I decided to publish my short essays on the readings from the Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World course syllabus. The course started on the 1st of June and finished on the 14th of August. The essays were supposed to be around 270-320 words a piece. Today, I publish the essay that I wrote after reading H.G. Wells‘ The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Star, The Invisible Man and The Country of the Blind.
* These are my views and interpretations only
As I read The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man and The Star by H.G. Wells, I was struck by the similarity of those works to the chuanqi.
The chuanqi is a form of Chinese literature that deals with the supernatural. The form is also called ‘tales of wonders’, ‘anecdotes’ and ‘tales of strange events’. All three stories fit this description.
The (translated) chuanqi – that I’ve read in my elective class Chinese literature and art – always start with a few facts (or things that sound like facts) before coming to the supernatural, to make it more believable. In Wells’ stories, this also happens. In The Island of Dr. Moreau, there’s the writing of the nephew of the main character, who related the story of how his uncle was missing on the ocean for a year before he was found, complete with the longitude and latitude to prove it. The Star is written like a newspaper article, full of interesting ‘facts’ mixed with the supernatural – or in this case: the extraterrestrial. The Invisible man starts out with describing the details of Griffin’s arrival in Iping.
The fantastical elements that are very prominent, almost from the start – except for The Star, where it’s only at the end that the Martians are revealed in a surprise twist – as it is in the chuanqi. In The Island of Dr. Moreau, it’s as early as Edward’s meeting with Mr. Montgomery and his attendant (though we don’t know he’s created until later in the book) and in The Invisible Man we get introduced to the supernatural from the moment the stranger is introduced.
The only thing that differs – in my mind – is the length. Chuanqi are supposed to be short stories (or novella-length at most), but only The Star truly came close to the length of the chuanqi I’ve read. But, to me, they all share the other characteristics of the chuanqi.