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Chinese Recognize Innovative Value of Science Fiction; Reading Literature Threatens Status Quo

In today’s random reading, I bump into Neil Gaiman’s explanation of why the Chinese Communist Party started encouraging young people to read science fiction and fantasy:

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls [Neil Gaiman, “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming,” UK Guardian, 2013.10.15].

…and why Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Politburo are so dedicated to the proposition of focusing kids on work, not books:

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different [Gaiman, 2013.10.15].

Bring a book to your next coffee break. A good book, about places you’ve never visited.


  1. Eve Fisher 2019-10-10 12:39

    Science fiction both comments on and reflects society, especially the hot-button issues, but in ways that get them under the official government radar, whether in the US or in China. For example, one of the top Chinese sci-fi writers, Liu Cixin, creates worlds in which there is still a “stringently hierarchical bureaucracy, that labyrinthine product of Communism”, where “idealism is fatal and kindness an exorbitant luxury”, and where fatalism about the future is pragmatic. Check out a wonderful article from the June 24, 2019 issue of The New Yorker:

  2. Buckobear 2019-10-10 14:52

    Not to mention the value of a good, sound, multifaceted liberal arts education.
    Mine included geology, psychology, literature, art, politics and math … with the emphasis on politics.
    Gave me the ability to write legibly, learn and exercise critical thinking which is so absent now.

  3. jerry 2019-10-10 16:04

    China can read us like a book. China knows perfectly well from reading Chubby, just how they control the stock market. We no longer have a market that is in line with making stuff, we have a market that makes stuff up.

  4. Porter Lansing 2019-10-10 17:16

    Here’s an innovative idea involving sci-fi. Subsidize pre-school and after school daycare but do it in a library and pay librarians twice what teachers get. Kids will be immersed in liberal fundamentals and teachers could work part time, utilizing a library science minor to get extra compensation.

  5. Debbo 2019-10-10 20:19

    Books are magical. Depriving a child of good fiction books or the ability to read stunts her growth. Books are mind expanding.

  6. Cathy 2019-10-11 09:36

    What debbo said.

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