Inaugural Seminar

School of Arts and Social Sciences Research Research Institute for Digital Culture and Humanities Inaugural Seminar

The Myth in Sci-Fi: Beyond the Anthropocene

Mr Ken Liu  &  Prof Song Mingwei

23 June 2023

Inaugural Seminar for the series of “Chinese Mythology in the Digital Age”

AnSS_RIDCH_Inaugural_Seminar_group photo

The Inaugural Seminar “The Myth in Sci-Fi: Beyond the Anthropocene” for the project “Chinese Mythology in the Digital Age” funded by Sin Wai Kin Foundation was successfully held. The seminar explored the profound impact of science fictional narration and mythical storytelling on shaping human understanding, culture and values with the international Sci-Fi awarded author Mr Ken Liu and the renowned modern Chinese literature scholar and Critic Prof Mingwei Song from Wellesley College. Their thought-provoking sharing and dialogue shed light on the interrelationship between mythology and fictions.

Mr. Liu addressed on the universal storytelling and myth-making

Liu’s presentation focused on the Western perspective of storytelling and mythology, emphasizing the interconnectedness of words such as “story” and “history” and their evolving meanings over time. He highlighted storytelling as a fundamental aspect of human nature, asserting that stories give meaning to abstract concepts and shape our understanding of the world. Drawing from personal experiences, Liu illustrated how concrete stories convey abstract values such as love, courage, and faith. He contended that culture is a collection of stories and that stories are vehicles for passing down and revitalizing cultural values. Furthermore, Liu prompted the audience to reflect on the shared values of English-language writers in children’s stories and explore their alignment with other languages, mythologies, and cultures.

Prof. Song highlighted on the poetic transformative power in Sci-Fi

Song examined contemporary Chinese sensory fiction as a genre and a methodology for gaining deeper insights into literature and the emerging literary landscape of the 21st century. Drawing inspiration from ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi’s tale of “Zhuangzi’s Butterfly”, Song explored the themes of identity and metamorphosis. He highlighted the works of Michel Foucault and Zhang Taiyan, emphasizing their contributions to challenging binary thought structures and establishing a state of non-binary and differentiated existence. Song asserted that Sci-Fi and the works of contemporary authors offer alternative perspectives and narratives that transcend traditional boundaries and illuminate the modern world.

Dialogues on Myth and the Anthropocene

In the dialogue, Liu and Song further enriched the seminar, discussing the relevance of myth in the Anthropocene era and questioning the concept of authenticity in cultural contexts. Liu emphasized the interconnectedness of humans with the universe and rejected the idea of humans as separate entities. He suggested that storytelling and myth-making are manifestations of the human mind. Song proposed science fiction as a new form of mythology that expands our understanding of the human-world relationship. Additionally, they rejected the notion of authenticity, emphasizing the liveliness and shared experiences of cultures and literature.

Q&A Session on Timelessness and Collective Unconsciousness of Sci-Fi Myth-Making

The Q&A session further emphasized the transformative power of contemporary stories and their ability to bridge cultural gaps and inspire collective action. Scholar Sanfeng, an expert on Chinese Sci-Fi questioned about the time issue of new myth-making in the rapid technological changes. Both speakers acknowledged the transformative power of contemporary stories and the changing landscape of storytelling. Song emphasized their current impact, while Liu foresaw a future teeming with boundless possibilities. Song asserted that time’s perception is linked to rapid changes, but new mythological traditions, born from stories, now resonate with the current generation. These stories, rooted in older mythologies, have gained their own mythological strength through widespread interpretation, communication, and memorization. Liu agreed with Song’s notion of a timeless collective consciousness but added that we are presently inundated with stories, unlike our ancestors. He then contemplated the potential consequences of accelerated myth-making, narrative shaping, and the evolution of our collective unconscious, envisioning a future where these advancements become reality. Song then also stressed on that Chinese new myth-making in the new wave of science fiction carries immense transformative and philosophical potential. Liu emphasized that the distinction between reality and fantasy is not crucial in fantasy writing, as the goal is to tap into the collective unconscious and express the ineffable.


In conclusion, the seminar shed light on the profound impact of storytelling and mythology as transformative forces in human society. By exploring diverse perspectives and narratives, we can transcend cultural boundaries, challenge binary thinking, and inspire collective action towards a more inclusive and sustainable future. The power of storytelling lies in its ability to shape our understanding, provoke introspection, and foster empathy, making it an essential tool for navigating the complexities of our ever-changing world.