London Chinese Science Fiction Group

LCSFG is a community for people interested in Chinese language science and speculative fiction (SF).

"My Country Does Not Dream" / 《我的祖国不做梦》by Han Song / 韩松
Translated Nathaniel Isaacson (2020)

Our reading and meeting for April 2021

Sunday 2nd May, 2pm BST, email for Zoom details

Story Summary

We're very excited to invite author Han Song to our May for our LCSFG 2nd Anniversary! We will share a videocall session to chat with our readers about his short SF story, "My Country Does Not Dream" / 《我的祖国不做梦》by Han Song / 韩松, translated Nathaniel Isaacson (2020).

""Not now. Without preparation, waking a sleepwalker is dangerous, since their whole system is in thrall of powerful impulses,” the foreigner said coldly. “Sleepwalkers are fixated entirely on one thing—attaining their desires. These desires are independent, coming from their subconscious, and they are completely disconnected from their waking life.”

But, Xiao Ji wondered, hadn’t he seen that these powerful urges were indeed very strongly tied to Chinese people’s day-to-day lives? How did they get into people’s heads? How did those mysterious microwave stations stimulate people to work hard and spend hard, instead of committing murder and arson? He could not help but be shocked at China’s technological attainment."

- from My Country Does Not Dream / 《我的祖国不做梦》by Han Song / 韩松, translated by Nathaniel Isaacson (2020) in Exploring Dark Fiction #5: A Primer to Han Song ed. Eric J. Guignard

It's a brilliantly dark and thought-provoking piece that sets alarm bells back onto our societal consciousness. Summarised in the end of chapter commentary:

"The tale is desperate and hopeless, generating a morose feeling in general (or constructing, as one critic calls it, a “gloomy” China), and the way the story brings it all down to disruption of the family unit makes it all the more personal and effective. The ending offers a corruption of the idea of “choice”—a choice of withdrawal and a giving up of liberty altogether. It is one of the most powerful “zombie” stories you’ll read for that reason."
—Michael Arnzen, PhD, story commentary in the anthology

You may find it in its English translation by Nathaniel Isaacson in Exploring Dark Fiction #5: A Primer to Han Song ed. Eric J. Guignard, which you can support through Dark Moon Books here, and do email us should you have access barriers. The original Chinese version is available here.

Please read the story ahead of the session, and take the opportunity to chat with Han Song about its themes. If you don't get a chance to read the story until afterwards, do feel welcome to join nonetheless. As always, please respond to us by email and we'll send you the Zoom details a day prior.

cover of Han Song's anthology, a black book jacket with white title text and red Chinese style hanging decoration

The author

Han Song is considered one of the three most important voices in contemporary Chinese science fiction (along with Liu Cixin and Wang Jinkang), He is a multiple recipient of the Chinese Galaxy Award (China's highest profile sci-fi prize), as well as the Chinese Nebula Award and Asian-Pacific Sci-fi Gravity Award. Song bridges new developments in science and subjects of cultural and social dynamics with stories of dystopia, governmental conspiracy, and subversive horror, earning praise for his work as "absurdly dark," while also reigniting a science fiction renaissance.

The translator

Nathaniel Isaacson is an associate professor of modern Chinese literature in the department of foreign languages and literature at North Carolina State University. His research interests include Chinese science fiction, Chinese cinema, cultural studies, and literary translation. Nathaniel has published articles in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Chinese Literatures (2016) and in journals including Xiandai wenxue and Science Fiction Studies, as well as translations of nonfiction, poetry, and fiction in the translation journals Renditions, Pathlight, and Chinese Literature Today. His book, Celestial Empire: The Emergence of Chinese Science Fiction (2017), examines the emergence of science fiction in late Qing China and the relationship between science fiction and orientalism.