Thursday, April 28, 2011

No time travel in China

China's censors apparently decided to outlaw SF, fantasy and in particular time travel. CNN treats this as a joke. But in fact, the fringes of an ideology are much more revealing of its inner logic than anything in the "rational" middle. The Holocaust and the Terror were inherent in the "cooky" discourse of Hitler and Stalin, dismissed by rational people as a poor joke until they became reality.

But what is the logic behind this particular prohibition? Why time travel? My guess - and I don't read Chinese, so it's just a guess - is that underlying it the fear of the contingency of history, of the "black swan" of a sudden revolution such as the ones that shake the Arab world right now. If so, it is the worst strategy imaginable. If China wants to survive as a great power, it should do just the opposite: encourage Chinese SF to write its own alternative narrative of the future. The students I met in China were definitely very interested in fantastic literature and cinema. Let's hope they can prevail.

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