Sinofuturism and Chinese Science Fiction: An Introduction to the Alternative Sinofuturisms (中华未来主义) Special Issue

SFRA Review, vol. 50, no. 2-3

Special Issue: Alternative Sinofuturisms (中华未来主义)

Sinofuturism and Chinese Science Fiction: An Introduction to the Alternative Sinofuturisms (中华未来主义) Special Issue

Virginia L. Conn
Rutgers University / USA

As a mode of global and temporal situatedness, Sinofuturism has largely emerged as a concept applied externally to China by Western observers. By compartmentalizing sociocultural development as a form uniquely tied to the nation-state while also seeking to maintain both distance and otherness, Sinofuturism differs from theorizations such as Afrofuturism (to which it is often compared) through its application to, not development from, the subjects it takes as object. As a result, the very label of “Sinofuturism” developed out of the same Orientalizing impulses that previously relegated China to a space of backwardness and barbarism (Niu, Huang, Roh 2015) and which now attribute to it a projected futurity. Yet this Western label is one that Chinese authors and artists have appropriated and weaponized for their own creative ends, without necessarily sharing unified goals.

Authors of science fiction in China have uniquely grappled with this impulse, especially insofar as digital technologies—such as the growing e-publishing industry and networked media platforms—allow for the proliferation of new voices historically barred from traditional publishing venues. (Xu 2015) Too, contemporary science fiction in China functions as a transnational form that centers a technoscientific process or material object as a means of introducing social change, rendering the aim of science fiction inherently future-oriented even when relying on the past or focused on the present. Because potential future ontologies are expected to be relevant to present extrapolations, they fundamentally rely, to some degree, not only on realistic depictions of possible technologies and circumstantial realism, but also the familiar perceptions of the extant material and digital worlds—a central tenet of Sinofuturism’s omnivorous inclusion of technology, labor, art, and the visions it makes possible. (Lek 2016)

The globalizing effect of the internet and the subsequent rise in wide-scale digital exchange, in particular, has created a space for production in which Chinese authors are writing for an increasingly global audience and shifting their goals correspondingly. As early as the beginning of the 20th century, authors and public reformers in China (such as Liang Qichao, who, in his 1902 unfinished novel The Future of New China, described a utopian 1962 in which China was the dominant global power) were envisioning Sinofutures in which China was preeminent on the world stage. The idea of China as a dominant force in the world yet-to-come continues through much Chinese science fiction today, from standout international sensations such as The Three-Body Problem to anonymously published digital short stories like “Olympic Dream.” For science fiction authors describing the Chinese future (or the future as Chinese), an awareness of the fact that American and Western media largely paints China as a place of repression and censorship is an integral part of the worlds they depict.

To the extent that this is true, publishing regulations in China mean that the internet and other digital forms of publications, such as video games and online message boards, have become increasingly important outlets for science fiction. The Three-Body Problem, for example, was serialized first in the online-only Science Fiction World before being published as a book, and Western publication outlets like Clarkesworld have partnered with China-based Storycom to publish more Chinese science fiction in translation online. Because of the expectation of a global audience that online publication ensures, science fiction is changing as readership expands, yet the balance of global power remains uneven. Noted science fiction authors such as Xia Jia still describe science fiction coming out of China as having the mission of educating Western readers (Xia 2016), while English translators are increasingly burdened with the necessity of explaining historiocultural specificities through lengthy footnotes. (Liu 2014) That is, just as the West applies the term “Sinofuturism” to an entire national development project, Chinese authors are put in the position of responding and catering to Western assumptions in order to be legible on a global scale.

