading in the western world).

      I guess the TLDR is for cultural family village lifestyle reasons its not supposed to make any sense, or it would be surprising if it did, although "in its place" its totally sensible and stable and wise.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by cubancigar11 on Wednesday March 11 2015, @04:40PM

        by cubancigar11 (330) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @04:40PM (#156139) Homepage Journal

        West has a habit of painting everything as East vs West. In reality both cultures are not as different as you think - all the differences you see today are just because Industrial revolution happened in west and for whatever reason (all of which IMHO are related to racism), West guarded its industries from East.

        I am from a very small village of India where I spent all my childhood until I got into college, which was supposed to be a good college (IIT - Kanpur, dilbert fans might recognize) in a moderately small village in one of the most backward states. Then I was in Germany for four years after which I came back to India because I just couldn't fit in. But I have travelled a lot and I have been to USA too. My elder brother, who was a much better student than I ever was, lived for a decade in USA and then got married to an Austrian is nowadays in UK.

        Filial piety - it doesn't exist in common people whether they are from a village of China or big city like New York. There used to be a time when everyone was living in joint families. Joint families were created not because of 'eastern culture' but because they were the most economical unit for an agrarian society. Everyone, man or woman, had their roles defined. The 'Family' in Godfather is pretty much it - except that Godfather is the story of criminals. In such families (of farmers or criminals), father and mother play the role of CEO and CFO resp. while children play the role of bonded labors. This model worked for thousands of years when you had to live near the land and it was almost impossible to get a new one unless you were exceptionally talented and worked for it all your life. In this model, children fight for resources and even kill each other, and once one of them is in position of power - when father dies (as is the case more often since men live less than women on average) - then mother used to live in ignominy and the younger brother will either get into a fight over land or just accept his destiny and live as beta unless his son beats his brother's son and cycle continued. And the whole society will turn a blind eye under the pretense of 'it is a family matter' or will give advice as if their own family is somehow not having any problem, but in reality that is the oppressed life everyone had because you cannot get rich by farming or being a criminal.

        All this changed after invention of industries because suddenly people could move away. The romantic notion of filial piety is pretty much an invention of the West as it encountered a still agrarian East. The sad part is that the East has rejected all of its own art and culture and depends on Western imagery of itself for identity. That is why people wearing shirt-part, living in nuclear family away from parents and brothers/sisters slogging in industries can still call themselves as being 'eastern'. It is bullshit.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by opinionated_science on Wednesday March 11 2015, @05:39PM

          by opinionated_science (4031) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @05:39PM (#156172)

          If you watch the BBC show Q.I. , you might have learned it was to do with China using china, rather than glass...

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12 2015, @08:37PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12 2015, @08:37PM (#156888)

            Moderated +1 Quite Interesting

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12 2015, @12:15AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12 2015, @12:15AM (#156417)

          White guy here who married an indian immigrant from ruralish Gujarat who is entirely Americanized now. I watch a lot of pirated far-east asian films (can't really stand bollywood because of the musicals, but I like a lot of the songs by themselves, way more than I like k-pop, j-pop, etc).

          From this perspective:

          What I see in asian cinema (and even moreso in asian soap operas) is tons of emphasis on Confucian style filial piety. Characters often make unexpected-to-me choices that appear to hinge on that and they talk about it often enough - not really exposition, but kind of like conflicts between social expectations and their own desires/motivations. I know movies aren't real life, more like exaggerations of real life. And I've never actually lived in any of those countries. But given the prevalence of those themes in those culture's own not-for-export cinema, I have to think that the concepts are a lot greater than in non-confucian societies like India and the west.

          • (Score: 2) by cubancigar11 on Saturday March 14 2015, @07:15PM

            by cubancigar11 (330) on Saturday March 14 2015, @07:15PM (#157827) Homepage Journal

            I suppose I can call those movies propaganda. Most eastern countries have a very failed or, might be early, state of democracies. If they start showing the real country the whole sham will be off and their might be revolution.