The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin, wins the Hugo Award for best novel

The Three-Body Problem,” Ken Liu’s English translation of the first book of Liu Cixin’s best-selling Chinese science fiction trilogy, has won the Hugo Award for best novel.

The book is solid classic science fiction, like the best space operas of vintage science fiction that we loved and still fondly remember as our first introduction to space and science. See my review of “The Three-Body Problem.”

This year the Hugo Award has been hijacked by fundamentalists dubbed “Sad Puppies” and “Social Justice Warriors (SJWs)” more interested in petty partisan politics than science fiction, who turned the Hugo in a flame war between “Right” and “Left” (scare quotes intended – real politics is something entirely different). I won’t give links because I don’t want to endorse either camp – I totally dislike both. Use Google if you want to know more.

To me, the meaning of the 2015 Hugo Award has nothing to do with SJWs and Sad Puppies. The meaning is that Chinese writers are taking the lead in bold, imaginative science fiction able to ignite minds and energize whole generations. We, in the West, have lost the capacity to think big, and Western science fiction itself seems to be giving up its core mission of stimulating people – and young future scientists – to think big. On the contrary, China is starting to think big and seems poised to take the pole position in the race toward a bright technological future on Earth and in space, and modern Chinese science fiction reflects that.

After reading The Three-Body Problem I rushed to read all Liu Cixin’s works that I could find in translation. My favorite is the novella “Sun of China,” which strongly reminds me of the best science fiction of Arthur Clarke. “Sun of China” is in “The Wandering Earth: Classic Science Fiction Collection by Liu Cixin,” and you want to read it.

Bravo Liu Cixin, congratulations for the deserved Hugo Award, and we your readers in the West are looking forward to reading more of your awesome science fiction. Please continue inspiring young Chinese readers to think big thoughts and do big things, and giving us in the West some reflected but much needed inspiration.

The second part of the Three-Body trilogy, titled “The Dark Forest,” is now available in English translation. It’s a great book – I am reading it for the second time and will write a review soon.

  • Greg Tingey

    Err.
    “Social Justice Warriors” is a label stuck on to a very disparate non-group of people by the “puppies” as a deliberate ploy to denigrate.
    Um, err ….
    P.S. I am assuming you are in &/or from the USA, rather than a civilised part of the planet, cough?
    Please correct me if wrong – I came here via a link discussing the Hugo winners this year.

    • Giulio Prisco

      Hi Greg, I am from Europe, which I like to consider as a civilized part of the planet.
      I find both sets of arguments from Sad Puppies and SJWs incredibly
      stupid. I like to read good science fiction. The skin color of the
      writers, what genitals they have, and what they like to do with their
      genitals, I really couldn’t care less.
      (EDITED to place comment as a reply)

      • David Román

        Hi, Giulio, can you provide a link to this particular Hugo discussion? I would like to know more about it and hadn’t heard a peep before. I’ve always been intrigued by the subterranean nature of political references in sci-fi

        • Giulio Prisco

          Hi David, there are many links to articles about the Sad Puppies saga in this Wikipedia entry, from both political positions (Sad Puppies vs SJWs):
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Puppies

          My own position is in the comment above, pasted here: I find both sets of arguments from Sad Puppies and SJWs incredibly stupid. I like to read good science fiction. The skin color of the writers, what genitals they have, and what they like to do with their genitals, I really couldn’t care less.

          • David Román

            It’s all very interesting, Giulio, thanks. All my favorite SF authors are Western SJWish (Greg Egan, Peter Watts, possibly Ted Chiang too). But the fact that we’re here discussing a post about a non-Western author raises two questions: what does that even mean or why anyone should care. I’ve lived in China and I’m about to move (back) to Singapore. What does “right” mean in China? Is it supporting the established order, which is ostensibly a direct heir to Marx? Wouldn’t that be the proper conservative (right) stance? What does it mean to be a SJW in a society such as Singapore, divided along ethnic and religious, rather than political lines? What does it mean in Baghdad or in Cairo, where the ruling ideology is intensely conservative and yet radicalism always seems to involve an ever deeper slide to the religious right? I agree with you that shrugging off these specific debates about status ranking in Western societies is the way forward for this movement, if transhumanism is going to be something that people not from the West care about.

          • Giulio Prisco

            I think societies get sick, just like persons. At this moment our Western societies are sick with (among other things) political correctness and identity politics run amok.

            This disease was initially beneficial, like many types of gut bacterial infection. In fact, I also tend to like science fiction works by Western SJWs like those you mention.

            But now the PC/SJW disease is out of control and we need antibiotics. I think the best cure is being less self-absorbed and more open to other cultures where the disease is not running amok. Of course, other cultures have diseases of their own…

            Fortunately societies can heal, just like persons.

          • David Román

            That Western societies are extremely sick is beyond doubt. I just think that this should only be our concern inasmuch as it impedes the progress of science that I understand is the basis for transhumanism. For example, in universities that are no longer centers of higher study, but theaters for political play-acting by illiterate undergraduates. I think that the critique must be focused and clearly non-partisan, because it has nothing to do with politics, only with results.

          • Giulio Prisco

            Yes, the whiners who want universities to be “safe spaces” instead of challenging environments aren’t a good sign for our educational system. I am sure college students in China don’t have much time for identity politics because they are too busy learning useful things.

            The progress of science – and science fiction, which has a key role in motivating and energizing scientists and students – needs bold free thinkers who aren’t afraid to take unpopular positions. Wolves, not sheep.

          • David Román

            Absolutely

          • Giulio Prisco

            Hi David, see reply below.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi Greg, I am from Europe, which I like to consider as a civilized part of the planet.
    I find both sets of arguments from Sad Puppies and SJWs incredibly stupid. I like to read good science fiction. The skin color of the writers, what genitals they have, and what they like to do with their genitals, I really couldn’t care less.