Here is where the specificity of China as a technologicized imaginary, located outside of both space and time, results in a an Orientalizing impulse fundamentally different from the fetishization of a high-tech Japan seen prominently in cyberpunk and the gleamingly sexualized noir adoration of the 80s. Shaped by and reliant on Western projections of Asia as the techne through which to shape a future defined by and created for the West, Sinofuturism not only projects China as a temporal locus for the project of modernity (Niu 2008), but also posits Chinese individuals themselves as resources, not originary producers of cultural or technological capital. Reduced by the West to faceless algorithmic data points, Chinese laborers and producers are commodified in an ideologically reproductive system informed by the racial panic of outsourcing common in the early nineties with the rise of overseas data centers. (Atanasoki and Vora 2015) Chinese science fiction writers are well aware of this and increasingly find themselves in a position to either push back against it or grapple with those fears in order to appear legible to an international readership.

Some authors do this by writing directly to the negative visions of a Chinese future most commonly held by the West: Chen Qiufan’s The Waste Tide, for example, deals with the physical detritus left behind by the dreams of digital development and the environmental devastation created when those developments are made obsolete and discarded, while Ma Boyong’s “City of Silence” shows both digital message boards and spoken language as subject to the same censorship as physical media, giving lie to the aspirations of online communications as a state of expressive exceptionalism. Other Chinese content producers actively embody the digitizing impulse that seeks to turn human beings into images for consumption: Naomi Wu (Shenzhen’s “sexy cyborg”), for example, has created a 3D scan of her body and uploaded it for the purpose of 3D printing models. These models are marketed alongside 3D models of Major Motoko Kusanagi from the Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell—an explicit juxtaposition of two stylized bodies (one real, one fictional) that, in their respective worlds, represent the future through a conscientious abandonment of the biological for the constructed.

So what, then, does it mean for Chinese science fiction to attempt to depict a Sinofuturist vision in the increasingly globalized space made possible by digital technologies? And what does it mean to produce content within a framework that imagines a techno-utopic future founded on artistic labor while simultaneously reproducing racialized tropes of dehumanization? How is material production changed by an increasing reliance on the digital? In the following essays, various researchers and theorists attempt to grapple with digital imaginaries, production, labor, and futurity across a wide range of topics multiply bound in Sinofuturist space.

The idea for this special issue developed out of a workshop organized by Dino Ge Zhang as part of the WuDaoKou Futurists collective, a collective aimed at decentering Sinofuturism from its Western articulations. The workshop, “Alternative Sinofuturisms,” already presupposes Sinofuturism as a venue for alterity and retains a space for various approaches and understandings of who and what is being foregrounded. Centralized in Beijing but held online with invited speakers from four different continents, the workshop was organized around a series of provocations, most of which are included in this issue. Amy Ireland articulated a view of darkside empathy that positioned Sinofuturist visions as methods of inculcating weaponized empathy, while Gabriele de Seta argued that Sinofuturism functions as a framework for denying the possibility of coevalness to China on the part of the West. I discussed Sinofuturism as an aestheticized projection that fixed images of the country in a perpetual futur antérieur; Vincent Garton, not included here, argued for a reappropriation of the term by Chinese theorists and politicians in order to reconstruct a new world system inclusive of heterogenous futures. The organizer, Dino Ge Zhang (without whom neither the original symposium nor this special issue would be possible), expanded on his concept of Sino-no-futurism to describe a world post-pandemic, which in many ways now reads as a science fictional dream for an American and British audience trapped in the perpetual now of our own countries’ ongoing pandemic-based immiserations.

The papers contained in this special issue respond to these various provocations and the overall concept of Sinofuturism from various angles. While some are supportive, seeing in Sinofuturism an opportunity for alternative epistemologies, others criticize its foreclosure of heterogenous elements and re-centering of global development vis-à-vis the West. What’s more, while Sinofuturism is an explicitly temporal projection, it is not necessarily a science fictional one except insofar as any futurist projection is a work of imagination—as a result, some of the essays contained here do not consider science fiction at all, while still engaging with the concept of how to situate the future on a global scale. By questioning who gets to imagine the future alongside who and what contributes to bringing those visions about, these essays incisively demonstrate that the material is never separate from the conceptual and the real-world consequences of imagining such alternatives.


