The Korea Herald


[HIT Forum] Sci-fi writer on creating compelling space story

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Oct. 11, 2023 - 16:43

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Science fiction writer Bae Myung-hoon speaks during the 2023 Korea Herald Humanity In Tech Forum on Wednesday. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald) Science fiction writer Bae Myung-hoon speaks during the 2023 Korea Herald Humanity In Tech Forum on Wednesday. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Korean science fiction writer Bae Myung-hoon on Wednesday emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between our familiar neighborhoods and space in order to craft compelling space exploration narratives in a Korean setting.

He explained that this is difficult, because creators' cognitive range -- the space that creators are familiar with and can describe well -- is limited usually to their surroundings.

Korean content consumers also often struggle to simultaneously envision both space and their everyday surroundings, he said.

“Many find it challenging to conceive of Seoul as the center of the world or the universe," he said. "If an alien appears in Gwanghwamun Square (in central Seoul) in stories, Koreans feel awkward, thinking 'Why would an alien appear in Seoul?'"

Bae shared his insights during a presentation titled "Weaving Our Space Odyssey" at the 2023 Korea Herald Humanity In Tech Forum at The Shilla Seoul.

During his speech at the forum, he also suggested not segregating heroes and ordinary people when creating science fiction.

In particular, successful space narratives set in Seoul have to allow ordinary individuals to encounter aliens, dispelling the notion that such encounters are reserved solely for heroes, he said.

Bae discouraged the common practice of using the government or army as the main force for space exploration while the public only exists as spectators.

“This often failed to resonate with Korean audiences,” he said.

Furthermore, Bae emphasized that the unique strength of Korean sci-fi creators lies in their critical approach when addressing societal issues.

This approach leads to the development of contemporary and captivating sci-fi stories that differ from the more conventional, often imperialistic, approach often seen in American science fiction, Bae said.

As an example, he highlighted how Hollywood sci-fi films, in contrast to Korean counterparts, frequently assume that aliens speak English.

"In Korean science fiction novels, authors put much thought into how to navigate the complex issue of inter-species communication, often offering a fresh perspective on the matter," Bae said.

Bae's journey as a writer began during his studies in international relations at Seoul National University. He is the recipient of the Munhakdongne New Writer Award, a prestigious platform for new writers' first full-length novels, and is credited with pioneering the science fiction genre in the Korean literary landscape.

With over 200 novels to his name, including "Tower," "Launch Something!" and "Future Past Tense," Bae has made a significant impact on the world of science fiction in Korea.

From 2020 to 2021, he also participated in a research project on human settlement on Mars in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry.