How Chinese science fiction inspired this Australian folk singer

The World
Australian singer-songwriter Kelly Dance

Benedict Brink

Australian singer-songwriter Kelly Dance says she's inspired by the allegories and far-fetched stories of Chinese science fiction. That's one reason she became a folk singer. 

She was introduced to Chinese sci-fi when she first moved to Hong Kong in 2013 and visited her local library there. 

One of the stories she picked up was "A Madman's Diary" by Lu Xun. It's a story first published back in 1918, and it tells the tale of a madman who thinks everyone around him is eating people. The madman tries to get people to stop, only to be told "it's always been this way."

It's gruesome stuff, but Dance says, "It's a metaphor ... it's a story that challenges people to question what they think to be true. Even if it's wrong."

The story that influenced the video below was "The Fat Years" by Chan Koonchung. It's about a month of unrest that's been completely erased from people's memory. Inspired by the book, Dance called the tune "All That's Gained."

Stories like these helped Dance understand Chinese culture. She says "they highlight a rebellious spirit that I hadn't ever associated with China." 

And dispite the tales' dystopian nature, Dance does find optimisim.

"They usually involve like-minded people," she says, "finding each other to get to the truth or to try and fight out what's right despite the consequences."