Atanasoski, Neda and Kalindi Vora. “Surrogate Humanity: Posthuman Networks and the Racialized Obsolescence of Labor.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015,

Lek, Lawrence. “Sinofuturism (1839–2046 AD).” Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, 2016,

Liu, Cixin. The Three-Body Problem. Translated by Ken Liu, Tor Books, 2014.

Niu, Greta Aiyu. “Techno-Orientalism, Nanotechnology, Posthumans, and Post-Posthumans in Neal Stephenson’s and Linda Nagata’s Science Fiction.” Melus: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, vol. 33, no. 4, 2008, pp. 73-96.

Roh, David S., Betsy Huang, and Greta A. Niu, eds. Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media. Rutgers University Press, 2015.

Xia Jia. “What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?” Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited by Ken Liu, Tor, 2016.

Xu Jing. “’Golden Age’ Dawns for Chinese Web-Writers.” China Daily, 6 September 2015,

Photographesomenonic Sinofuturism(s)

SFRA Review, vol. 50, no. 2-3

Special Issue: Alternative Sinofuturisms (中华未来主义)

Photographesomenonic Sinofuturism(s)

Virginia L. Conn
Rutgers University / USA

Our increasingly globalized and increasingly technologicized world seems to indicate that “progress” is a concept universally pursued, even if that pursuit is materially different across time and place. Theorist Yuk Hui, for example, uses the scene of 540 synchronized dancing robots at China’s 2016 Spring Festival gala as an example of the concept of European modernity being extended to China—a country that has come to be one of the major symbols of the promulgation of technological progress as a measure of modernity. Yet he also argues that “In China, technics in the sense we understand it today—or at least as it is defined by certain European philosophers—never existed. There is a general misconception that all technics are equal, that all skills and artificial products coming from all cultures can be reduced to one thing called ‘technology’. . . . Yet they may not be perceived or reflected upon in the same way in different cultures” (Hui 9, emphasis in original). What I will try to explore here, then, is the way that science fiction as a technical object can be both perceived and utilized to different ends by different audiences. As a form for envisioning “the” future (and here I use “the” in quotation marks to isolate the question of singularity), science fiction and sinofuturistic visions are uneasy bedfellows, sharing many of the same characteristics and employed, in many ways, for similar ends—but often loaded with very different questions of use and applicability. At stake are not only differing historical and philosophical genealogies, but also ways in which issues of labeling and translation have worked to obscure variations in the concept that remain unmarked. While Darko Suvin characterizes science fiction as a question of estrangement, Yuk Hui argues that the fundamental base terms being considered are not in and of themselves coeval. To say that science fiction is a literature of estrangement may well hold true across time and place, but who is being estranged from what may differ significantly.

In line with Sheldon Lu’s observation that Chinese narrative traditions form the two major political functions of legitimation and delegitimization, both Chinese science fiction and sinofuturism are primarily used, contemporaneously, to legitimate the idea of a singular Chinese future. As these narrative discourses are invested with ideological functions, we must engage with the terms of discourse and the lexical gap that is made invisible by the fact that we are speaking about forms that have and continue to be perceive differently between the West and China. Without care and nuanced definitional approaches to the “spectre already embedded into a trillion industrial products, a billion individuals, and a million veiled narratives,” as Lawrence Lek defines it, sinofuturist visions collapse trillions of possibilities into a singular hegemony of thought that repurposes yellow peril fears into a monolithic future already seeded with the germs of its own dissolution.

Here, Lydia Liu’s concept of the super-sign is valuable in describing and deconstructing some of the underlying issues at stake in the question of translation between Chinese and English in general and the intra-lingual transference of technological and scientific vocabulary in particular. She describes a super-sign as “not a word but a hetero-cultural signifying chain that crisscrosses the semantic fields of two or more languages simultaneously and makes an impact on the meaning of recognizable verbal units, whether they be indigenous words, loanwords, or any other discrete verbal phenome that linguists can identify within particular languages or among them” (Liu 13). Note here that she does not use the term “word” to describe what is being affected, but “verbal units”—entire concepts are made meaningful in relation to the meaning imposed by one language on the understanding of that concept in the other. To speak of “science fiction” is not merely to define the word itself, but to recognize along with it the millions, billions, and trillions of associated concepts (Lek’s industrial products, individuals, and veiled narratives) that are already from the outset front-loaded onto sinofuturist visions.

