Yang Shengbo, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Huang Fan’s dystopian Zero and Other Fictions won the 1981 United Daily News Literature Award for Novellas. Following a worldwide nuclear catastrophe, Meng Qidun, and his “Nan’ning Council” use technology that only they possess to eradicate radioactive pollution. Moreover, the group has banned nuclear weapons and fossil fuels, controlling population density and resource allocation, constructing a utopian society. At six years of age all citizens take a “Unified Qualification Examination” to determine whether they will belong to the management class or the mass of ordinary people, their professions and positions determined by academic performance. In this new society everything is preplanned – there is need for citizens concern themselves with the past and future; the beautiful present is all that need be known.
Based on his excellent scholastic record, Xi De, a farming village native, has become a central government official. His life is smooth but monotonous until he discovers the truth about the new world order. Only after reading The Truth About the Supreme Council, a book he has chanced upon, does he realize that the Nan’ning Council is ultimately responsible for the nuclear disaster. According to the book, the council secretly exterminated 90% of the world’s “inferior peoples” in order to better control the public and regulate resources; thus, the outwardly placid utopia seethes with undercurrents of violence. Xi De is later demoted for poor performance; meanwhile, history professor Kang Zaoshi calls on Xi De, introducing him to “Guardians of Earth,” a rebel organization dedicated to overthrowing the Nan’ning Council. After he’s arrested for engaging in anti-government activity, Xi De is brought before the Council. Only then does he realize that Guardians of the Earth was actually part of a Council strategy for rooting out dissidents, a method of manufacturing enemies to increase public reliance on authoritarian government. Unwilling to face the truth, the despairing Xi De is vaporized.
In the nineteenth century, “Utopia” referred to an ideal society. After Communism distorted the term in the twentieth century, however, it took on negative implications, and dystopian fiction was born. Well known works include Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1921), Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s 1984. In Lai Suo (1979), Huang Fan’s most representative work, the eponymous protagonist is imprisoned for taking part in an anti-government movement. After his release he reencounters the movement’s leader, a meeting that destroys his faith and trust in government. The dystopian science-fiction novella Zero and Other Fictions is a further expression of the author’s disillusionment with politics. In Zero Huang Fan calls historical narratives into question. If rulers and dissidents each embrace different political mythologies, the populace will easily sink into a symmetrical structure of ideological violence. Regime change is simply the exchange of one ideology for another, using political power to suppress opposing points of view, destroying social values and stability. Perhaps this is the greatest revelation Zero and Other Fictions gives us.
Huang Fan (1950- ) is the penname of Huang Xiaozhong, a Taipei native. He is a graduate of the Chung Yuan Institute of Technology’s (today’s Chung Yuan Christian University) Department of Industrial Engineering. He has served as director of a food processing plant, planner at Taiwan English Magazine, and specially commissioned editor at Unitas Literary Monthly.
Huang’s short story “Lai Suo,” published in China Times on October 15, 1979, took first place in the 2nd Annual China Times Critic’s Picks Awards, bringing the writer to the attention of the public. He later received a number of important China Times and United Daily News awards for fiction. Since 1992 he has also served as editor of a number of fiction collections, and has penned columns for Commercial Times, Independence Evening News, and China Times. From 1993 to 2002 he put down his pen. In comparison to his critical stance in the early 1980s, Huang’s mid-to-late Eighties works tended toward experimental narrative. He returned to the literary world in 2002, subsequently publishing the novels Manic Depressive Nation (2003), Thief of Great Learning (2004), and Pet (2006), and the short-story collection Cat’s Guess (2005), his later works clearly leaning toward abstract philosophical ruminations on life.
Huang Fan is one of the most important of the postwar “new generation” of writers, his works encompassing all of the major genres from the 1980s onward: political fiction, urban fiction, postmodern fiction, and science fiction. Huang’s political and postmodern works – the novellas “Zero,” and “Taste of Grief,” and the short-stories “Lai Suo,” “Great Times,” “A Clean Place,” The Way to Test the Width of the Ditch,” and “Fictional Experiment” – have garnered much attention. From the perspective of Taiwanese literary history, Huang Fan can be viewed as a microcosmic manifestation of fiction’s evolution from the 1980s to the present.
In addition to experimental elements, innovative interest, and concern for contemporary trends, Huang Fan’s writing is characterized by mature reflection and a barbed, satiric style that combines black humor, metafiction, and other innovative techniques. His short stories may spark agitation, give pause for reflection, engender fantasies, or elicit laughter. In an era of dissent, Huang Fan deliberately maintained objective neutrality, refraining from taking political stances in his work.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=2322
|Work(English)：||Zero and Other Fictions|
|Anthology：||Zero and Other Fictions|
|Publisher：||New York: Columbia University Press|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Out of Print|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.amazon.com/Fictions-Modern-Chinese-Literature-Taiwan/dp/0231157401|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：|