Short Story Review: “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang

4 of 5 stars.

Social and economic inequality perpetuates, if not exasperates, itself. The privileged haves accumulate an increasingly larger portion of the economic pie at the expense of the unprivileged have-nots. This imaginative tale out of China, here translated by Ken Liu, takes the divide to the speculative extreme by physically dividing the world both spatially and temporally.

In a future engineering feat, Beijing is divided into 3 non-overlapping Spaces in which the entire city transforms itself physically into a class-divided Space while the other two Spaces enter into cocooned sleep until their Space emerges again. First Space, home to the 5 million wealthiest privileged people, exists for 24 hours out of every 48. They have the best foods and can make in a week what those in the Third Space would make over 40 months. The Second Space then exists for 16 hours every 48 hours. They are the 20 million strong middle class white-collar workers and specialists. The Third Space of over fifty million people, are under-educated blue-collar workers, half of whom manually process the trash and recycling of the other two Spaces. They are awakened only 8 dark hours of every 48.

The Change is the Earth-rupturing transitional times as the prior Space goes into deeper sleep and the next emerges. It’s largely illegal to cross the Space boundaries as whole buildings and sections of Earth flip and invert like origami. Yet, Lao Jao needs the money, and undertakes a Space-crossing mission to deliver messages and supplies across the 3 Spaces in order to provide for his infant daughter. In many ways, he gets to see how the other halves live . . .

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books.




[Check out my other reviews here.]


Canon Fodder-Friday: Nonfiction

For my final foray into considering the educational canon, I’d like to include nonfiction. Many speeches, letters and treatises have had a profound effect on the modern world as it relates to politics, economics, sciences, philosophy, the penal code, and human rights among other things. The following is my top ten non-fiction canon for works written in the last 250 years:

1) 1764 — On Crime and Punishment by Cesare Beccaria

This treatise was spread by Voltaire long after Beccaria lived out his life largely under house-arrest just for having written it. It suggested the first arguments against capital punishment, torture, and cruel and unusual punishment. It called for punishments to fit the crimes.

2) 1776 — The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith [Hello free market.]
3) 1776 — “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine and The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson
4) 1845 — Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
5) 1848 — The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
6) 1859 — On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
7) 1863 — “The Gettysburg Address” and The Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln
8) 1869 — The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill
9) 1958 — Night by Elie Wiesel
10) 1963 — “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

My three previous Friday posts listed Top 10s that included poetry, plays, and novels written in European languages. As of yet, I have not included a single graphic work in any of these lists, so I’d like to propose an eleventh item for this list as I think graphic works can be just as important and literary as non-graphic works.

11) 1991 — Maus by Art Spiegelman

What would you include in such a list, or what would you exclude? Let me know.

April is International Poetry Month. My Friday posts with all be poetry-related:
April 3rd– Poetry Forms I: Haikus and Limericks
April 10th– Poetry Forms II: Sonnets, Villanelles and Sestinas
April 17th– Poetry: Rhyming and Sounds
April 24th– Poetry: Avoiding Abstractions and Cliches