One of the most important aspects of this definition is that it de facto requires more than one linguistic and cultural system in order to emerge. Just as a German-born London-based artist of Malaysian Chinese descent and a Scottish musician articulated the concept of sinofuturism to a Chinese audience through a translator,1 the idea of a projected future is a projection made legible through interlingual and intercultural signification. Interlingual translation cannot by itself complete the process of verbal signification because a super-sign requires signification and deferment of “correct” meaning to a foreign language in order to define a native term. Liu herself very convincingly illustrates this concept with the hetero-linguistic sign “夷/i/barbarian,” (Liu 33) but we also see its emergence with the concept of science fiction generally and sinofuturist science fiction more specifically.

My point here is not to go into historical translation theory; rather, it is to use this illustration as an example of what is at stake when we talk about “science fiction” as if it is necessarily commensurate with the Chinese conception of “科幻小说” or kehuan xiaoshuo, the Chinese term typically translated as “science fiction.” So, too, does the idea of “sinofuturism” emerge from a moment of definitional power disjunction, in which the concept of “Chineseness” is discussed as ostensibly aspirational while the power to define it is retained by the hegemonic cultural and linguistic field against which it shapes itself. For both science fiction and sinofuturism, this interplay is a double-edged sword; used by the West to other and separate while simultaneously used by national interests and agents to define and self-promote, all in the name of attempting to identify something intrinsic and ontologically flattening that is ultimately always externally imposed. This danger is particularly great because despite its interaction with and development alongside other histories of literature, science fiction as a genre was originally a foreign literary import to China, and it is through its interactions with previously existing Chinese forms (histories, socialist realist visions, “strange stories,” etc.), intersection with changing internal epistemologies, appropriation as a tool of state pedagogy, and role in the radical revolutionizing of the Chinese language at the start of the 20th century that it has come to be understood in its current form. An assessment of the cross-lingual translation of terms and the methods by which certain signs are equated with other signs both in and between lexical significations allows us to understand that the question of what we mean when we say “Chinese science fiction” itself begs investigation.

In the last few years, multiple Chinese SF authors have been put in the position of trying to explain what Chinese SF is at all. The end of Ken Liu’s edited collection Invisible Planets (2016) includes no fewer than three essays by contemporary titans of the genre (Liu Cixin, Chen Qiufan, and Xia Jia) outlining what Chinese SF is and what it is trying to accomplish. Who are they speaking to? A Chinese audience, or an international one? Why is it so important that Chinese SF be seen as a genre separate unto itself, and how do the stakes differ for an international audience vs. a domestic one? Such questions of SF are inseparable from the same issues as applied to sinofuturism, which develops a vision of modernity that is inextricable from national development.

The very concept of modernity itself, however, is also a relational one, not only to another language or time but also another place. As the literature that, at least in its more technical aspects, positions itself as accurately utilizing existing advancements in science and technology to presage a near-future reality, science fiction is the literature of modernity. More than that, though, it is positioned by literary scholars as capable of rewriting a past that has already happened. Fredric Jameson famously argued that “The most characteristic science fiction does not seriously attempt to imagine the ‘real’ future of our social system […]” (Jameson 288), but instead posits the present as the imagined past of the future. Similarly to Suvin’s aforementioned sweeping characterization of science fiction under a universalizing lens, however, this argument conflates disparate historical conditions and flattens them under arguments primarily pertaining to the pervasive effects of production under capitalism. Science fiction as co-constitutive with sinofuturism, however, is more indicative of Winfried Pauleit’s concept of the photographesomenon. While the concept of the photographesomenon is one more typically associated with visual surveillance, sinofuturist science fiction’s mandate to “view” the immediate future positions it as a more-or-less “objective” literature while investing it with a certain degree of scientific trustworthiness. Even while being recognized as a work of fiction, science fiction being produced in service of a national future is promoted as plausible in a way that other works of fiction are not. In projecting this “objective” image of the future, it embodies the photographesomenon—an objective national past becomes always-already written by and understood through the lens of a future still to come. As Pauleit explains, as long as one’s subject (in this case, the national body) is captured by a seemingly-objective surveillance apparatus (here, science fiction posited as speaking for the nation), every story it might once have had in the past is completely divested in retrospect by the future surveillance. So, too, for sinofuturist science fiction literature—unlike Jameson’s description of (Western) science fiction as a future image predicated on extant socio-cultural and technological conditions, in which the present becomes the past to the future, sinofuturist science fiction produces a national literature in which the past is evacuated of contemporary meaning and reinvented by future projections. The past, then, is colonized by the future through its relationship to a future that reinvests it with anachronistic meaning.

