Taking Care of the God is short science fiction story written by a Chinese SF writer Cixin Liu, which I considered as one of the best works integrated science fiction factors with traditional Chinese cultural dimension and moral criticism. Not similar to the typical alien invasion story, it introduces an alien race who claiming themselves as Gods, the creators of humankind, surprisingly came to Earth for asking help and the following story of how they interacted with human beings after the earth developed into “The era of Support”. I have questioned that technological factors in the SF story may become distractions for readers to get the real intention from author, but this story creates an almost perfect balance among thought-provoking ideas, moving emotions and scientific logical support.

For most of the SF novel I read, writers always design the alien as a more advanced and intelligent species than human beings, but in this story, the God species is declining. Rather than manipulating human’s fate, Gods are in a subordinate position. It shows that everything in the world has a process of development from infancy, mature, and declined, not as infinite improvement as what we think. It also applies to civilization, technology and science. As what the god said:

“Yes, now our civilization is old. But it is not our fault. No matter how hard one strives, a civilization must grow old one day. Everyone must grow old, even you. We really do not need your pity.”

It also raises a question about the relationship between human beings and technologies: we have enjoyed the welfare brought by technology for a long time, but will technology develop to a limit and then regress? How will human beings react to it? Under a situation of a natural aging process while human beings are getting used to the technological automation, mechanization and even more advanced science, how will our civilization evolve?

Science fiction is descriptive, is to describe the reality, the present world (Le Guin, 1980). In 2005, Chinese government promoted an idea that elderly care could not only depend on government. The government distributed the elderly care pressure to enterprise and individual through reforming the pension insurance policies. Liu has noticed the trend of aging population and the urgent elderly care issue, and applied this realistic background into the story.

This story can be seen as a mirror of the reality. Chinese cultural critic Li Tuo describes contemporary China as an “era of the Mammonism”, where the cultures and spiritual values have been eroded due to the desire for wealth and consumption and especially after 2008. Under such situation, family relationships gradually changed and a conflict thus happened between Chinese culture of filial piety and parents’ “elderly care dream”. Chinese parents, especially for older generation, worked hard to bring up and satisfy their children’s needs for the first half of their lives, hoping to be looked after by children after retirement, like the old Chinese saying “elderly care depends on children”. Gods did the same thing that they created four Earth planets and sowed seeds of human civilization, as well as exchange humankind’s help with their repositories of scientific knowledge. However, the reality is many older people become inferior at home and some are even being abused by children, which can be seen from how Qiusheng’s family treat the god, and how gods have to continually say “sorry to be so much trouble” to humankind.

Though this story covers some Dystopian plots, it implies a utopianism in contemporary China on the whole. Seeing from the ending of Gods, though many of them have been bullied by people on Earth, but it seemingly is the less struggling one compare to their experience on other three planets. People on Earth are relatively kind, and Gods still gain respect from some people like Qiusheng. In addition, each individual God finally has time and relaxation to do what he wants, such as the God who lived with Qiusheng’s family decides to find and reunite with his lover. It reveals a positive idea that though human existence is bound by natural law, and civilization cannot be truly fulfilled to an infinite level by capitalism or communism, humans can still take actions to shape own future by themselves (Thieret, 2015). The God who is taken care by Qiusheng’s family provides several suggestions to them, which is a sign of a call to action.

References:

Thieret, Adrian. “Society and Utopia in Liu Cixin”, China Perspectives. Jan 2015. 33-39.

“Tuo Li: Mammonism causes a spiritual pestilence. China totally changed after 2008 (李陀:拜金主义导致精神瘟疫,2008年之前和之后是两个中国)”. JieMian News. 2018. Retrieved from:

<https://new.qq.com/omn/20181006/20181006A0RSIP.html>

Le Guin, Ursula K. Introduction. The Left Hand of Darkness (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row. 1980.