Data Narrator: Digital Chronotopes in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction
Møller-Olsen, Astrid. "Data Narrator: Digital Chronotopes in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction." SFRA Review 50.2-3 (Spring-Summer 2020).
Elana Gomel’s concept of “impossible topologies” to analyze and compare three literary visions of how digital realities might in the future augment, as well as impede, the physical world we live in: [...] Liu Cixin’s 刘慈欣 use of virtual reality as world simulation in The Three Body Problem (san ti 三体, 2008), to Tang Fei’s 糖匪 portrayal of an “ocean of data” as the source of all stories in “Call Girl” (huangse gushi 黄色故事, 2013), to Ma Boyong’s 马伯庸 Orwellian narrative “The City of Silence” (jijing zhi cheng 寂静之城, 2005), where all interpersonal communication is carried out soundlessly via strictly censored online forums.
The goal is the use of "spatiotemporal concepts to analyze digital realities as alternative, parallel spacetimes that afford imaginary arenas for experimentation, escape, and control."
The Three-Body Problem (Kin Liu, translator [NYC: Tor, 2014]): "digital realities are represented as 1) trial grounds for physical reality, 2) a way to probe and manipulate the human mind, 3) a human superstructure of light. The computer game becomes a chronotope" — something like "spacetime"/"timespace" — "that blurs the boundary between reality and imagination, as well as a metafictional gesture pointing out that the two realities (virtual and physical) are both fictional, existing side-by-side on the pages of Liu’s book."
“Call Girl” (Apex Magazine June 2013; rpt. Year's Best [...] 2014, Ken Liu, editor. NYC: Tor, 2014): where, Møller-Orson writes, "the realm of fantasy and imagination" are seen "as a boundless ocean of information"; so "Cyberrealities are not computer-generated alternatives to the physical world, but represent the deeper, binary structure of the universe. Here, the only force that makes this endless surge of numbers congeal into phenomena is narrative imagination." In the story, "Tang creates a chronotope of eternal oneness against which both future and past technology and natural philosophy are merely products of the human mind’s ability to create patterns from the ocean of data."
“The City of Silence” (The Apex Book of World SF 3 [Lexington, KY: Apex Publications, 2014]): presents a dystopia "in which the protagonist lives is under constant and pervasive monitoring by a digital construct known as the Web [...]."
Everyone has an official avatar on the Web, a virtual personality through which the authorities keep track of them and which constitutes their only portal of engagement with society. In a fictional parable that combines images from Chinese internet-censorship with George Orwell’s Newspeak, the number of “healthy words” allowed on the Web are dwindling by the day. Furthermore, plans are afoot to extend this linguistic poverty outside the Web as well, by help of a device known as the Listener [...],
merging the quiet horror of the digital and material worlds.
RDE, finishing, 26Oct21