As Pauleit also points out, an objective view towards the subject also allows the subject to see themselves as others see them, giving them the means by which to conceive of themselves as a figure that has been created by the mass view. “This production of images is directed towards a ‘future perfect.’ It is a conception of image that functions via a time loop that is otherwise only familiar to us from science fiction stories. . . . The photographesomenon is already ‘written,’ even if it only constitutes itself as an image in futurity” (Pauleit 469). While it is interesting that, from the outset, he identifies the photographesomenon directly with science fiction, it is equally notable how sinofuturist science fiction itself aligns with this concept. Though it might be anachronistic to use this term (developed as it was only in 2009, and used by the author to refer specifically to video surveillance), sinofuturist science fiction as a genre attempts the same effect: that is, a (seemingly) objective form of observation that reinterprets the past and fixes it temporally by applying to it the outlines, strictures, and necessities of its future development. To surveil something is to control the subject being watched and to imbue it with outside signifiers—thus, for example, the individual being viewed on camera in light of a crime that has already occurred is post facto imbued with criminal intent: not because they necessarily had, at the moment of recording, any of those actual characteristics, but because the objectivity of the camera rewrites their story in line with events that occurred in their future. So, too, the individual and their society as they have existed and as they currently exist are reimagined in terms of the future individual/society they will be by a genre that positions itself as the objective arbitrator of future development.

Sinofuturist science fiction as photographesomenon thus thematically positions itself as a uniquely temporal device. As such it is uniquely malleable to the aims of “modernity” and the development of the nation-state, attempting to articulate inchoate anxieties and the possibility of technoscientific resolution. While Wu Dingbo claims that the following characteristics are broadly typical of Chinese science fiction: 1) all main characters are scientists and all stories present scientists’ collective aspirations in the form of explorative excursions into an alternate reality; 2) the conflict in these stories always displays the most prominent character of the Chinese scientists: their patriotism and optimism; 3) all stories are set in the near future, and the reader is assured that the fantasy will come true within his or her lifetime; 4) most of the science fiction ideas are based on the natural sciences (Wu xxxvi), these categorizations are not applicable to much of what would be considered science fiction in China’s current literary landscape; even a cursory examination of contemporary science fiction being produced in China today shows significant departures from these categorizations (the enormously popular Three Body Problem trilogy, for example, ends thousands of years in the future and is most certainly not an optimistic portrayal of either human nature or the inherent capacity of the universe for moral compassion). What contemporary Chinese science fiction and sinofuturist theorizing do share is a vision of a future that is identifiably shaped by a concept of “Chineseness” that arises out of opposition to a concept of “Western” development. That “Chineseness” can only be defined oppositionally is central to the structure of these future material visions.

As such, there is immense pressure from both within and without to insist on this cohesive identity, though the same impulse that attempts to display “Chineseness” to the world opens this monolithic identity up to critique and divisiveness. SF being produced now attempts to describe a “China” that is recognizably legible as a single entity while also being understandable by a non-Chinese audience, with the predictably simple result that no “Chinese future” can possibly emerge in any fullness or complexity. As long as nation, culture, and polity are conflated into a single entity, and such an entity is posited as a potential alternative to a normative Western futurity, it is necessarily still fractured because it is not cohesive. As an alternative to a hegemonic Western modernity, it must necessarily imply other alternatives; that state-supported literature can itself only insist on a single “Chinese future” is all the more indicative of the meta-fragmentation of paths to futurity implied by the genre itself.

