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Sci-fi writer inspires real world thinking

Update: September, 13/2008 - 00:00

Inner Sanctum


Sci-fi writer inspires real world thinking

Writer and scientist Vu Kim Dung has spent his life creating science fiction for readers of all ages. He now works as head of the Viet Nam Fund of Science Fiction (VFSF), directly under the Viet Nam Association of Young Scientists and Engineers (VAYSE), which was created to support science fiction writers. Minh Thu asks him about his work.

Inner Sanctum: You graduated with a degree in biology; how did you become a writer and why did you choose science fiction?

I was fond of science as a secondary student. I began my career as a scientist, not a writer, but I always admired Jules Verne, who is regarded as a father of science fiction, and his novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

I started writing my first work, Co Kien Trinh Sat (A Scout Ant), in 1972 while I was studying at the university. Once it was published it became very popular among children.

I chose to write science fiction because it combines my love for science and literature.

Inner Sanctum: What was your most satsifying work? What difficulties did you encounter on the road to success?

My book, Nguoi Dep Hoi Sinh (Beauty Revived), is the most satisfying work for me. From a cell of skin, the dead beauty is revived. In the book, I predicted that scientists would discover human cell cloning. I’m proud that I wrote the book before Dolly the sheep was born. The book is respected in this country.

Writing science fiction doesn’t mean basing stories on imagination alone. I have to study science and find scientific evidence. Then I work as a normal writer, finding context and making the stories interesting.

On the other hand, a writer must be creative and predict the future. That’s the big difficulty. The writer’s role is to create what hasn’t been invented. Writing on what already exists creates a story without value.

Inner Sanctum: Why was the VFSF founded? How does it work?

A young intellectual force is vital for both the present and future. Being aware of this, the VAYSE founded the VFSF as a way to actively support these young intellectuals.

Science fiction is an important aspect of this force. In the future, the VFSF will focus on helping young authors and on developing its scientific department.

The fund was officially set up in July and focuses on three areas. First, we will publish literary works by domestic writers and translate foreign works. The first collection of science fiction short stories will be released soon. Secondly, we will launch creative writing competitions for screenplays, stories and novels. Third, we will support other artistic forms such as theatre, film and animated film.

We also intend to co-operate with other agencies to produce creative games. The fact is that many famous games came from classic films like Spiderman and Superman.

Our next plan is to publish two stories, "Hanh Tinh Ky La" (A Fancy Planet) and "Qua Trung Vuong" (A Square Egg) by veteran writer Viet Linh.

Inner Sanctum: Do you have any remarks on national science fiction literature?

Science fiction has its own large-scale world federation. It has developed rapidly and created many promising authors. In Viet Nam, writers such as Viet Linh, Pham Ngoc Toan, Pham Cao Cung and myself have created science fiction for decades. We have attracted many readers, but so far the genre hasn’t fared well.

When VFSF was founded, a young writer from HCM City came to me with three fictional books he had written. He wanted to get them published but he couldn’t find a publisher. He has to work as an amateur writer, getting money from other works to fund his passion for science fiction.

I realise that many young writers are in the same situation. There are a lack of sponsors. With the support of VAYSE, we intend to launch creative competitions to encourage youth.

Inner Sanctum: Do you have any advice for young writers of science fiction?

Well, in my opinion, in order to write science fiction, an author has to love both the social and natural sciences and be a skillful writer. Moreover, you should have a deep knowledge of social issues. As a writer, an imaginative mind is necessary to create interesting work. First begin writing short stories, then try with novels. You must combine scientific knowledge and literary skill.

Inner Sanctum: In your opinion, what attracts a reader to science fiction? What do they gain from reading it?

Science fiction is based on scientific knowledge and imagination. It’s not all impossible. Captain Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was a prediction. The fact is that we now make them to explore the bottom of the sea.

Readers are attracted to it because they want an intelligent adventure. The stories make them think, imagine and deduce. The stories predict the future of science and even suggest what scientists will invent. — VNS

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