Authors & Events
Feb 27, 2001
| ISBN 9780345443021
Jul 29, 2003
| ISBN 9780345464521
May 26, 2009
| 1445 Minutes
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Feb 27, 2001 | ISBN 9780345443021
Jul 29, 2003 | ISBN 9780345464521
May 26, 2009 | ISBN 9780739384268
Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory. Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda’s request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. While Isaac’s experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger—and more consuming—by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon—and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes . . . A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader’s imagination. Praise for Perdido Street Station“[A] phantasmagoric masterpiece . . . The book left me breathless with admiration.”—Brian Stableford“China Miéville’s cool style has conjured up a triumphantly macabre technoslip metropolis with a unique atmosphere of horror and fascination.”—Peter Hamilton“It is the best steampunk novel since Gibson and Sterling’s.”—John Clute
A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader’s imagination. Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory. Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda’s request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. While Isaac’s experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger—and more consuming—by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon—and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes . . .BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from China Mieville’s Embassytown.
China Miéville is the author of numerous books, including This Census-Taker, Three Moments of an Explosion, Railsea, Embassytown, Kraken, The City & The City, and Perdido Street Station. His works have won the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, and… More about China Miéville
“[A] phantasmagoric masterpiece . . . The book left me breathless with admiration.”—Brian Stableford“China Miéville’s cool style has conjured up a triumphantly macabre technoslip metropolis with a unique atmosphere of horror and fascination.”—Peter Hamilton“It is the best steampunk novel since Gibson and Sterling’s.”—John Clute
Arthur C. Clarke Award
Q. Tell us a little about your new book PERDIDO STREET STATION.China Mieville: PERDIDO STREET STATION is about a huge, violent city, and the clumsy unfolding of a nightmare inside it. I wanted to write a book that was set in a believable alternative world. It was a world – a cityparticularly – that I’d been playing with and creating for some years,and the development involved evaluating a lot of the stuff I’d alreadyworked on, discarding some, reshaping some, that sort of thing.The story was second. I was kicking around an idea about a radicallyegalitarian society that through its egalitarianism was deeply concernedwith choice, and freedom for the individual (a riposte to theanti-socialist slurs of the right-wing). What shape would discontent andcrime take in that society? And what if someone from there came to NewCrobuzon, which was very far from that model? Why would s/he come?It is a dark book, and I hope that readers of horror and dark fantasywill still consider it something for them. It’s urban gothic darkfantasy again, only set in another world. It’s a fantasy novel — in thatit’s set in a secondary world inhabited by humans alongside other races,and there’s magic but this is very far from epic or heroic fantasy. It’ssort of unheroic, unepic fantasy.Q. Talk a bit more about world-building.CM: Histories, laws, cultures, aesthetics — worlds — are colossal, andcolossally complex. There is no way you can ever tell the story of awhole world. No matter how detailed your timeline or carefullyillustrated your bestiary, you can’t possibly explain everything. Ifsomething’s not important to the narrative, then don’t try — there areonly so many info-dumps a story can take, and I save mine for the stuffthat the reader has to understand.There are various aspects to creating a believable world. The mostimportant for me is atmosphere – depending on what the feelings you wantto communicate are, the world you create will have a different shape.There were other inspirations. I haven’t played role playing games inyears, but I quite enjoy browsing their rulebooks. I like the kind ofobsessive detailed world-creation the best of them involve.I love bestiaries; a lot of the pleasure is in trying to createoriginal, plausible, interesting, fantastic creatures. But obviouslythat’s not enough. You have to have a story, and you’ve got to becareful not to make it like a guidebook with a story in it, but a storythat happens to take place in another world. And ideally both the storyand the world should keep you surprised.Q. In PERDIDO STREET STATION, the city of New Crobuzon is very much aliving, breathing character. Likewise, in your first novel King Rat, thecity of London took on a life of it’s own. You seem fascinated by theidea of the city as a living thing.CM:I am interested in cities because they are where social conflict issharpest, where social tension and resistance are strongest. It is apolitical choice but also an aesthetic one – cities are places wheredifferent sorts of architecture, different sorts of social mapping,coincide and conflict. I also wanted to write urban fantasy because ofmy debt to other writers — Mervyn Peake, and Mike Harrison and the MaryGentle of Rats and Gargoyles –writers who write fantasy with realpolitics and economics in them. I was interested in having a fantasywith capitalist social relations, and capitalism is urban.I don’t have a taste for the sort of historical fantasy that is set inan unreal countryside with a hierarchical system that is not even realfeudalism. Part of this is that I just don’t like the countryside —rural idiocy and sacks of potatoes, as far as I am concerned. In ourreal world, the country has become just an adjunct of the town and is ofless interest as a result. Books about cities are just more exciting —when my surviving characters escape New Crobuzon at the end, it is to goto another city.Q: Let’s talk a bit about your politics. You’re a politically- activemember of the International Socialist Tendency.CM: I’ve been actively involved for some years now, and am looking forwardto getting more active with a spin-off called ATAC – the Arts TendencyAgainst Capitalism. I get very tired of people thinking that being asocialist means supporting North Korea or the erstwhile USSR (itdoesn’t).Q. What prompted you to become political?CM: Growing up with a single parent in an ethnically mixed working classarea of London was a good start. And then going to posh schools full ofright wing people who came out with the most outrageous homophobic andracist drivel, and then going to university and realizing that there wasa way of making sense of all the awful stuff going on as part of thesame phenomenon, a world system that would never reform itself.It was through being at university that I got interested in serioussocialism, as opposed to flaky socialism, and started reading Marx,which had a huge effect on me. The thing is, I am not someone whoparticularly enjoys the process of politics. I am lazy and all I want todo is read books about monsters all day. But capitalism doesn’t let meget one with that, because every time I turn on the news, there are moredreadful things going on, and it’s impossible to ignore. And it’s allunnecessary.Q: So you like to read about monsters; what about film monsters? Do youhave a favorite?CM: The problem is, of course, that one monster is not enough (is onemonster ever enough…?) I want loads now. These answers are thereforeonly true for today. It’s a tie: The Thing from John Carpenter’s, uh,The Thing, and Irena Dubrovna from Lewton and Tourneur’s Cat People.Why? Well, with The Thing, because it’s probably the best approximationof Lovecraftiana on screen, and because it’s a very intelligent (andimpressively gross) representation of a shape-shifter. They wouldn’tjust be shapeless protoplasm, they’d make limbs and organs forthemselves. And Irena Dubrovna because of her facial expression ofamused cruelty when she steps in human form to the side of the swimmingpool.Q: Perdido Street Station is very cinematic in scope; was that yourintention? CM: When I imagine a scene, I imagine it visually, but above allcinematically–I often find myself panning through a scene like acamera. This is how I work–and it means that I am drawn to movieimagery. This means that sometimes you have to work hard to police thecliches and then come back and decide that the cliche is what you needand what you can get away with. I have scripted and cast both my novelsin my head.Q. How would you cast Perdido Street Station then?CM: Hmm…Vermishank would be Martin Landau, I think. Isaac could be LL Cool Jin ten years time, with a big bushy beard, doing an English accent.(Right….) Lin? Doesn’t really matter, does it? Anyone skinny wearing arubber bug head. I’m working on the others.Q. Your mother now lives in Cuba and you spend a great deal of timethere. What is the science-fiction community like in Cuba?CM: The Cuban SF scene is really interesting because it’s very, very lively.They organize their own conventions (one of which I spoke at), theypublish their own books. There’s not such a sharp distinction betweengenre and mainstream literature as there is in Britain and the US, so‘lit-fic’ writers are likely to hang with SF writers at the literaryinstitutes. There’s an amazing range of influences. They had various(very good) Eastern European SF writers who got translated, such as (Ithink) Lem, the Strugatskis, etc. But they also have very treasuredpaperback editions of US SF, mostly Golden Age stuff from the fiftiesand sixties, but some more recent, which they all share round andcarefully read. Even those who can’t speak English well can almost allread it. They are some years behind – they’re getting very intoCyberpunk now. The thing is that they have a considered and erudite butpartial knowledge – what they could get their hands on, they know insideout, but there are holes, obviously. Not much of the New Worldsavant-garde wave – I saw no Ballard, no Harrison, some Moorcock butmostly his pulpest fantasies (I speak as a fan) – which is a shame. Someof the SF writers – all of whom know each other, and who constitute asub-group in a very supportive and small literary scene – are publishedin Latin America and Europe, most are published (paid a pittance, if atall) only in Cuba. They’re hungry and fascinated for any discussionabout Western SF, and what’s going on – books and films, everything.Whenever I go over there, I bring a bunch of paperbacks and leave them.There’s also a big comic scene, which blurs at the edges with the SFscene, as elsewhere.Q. Some people call you a fantasy writer; others classify you as ahorror or science-fiction writer. How would you classify yourself?CM: I use the term ‘fantastic literature’ as a way of bracketing the genresof supernatural horror, epic fantasy, low fantasy and science fiction.The term I would like to reinvigorate is ‘weird fiction.’ There’s aradical moment in all weird fiction and that moment is the positing ofthe impossible as true. Whether you make that what the story’s all aboutor you simply have it as a starting point, that to me is a radicalmoment. Of course, all this stuff is for nothing if you can’t keeppeople interested in the actual story…Essentially I’m a fantasy writer, though in a different tradition thatstresses the macabre, the surreal, the decadent, the lush, the grotesque– a tradition of grotesquerie, cruelty, sadness and alienation. Thesurrealist aesthetic is an alienating aesthetic, the opposite ofTolkien’s consolatory, comforting aesthetic. Part of that means notshying away when the dynamic of the aesthetic is quite cruel. In reallife I’m quite sentimental so I overcompensate in my fiction.Q. You mentioned Tolkien. Many consider him the father of modernfantasy.CM: That’s unfortunate because it masks the alternative tradition of weirdfiction: authors like William Hope Hodgeson, Robert Chambers, ClarkAshton Smith, H. P. Lovecraftt, and certainly the Weird Tales tradition with Fritz Leiber, and then Mervyn Peake.Fantasy’s a frustrating genre in that so much that’s published in it isso derivative and formulaic, and yet it has the potential to be — andsometimes is — the most radical literary form out there. In PERDIDOSTREET STATION, I’ve tried to write a fantasy novel without stereotypes.No elves, no dwarfs. Too often, that sort of thing is used as ashorthand for characterization, just a quickhand way of letting thereader know that a character is noble, or stolid, or whatever. And Ihate the tendency towards moral absolutism in fantasy, the idea thatorcs/trolls/whatever are bad, as a kind of racial characteristic. I knowwe’ve moved a long way from there recently, and there’s a lot of verygood fantasy that really avoids that kind of laziness, but there’s stilla lot out there that doesn’t, unfortunately. I’m not saying,incidentally, that you can’t write good, imaginative fantasy with elvesin it, just that I can’t. I also dislike Destiny and Fate a whole lot,and it features heavily in a lot of fantasy. If I discover that somecharacter is fulfilling an Ancient Prophecy I tend to lose interest. I’minterested in the opposite of That Which Has Been Foretold, which isthat which people make happen.Q. So who would you consider strong influences in your own writing?CM: Philip K. Dick is probably my single favourite writer. I read somethinglike Martian Timeslip or The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ifeel that literature has been done, and that the rest of us are justadding footnotes. And to those who still say that SF isn’t any good atcharacterization I have three words: A Scanner Darkly.M. John Harrison is astonishingly good. Mervyn Peake, Gene Wolfe, TimPowers, Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman, Lewis Carroll, Stanislaw Lem,Lucius Shepard, Thomas Disch… A few years ago I got into a lot of late19th/early 20th century slipstream stuff, that straddles SF, fantasy andhorror. The whole Weird Fiction thing I mentioned before. The obviousname is Lovecraft, and I enjoy his stuff, but I prefer William HopeHodgson, and I like people like E.H. Visiak, Robert Chambers and DavidLindsay, and classics like Ambrose Bierce, MR James, Wells mainly forThe Island of Dr Moreau. Some of those people like Lovecraft and Hodgsonare odd, in that their writing is horribly, horribly flawed, awkwardlywritten, overblown etc… and yet they had something. I read Hodgson’sCarnacki stories, for example, especially something like The Hog, andabout a third of me inside is laughing with derision, while the othertwo-thirds is transfixed.Borges, Iain Sinclair, William Golding, Kafka, Bulgakov, The CapekBrothers, the Strugatski Brothers, Dambudzo Marechera, Jonathan Swift…The whole surrealist axis, from Lautreamont through Breton and Ernstonwards. And there are loads of writers who haunt me for years, on thestrength of a single short story. Like Julio Cortazar, solely on thestrength of the fucking peerless House Taken Over, or E.L.White forLukundoo, or Scott Bradfield, who is an all-round great writer, butwhose The Secret Life of Houses is achingly perfect.Q. What about non-genre writers?CM: A lot of my favourite ‘lit-fic’ writers I like for the same sorts ofreasons that I like genre writers. Like Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre isone of my all-time top ten books, an incredible work of darkimagination. I love it because I get the same kind of breathlessdislocation and fearful longing from it I do from the best genreliterature.My favourite scene in that book is when she’s ravenous and she tries tobuy a bun and she has no money, so she tries to swap her gloves for one,and the baker won’t take them. It freaks me out!It’s such a cold, terrifying scene: this well-dressed, starving,wild-eyed woman standing, begging fiercely for food, holding out thesegloves with trembling hands, and the utter alienation and suspicion ofthe shop-woman. And she won’t sell her the bun! How’s that forundermining the surface rationality of the everyday? Gives the Cthulhumonsters bulging under reality’s skin a run for their money, I reckon.Two normal human beings, and one would rather let the other starve thanaccept a commodity rather than money, even though the commodity is worthmore than the money required, and we totally understand her point ofview!!! The horror, the horror…Q. Last question…what’s the deal with your name, China?CM: Because my parents were hippies, and they looked through the dictionaryfor a "beautiful word.’ It’s also Cockney rhyming slang for ‘mate.’Basically, in Cockney Rhyming Slang a phrase that rhymes with the wordin question comes to take its place, but then you get rid of the bitthat actually rhymes. That’s how come my name means friend: ‘my oldchina’ means ‘my old mate’ because ‘china plate’ rhymes with ‘mate.’Apparently they nearly settled on ‘Banyan’ but thankfully flickedforward a few pages.
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