Yang Nainü, Associate Professor, Department of English, National Kaohsiung Normal University
Ji Dawei(Ta-Wei, Chi)’s “Membrane,” (1995) a Queer sci-fi novella set in a futuristic metropolis, investigates the fluidity and diversity of sexual desires. The opening scene is a doomsday scenario – the earth’s Ozone layer has been destroyed and humans have no choice but to relocate to the ocean bottom, where the sea’s membrane offers protection from deadly ultraviolet rays. Cyborgs – half-human, half-machine – have been invented to labor in place of people on the surface of the earth. Cyborg protagonist Momo leads readers into the high-tech world of the future.
The story’s narrative strategy is a stylistic amalgam. In addition to sci-fi and Queer elements, Ji Dawei also adopts conventions of detective and suspense fiction. In the beginning, Momo is portrayed as a female skincare worker living in a city at the bottom of the sea, deeply estranged from her mother. As the plot develops Momo’s true identity is gradually revealed – the cyborg is the product of a marriage between cells from a sperm-bank and high technology. When he was five years old, the boy Momo was infected with LOGO bacteria, and was forced to undergo extensive organ transplants. During the surgical process Momo’s underwent gender reassignment at his mother’s request. Originally, the mother had ordered a female cyborg, planning to transplant cyborg organs into Momo’s body. But Momo’s condition was grave, the brain his sole functioning bodily organ. Unable to afford the cost of keeping Momo’s brain alive surgically, his mother accepted a proposal from ISM Enterprises, renting Momo’s brain to the company for a period of twenty years.
Her new body that of a faceless cyborg, Momo’s works as a technician, repairing and maintaining other cyborgs. Momo’s mother can’t bear to let Momo know that she’s now only a brain, so she constructs and records memories, leading Momo to believe she is a skin-care worker. Not until Momo secretly looks at her mother’s confidential computer files does she learn the truth.
“Membrane” touches on the ways in which high technology has altered the human body. For example, now that she’s only a brain, can Momo truly be considered “human”? Also, Momo’s gender and memory are not innate or naturally existing, but were given to her by her mother. “Membrane,” the story’s title, has multiple levels of significance: A membrane is a protective substance in an animal’s body, but softness and permeability are its distinguishing features, allowing breath and other substances to pass through; thus, a membrane doesn’t completely isolate the tissue it protects. Ji Dawei’s title reveals the “softness” of his subject matter and literary forms he uses. This echoes a characteristic of his Queer Revelation (1997), a work on Queer literature, that is, “queerness” seeks to loosen the order of gender and genre.
Li Ru’en, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature, Fu Jen Catholic University
Ji Dawei(Ta-Wei, Chi) (1972- ) is a graduate of National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. He holds a master’s degree from the same university and department and a doctorate in comparative literature from UCLA. He has taught at Wesleyan University’s East Asian Studies Program, the University of Connecticut’s Department of Foreign Languages, and currently serves as assistant professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Taiwanese literature. He is a recipient of the National Students’ Literature Award, the Central Daily News Literature Award, the Youth Literary Science Fiction Award, and the United Daily News Literature Award.
Writing in a barbed, satiric style, Ji Dawei, Hong Ling and other “queer” writers, paved the way for Taiwan’s 1990s LGBT liberation movement. Ji used “queer theory” to open the possibility of LGBT self-affirmation, seeking to maintain dynamic heterogeneity; his work not only blazed new pluralistic trails for the movement, but also served as a basis for marginalized groups’ – transgender and cross-gender individuals – to assert their identities and resist oppression. Ji’s definition of “queer”: “It defies simple definition.”
Questioning existing frameworks and pondering various possibilities, science fiction allows Ji’s imagination to run free. In an interview he once remarked: “I write sci-fi to escape the present. With that protective cover I can write what ever I want to.” In World of the Senses (1995/2011), Membrane (1996/2011), Fetish (1998), Queer Revelation (1997), a treatise collection, and Goodnight Babylon (1998/2014) Ji Dawei provides Taiwanese literature and culture with a different kind of conceptual orientation.
Ji’s work appears with that of other writers in Queer Carnival (1998) and Raise the Rainbow Flag: My Experiences in the LGBT Movement, 1990-2001 (2002). He has also translated Kiss of the Spider Woman (1994), four of Italo Calvino’s works, including The Cloven Viscount, and The Lost Dove (1999).
|Author：||Ji Dawei (Ta-Wei, Chi)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Linking Publishing Company|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010499915|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No Published English Translation|