Ultimately, the issue at the heart of both science fiction as a bounded national genre and sinofuturism as a mode of apprehending contemporary society’s headlong rush towards “the” future is control. Specifically, control of the image of the Chinese future. Who controls it? And to what ends? Today, Chinese authors are contending with two separate pulls, both of which can essentially be identified as nationalist forms of narrative control. On one hand, authors are speaking to a domestic audience—one that is still subject to control by literary censors and internal pressure to present a rosy national future. On the other hand, authors writing from China are tasked with the responsibility to “represent” some coherent, cohesive idea of “Chineseness” to an international audience, and, in doing so, potentially flattening disparate identities and ontologies.

One last salient example of the co-imbrication of sinofuturity with science fiction is the 2011 national ban on depictions of time travel, in which the General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television halted time travel dramas. Western media has described the ban as censorship of dissent from the current political state, but national reception has focused more on its relationship to historical accuracy. This is one more example of the way discourse around China’s future (and past, and the depictions of both) are differently defined both internally and externally. So, then, who controls this narrative of the future, and can any discussion of futurity be viable if it is predicated on forgetting (or dismissing) the past? SF like The Fat Years and “Olympic Dream” are predicated on this very idea, presenting a successful economic and social future that has necessitated forgetting the past they’re built on, while Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” vs. HKonger slang for dreaming as protesting both imply a future moment at which these separate dreamers will awake. What world (or worlds) they will awaken to will be decided by whoever controls the narrative of dreaming in the present.


1. As when Lawrence Lek and Steve Goodman (better known as Kode9) explained the concept of Sinofuturism to a Chinese audience at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in 2017.


Hui, Yuk. The Question Concerning Technology in China: An Essay in Cosmotechnics. Urbanomic Media Ltd, 2016.

Jameson, Fredric. “Progress Versus Utopia; Or, Can We Imagine the Future?” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 1982, pp. 147–58.

Liu, Lydia H. The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Pauleit, Winfried. “Video Surveillance and Postmodern Subjects: The Effects of the Photographesomenon, an Image Form in the Futur Anteriéur.” Ctrl [space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, edited by Thomas Y. Levin, Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, 2002.

Wu, Dingbo, and Patrick D. Murphy. Science Fiction from China. Praeger, 1989.

Review of Banerjee and Fritzsche’s Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East

Review of Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East edited by Anindita Banerjee and Sonja Fritzsche

Virginia L. Conn

Anindita Banerjee and Sonja Fritzsche, editors. Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East. Peter Lang, 2018. World Science Fiction Studies 2. Paperback, 258 pages, $67.95. ISBN 9781787075931.

Situating this project in the trajectories and “dizzying arcs of migration” (2) that have co-constituted the vast constellation of science fiction produced across the world—as numerous as stars in the sky and much of it equally unexplored—Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East opens with a beautiful personal account of the trajectories that brought the editors to their respective orientations to and within science fiction. As Banerjee points out, within her real lived experience, much of science fiction was more familiar to her, more comprehensible and close, than stories from the English canon. Using the daffodil as an image of alienation, for example, ties this collection to many other notable authors—Chinua Achebe, Jamaica Kincaid, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—who have similarly staked their work in a recognition of the inapplicability of writing imposed from outside their lived experiences. Despite its radical recontextualizing of translation and transmission, however, this collection does not strike an essentialist argument; rather, it recognizes that the intertextuality of much “semi-peripher[al] and peripher[al]” (6) SF has been shaped by and often in response to stories already received as deeply alien. At the same time, it recognizes that the dual impulses at work in much contemporary SF theorizing—to historicize traditions outside of the historical centers of Western power while simultaneously seeking to deconstruct the center/periphery binary—tend to not be in dialogue with each other. This anthology, then, offers a unique contribution to contemporary SF studies by focusing on circulation, through which literature transforms and is transformed.

