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posted by n1 on Wednesday March 11 2015, @01:05AM   Printer-friendly
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, @02:44AM

    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) 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) 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.

        • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by VLM on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:49PM

          by VLM (445) 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.