My project is “Her Imaginations,” a series of video interviews with Chinese female science fiction writers, editors, scholars, entrepreneurs, and more. During a trip to China, I conducted nine one-on-one, face-to-face in-depth interviews with women aging from their 20s to 80s, as well as sixteen shorter interviews at science fiction conventions with authors and fans. I managed to spend time with these brilliant minds talking about gender, nature, and future, not only in their own works, but also in larger cultural and social contexts. During this fellowship, I’ve been happy to see that more and more discussions have been sparked on the role of women and other marginalized groups in thinking about and shaping the future. And there are at least four different all-female-and-nonbinary anthologies of Chinese science fiction and fantasy being published in different countries and languages (includingThe Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, which I coedited), with the efforts of various editorial and publishing teams sharing similar visions. These Chinese and Asian imaginations of the future, as well as reimaginings of history, have provided me a solid base for further understanding and representing the voices of women and nonbinary people.
Insights, surprises encountered, and key moments in the process
During the project, I had lots of discussions with Chinese women working on imagining and shaping the future in various ways. I find that many of them have a longer history of reading or writing science fiction than the majority knows. For example, Zhang Jing, who has been working in the State Oceanic Administration and writing about oceans for years, began to write science fiction in 1980s during the anti-spiritual-pollution movement because she regarded the criticism against science fiction at that time unfair, and she wanted to defend the genre with her own efforts. Similarly, Dai Jinhua, an established scholar in feminist studies, cultural studies, and film studies, has been a science fiction reader since an early age, and her knowledge and observations about futuristic thinking is really impressive. For me, it is like finding someone you admire a lot actually shares the same niche hobby with you, so you are in the same cult. This has not only strengthened my connections with the interviewees, but also provided glimpses into a hidden history of Chinese women’s future imaginations.
How did the fellowship benefit you as a researcher and/or practitioner and/or organizer? How did it benefit your work? And how did it benefit your community?
The fellowship has broadened my horizon with an amazing cohort. Via monthly meetings and communication with the other fellows, I’ve expand my understanding of imagination and how that can be put into practice in a variety of ways. In the past, I’ve mostly used words or other cultural products to communicate my imagination, but I’ve learned from the fellowship that imagination can also be communicated through social movements, biological representations, financial innovations, or virtual-reality experiences. It pushes me to further think through how I can use different approaches and resources to expand the current scheme of my work. I think it would also be valuable to the science fiction community, who practice imagination and discuss futures a lot, to learn that the ideas in the stories we create or enjoy can also be realized in reality—not in the distant future, but in the here and now.
What’s next? How has the fellowship shaped the path forward for you and your work?
The first and most important thing is to process the materials that I have collected during the fellowship, and release them to the public after some curation. Then I will focus on my doctoral dissertation and embed the fellowship results into my research work with the CoFUTURES project at the University of Oslo. The fellowship has advanced my knowledge of multimedia production, which I lacked experience with in the past. The fellowship has also enlightened me on some new stories as well as new projects. I would love to gather my interviewees and others who share similar interests and put them in conversation with each other, maybe at a convention or conference. In the future, I hope to play with different tools and materials, collaborating with cool people to build up more potential projects on the themes of gender, nature, and future imaginations.