Man, I am having SO MUCH FUN reading/interpreting Ti Sha’s “Final Test”, a short story first posted on a Wechat channel in China which I’m translating for FutureSF Magazine’s upcoming issue! The story is a brilliant take on a Turing test – except that the Turing test is set presumably by an AI society for an AI as a kind of classic Chinese graduation exam to get to the “next level”. The AI must prove that it has free will before it obtains citizenship, and its test takes place in a VR setting. Will he pass?
I am kind of a sucker for exam stories, because my first published fiction short story, which is on QLRS, is about taking a final exam, an oral exam, in Singapore. There may be a genre of just “exam literature” in Chinese, I wouldn’t be surprised, since it’s such a huge part of the culture, from imperial exams to the present day gaokao. There is just something about the rush of solving problems in a real time crunch scenario… helps that I was good at them.
But anyway, Ti Sha’s story is both funny, poignant, frightening, prophetic and deeply disturbing. I am going to run rings around the translation and add my own flair to the English version by trying to use a combination of typography, linguistic maneuvering, puns and maybe sneak in a little Singlish even, in order to capture the beauty of the original with the Chinese characters, with reference to Orwell’s wonderful analysis of doublethink/using language as tools for thought control in 1984.
Actually, translating this piece gave me a new appreciation for my second language, Mandarin, because of its beauty and ambiguity. When you have so many components, from
radical > character > word > wordphrase > phrase > idiom > slogan > >>>
can you really censor thought? There are so many layers of ambiguity, and so many layers of reality in this story, and I think that is the beauty of it. It really makes you think!
That’s my thought for tonight while I’m at the 50% point. Hope that’s tantalizing enough for you to check it out when it comes out in Future SF!
Thank you Ti Sha for writing such an amazing story.