The collection traces the circulations of socialist and postsocialist SF in Europe and Asia alongside examinations of the materio-cultural productions of the global South in Asia and the Americas, a shift in contextual perspective that is mirrored in the collection’s layout. Shifting the impetus from space and location to movement and adaptation allows for fascinating juxtapositions, such as the association in the first section, “An Other Transatlantic,” of Transatlantic writings and their receptions and adaptations across socialist Russia, 1919 Mexico, and through the Soviet-Cuban imaginary of the Cold War period. Race and socialist revolution are the hallmarks of these essays, which uniformly offer unorthodox and exciting new ways of reading. The very first chapter, for example, analyzes Zemyatin’s seminal We (1924) as a radical Afrofuturist text—an unconventional reading that is meticulously researched, elegantly argued, and works specifically because of its unique perspective.

Part two, “Transnationalism behind the Iron Curtain,” focuses on East-East circulations between the Soviet Union and associated satellite states. The focus here is on the shared ethos of communist science pedagogy and humanistic grappling with what it means to confront the Other and, in doing so, how we establish our place in the universe. These essays, too, tackle who “we” are, primarily in the context of displaced contemporary anxieties mapped onto a future that has become largely homogeneous under socialism. While all the essays contained herein are geographically situated in Eastern Europe, the content they address is very different—from the dialectical materialism of Carl Gelderloos’ approach to Eastern European science fiction texts to Sonja Fritzsche’s East German cinema to Sibelan Forrester’s “elite literary science fiction” (165) and its translations. 

The final section, “Asymptotic Easts and Subterranean Souths,” deals with East-South and East-East circulations. Unlike the first two sections, which each contained three essays, this segment includes only two—a real pity, given the potential richness of the umbrella topic. As it stands, it’s perhaps not surprising that for a collection so focused on the workings of comparative literary studies outside of the imperialist center, a member of the Warwick Research Collective, Pablo Mukherjee, would be included here with an essay on race, science, and the spirit of Bandung. A wonderful distinction about this essay in particular is that it privileges the role of science in science fiction and what that means when “science” is removed from its Western epistemological dialectics and considered in a specific and localized spatio-temporal register for assessing lived, material conditions, rather than as a “mere” narrative device. This discussion of “non-aligned science” (193) and local adaptation leads seamlessly to the next essay, which focuses on the reception of a Russian writer in China and the impact his work had on reassessing the memory of revolution through non-state-sanctioned mediations. 

This collection offers a meticulously-researched, compelling approach to an aspect of global science fiction that is at once constantly mutable and yet tied to specific sites of production. Both Fritzsche and Banerjee are renowned scholars in their own areas of expertise, and together they make a formidable pair of editors. The essays collected here are significantly more polished and subtle than many similar attempts at anthologies, in no small part—as many of the authors explicitly acknowledge—thanks to the incisive eye for detail Banerjee and Fritzsche have brought as editors. 

Not only are the essays excellent taken individually—each one deserves its own response essay—but the collection as a whole works beautifully to illustrate its overall theme of transmission and adaptation. The rhizomatic scaling of topics contained in this collection illustrates the complexity of working with multiples sites of production as located in specific geographic milieus while simultaneously connecting and branching to numerous other material productions; there is no one canon of “world SF” in much the same way that we cannot speak of one internet. This rhizomatic internet analogy is made explicitly at the conclusion of the introduction and finds a fascinating mirror complement in the final essay by Jinyi Chu, which touches on unofficial internet translations and their role in shaping and disseminating information. So, then, even in layout and flow the collection serves to illustrate its own theme. Ultimately, while this groundbreaking anthology might be most warmly received by those working outside the Western Anglophone canon, its unique approach to the assessment of literature in circulation makes it a critical addition to any SF scholar’s library.