Here is the audio, video, and transcript, here is the episode summary: Rebecca F. Kuang just might change the way you think about fantasy and science fiction. Known for her best-selling books Babel and The Poppy War trilogy, Kuang combines a unique blend of historical richness and imaginative storytelling. At just 27, she’s already published five novels, and her
The post My Conversation with Rebecca F. Kuang appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
Here is the audio, video, and transcript, here is the episode summary:
Rebecca F. Kuang just might change the way you think about fantasy and science fiction. Known for her best-selling books Babel and The Poppy War trilogy, Kuang combines a unique blend of historical richness and imaginative storytelling. At just 27, she’s already published five novels, and her compulsion to write has not abated even as she’s pursued advanced degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, and now Yale. Her latest book, Yellowface, was one of Tyler’s favorites in 2023.
She sat down with Tyler to discuss Chinese science-fiction, which work of fantasy she hopes will still be read in fifty years, which novels use footnotes well, how she’d change book publishing, what she enjoys about book tours, what to make of which Chinese fiction is read in the West, the differences between the three volumes of The Three Body Problem, what surprised her on her recent Taiwan trip, why novels are rarely co-authored, how debate influences her writing, how she’ll balance writing fiction with her academic pursuits, where she’ll travel next, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: Why do you think that British imperialism worked so much better in Singapore and Hong Kong than most of the rest of the world?
KUANG: What do you mean by work so much better?
COWEN: Singapore today, per capita — it’s a richer nation than the United States. It’s hard to think, “I’d rather go back and redo that whole history.” If you’re a Singaporean today, I think most of them would say, “We’ll take what we got. It was far from perfect along the way, but it worked out very well for us.” People in Sierra Leone would not say the same thing, right?
Hong Kong did much better under Britain than it had done under China. Now that it’s back in the hands of China, it seems to be doing worse again, so it seems Hong Kong was better off under imperialism.
KUANG: It’s true that there is a lot of contemporary nostalgia for the colonial era, and that would take hours and hours to unpack. I guess I would say two things. The first is that I am very hesitant to make arguments about a historical counterfactual such as, “Oh, if it were not for the British Empire, would Singapore have the economy it does today?” Or “would Hong Kong have the culture it does today?” Because we don’t really know.
Also, I think these broad comparisons of colonial history are very hard to do, as well, because the methods of extraction and the pervasiveness and techniques of colonial rule were also different from place to place. It feels like a useless comparison to say, “Oh, why has Hong Kong prospered under British rule while India hasn’t?” Et cetera.
COWEN: It seems, if anywhere we know, it’s Hong Kong. You can look at Guangzhou — it’s a fairly close comparator. Until very recently, Hong Kong was much, much richer than Guangzhou. Without the British, it would be reasonable to assume living standards in Hong Kong would’ve been about those of the rest of Southern China, right? It would be weird to think it would be some extreme outlier. None others of those happened in the rest of China. Isn’t that close to a natural experiment? Not a controlled experiment, but a pretty clear comparison?
KUANG: Maybe. Again, I’m not a historian, so I don’t have a lot to say about this. I just think it’s pretty tricky to argue that places prospered solely due to British presence when, without the British, there are lots of alternate ways things could have gone, and we just don’t know.
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