In the 1950s, America's burgeoning space program goosed the science fiction writers and fans who'd already been enthusiastic and optimistic about space, sparking a frenzy of onward-and-upward-looking fiction. China's 2013 moonshot and taikonaut programs have had a similar effect on Chinese culture. Jeffrey Wasserstrom's "year in Chinese science fiction" is an eye-opening and exciting look at the way that Space Race 2.0 is creating science fictional narratives in China, and the English-language opportunities to peer in at it (like Tor Books's forthcoming translation of Liu Cixin’s bestselling "Three-Body Trilogy"):
In 2012, Renditions, the world’s leading periodical devoted to translations from Chinese into English, brought out a fascinating special double-issue that divided its attention between early sci-fi from the final years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and contemporary stories in the genre.
This spring, Pathlight, a Beijing-based periodical specializing in literary translation, devoted most of an issue to new works of Chinese SF.
Over the summer, Tor Books announced that it would be bringing out an English language edition of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Trilogy, a wildly popular series that has sold over 400,000 copies in Chinese.
Early this fall, Penguin reissued Cat Country, making use of a 1970 translation by William Lyell and including as well an excellent new introduction by Ian Johnson.
2013 was also the year that Science Fiction Studies, the leading American scholarly journal in the field, issued its first special issue on China; it includes articles by academics based in different parts of the world as well pieces by Liu Cixin and two other contemporary Chinese science fiction writers, Han Song and Yan Wu.
The Year in Chinese Science—And Science Fiction
[Jeffrey Wasserstrom/Daily Beast]
The Nightmare Machine is an MIT project to use machine learning image-processing to make imagery for Hallowe’en.
The Stormtrooper Decanter is on back-order, but you can pre-order one from the next batch for £22 — it’s based on Andrew Ainsworth’s original movie helmet moulds from 1976, and will provide endless opportunities to point to lowball glasses and say things like “aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper drink?” (via Bonnie Burton)
Yahoo has released a machine-learning model called open_nsfw that is designed to distinguish not-safe-for-work images from worksafe ones. By tweaking the model and combining it with places-CNN, MIT’s scene-recognition model, Gabriel Goh created a bunch of machine-generated scenes that score high for both models — things that aren’t porn, but look porny.
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