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The defining characteristic of life for the Trisolarans is that it is chaotic. Phenomena of the natural world which most humans would instinctively think of as fixed and eternal, such as tides and seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, are unpredictable. This could be expected to result in a unique psychology among the Trisolarans, that the universe is fundamentally treacherous and cannot be trusted. In the 3-body VR game, the Einstein character's cry that "God is a shameless gambler!" might be an expression of this.

The experience of living through the Cultural Revolution, an upheaval which effectively turned the world of human relationships upside down, making fundamental cultural institutions such as the relationship between parents and children, teachers and students, similarly treacherous and unreliable, could easily be thought to have parallels with the unpredictable world of the Trisolarans.

Has the author or any notable commentators suggested parallels of this nature?

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  • It is possible, but do you have any reason to point to the Cultural Revolution other than it being the most recent chaotic event in China? There have been many events that resulted in similar chaos throughout the world, including many earlier events in China. Also, going from a physically unstable planet to an unstable society is a significant step. For instance, N. K. Jemisin has a similarly unstable planet in The Fifth Season. Is that an allegory for the Cultural Revolution?
    – Adamant
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 23:45
  • The specific quote that "God is a shameless gambler!" is satire: Einstein (in this universe) was famously discomforted by the idea of uncertainty and probabilistic physical laws, and expressed this in the quote "God does not play dice with the universe."
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 23:45
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    @Lexible: I'm aware that it's a reference to a real-life Einstein quote. I think it also (intentionally or unintentionally) invokes the story of Job, who suffered because God made a bet with Satan. I think it's a great line!
    – Batperson
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 0:36
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    @Adamant: The Cultural Revolution is a significant part of the background context in Three Body Problem. Also, it's likely that either the author or his immediate family has direct experience of it in a way that N. K. Jemisin probably does not.
    – Batperson
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 0:40
  • I think it's also possible that there was something unique about the CR in that it seemed to specifically aim at overturning relationships, which might not have been present in other chaotic times in world history, or at least not as explicitly.
    – Batperson
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 0:47

1 Answer 1

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The quotes below are extracted from the author's postscript for the American edition.

Liu Cixin certainly did not mean to hint at anything in reality.

As a science fiction writer who began as a fan, I do not use my fiction as a disguised way to criticize the reality of the present. I feel that the greatest appeal of science fiction is the creation of numerous imaginary worlds outside of reality.

However, because Liu Cixin experienced the cultural revolution as a child, scenes from that event may inevitably show up in his work. Put in his words:

And so, satellite, hunger, stars, kerosene lamps, the Milky Way, the Cultural Revolution’s factional civil wars, a light-year, the flood … these seemingly unconnected things melded together and formed the early part of my life, and also molded the science fiction I write today.

But I cannot escape and leave behind reality, just like I cannot leave behind my shadow. Reality brands each of us with its indelible mark. Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains. In science fiction, humanity is often described as a collective. In this book, a man named “humanity” confronts a disaster, and everything he demonstrates in the face of existence and annihilation undoubtedly has sources in the reality that I experienced. The wonder of science fiction is that it can, when given certain hypothetical world settings, turn what in our reality is evil and dark into what is righteous and bright, and vice versa. This book and its two sequels try to do just that, but no matter how reality is twisted by imagination, it ultimately remains there.

Actually, the brutal and fearless colonizers that settled in what is now America and Australia in hope of a new life, destroying everything in the way, may serve as an inspiration (though not the tenor) for the technologically-advanced and terrifying Trisolarians. This view has been partially confirmed by the aforementioned postscript.

I’ve always felt that extraterrestrial intelligence will be the greatest source of uncertainty for humanity’s future. Other great shifts, such as climate change and ecological disasters, have a certain progression and built-in adjustment periods, but contact between humankind and aliens can occur at any time. Perhaps in ten thousand years, the starry skythat humankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the moon parked in orbit. The appearance of extraterrestrial intelligence will force humanity to confront an Other. Before then, humanity as a whole will never have had an external counterpart. The appearance of this Other, or mere knowledge of its existence, will impact our civilization in unpredictable ways.

There’s a strange contradiction revealed by the naïveté and kindness demonstrated by humanity when faced with the universe: On Earth, humankind can step onto another continent, and without a thought, destroy the kindred civilizations found there through warfare and disease. But when they gaze up at the stars, they turn sentimental and believe that if extraterrestrial intelligences exist, they must be civilizations bound by universal, noble, moral constraints, as if cherishing and loving different forms of life are parts of a self-evident universal code of conduct.

I think it should be precisely the opposite: Let’s turn the kindnesswe show toward the stars to members of the human race on Earth and build up the trust and understanding between the different peoples and civilizations that make up humanity. But for the universe outside the solar system, we should be ever vigilant, and be ready to attribute the worst of intentions to any Others that might exist in space. For a fragile civilization like ours, this is without a doubt the most responsible path.

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