Posts tagged china mieville
“ London can metabolise. Centre Point, stubby tower at the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, is ugly, and, if grudgingly, rather loved. But London’s growing fake public spaces abjure the backstreet-and-alleyway gestalt of the city. It and its planners have little room for any urban contingency where railway bridges cut low over streets, on their own business, at angles that make no sense from below, forming strange obliques and acutes with the houses they meet.”
Two of my favourite things collided some months ago when BLDGBLOG interviewed China Mieville. Both should probably need no introduction, but just in case: Geoff Manaugh writes the former, a blog about architectures real and imagined and the ways they affect world & society. This is something I attempted to do in a much more haphazard way in the thesis I wrote last year. So it’s something of a pleasure and a busman’s holiday to read the site, for me, but I honestly think anyone would enjoy it if they haven’t.
China Mieville writes weird fiction - if you came across him a decade ago with Perdido Street Station; though you might equally say fantasy, westerns, YA, SF or even literary fiction. He’s a big guy though; I say we let him write whatever he likes. All of his work is heavily informed by the settings he creates, and he’s often called a city writer (the city invariably being London, his place of residence). If you’re new to him, and aren’t particularly interested in overtly SF/fantasy tropes, I’d suggest The City And The City, which gets a good airing here, because of the obvious parallels.
Here’s a fine and enticing teaser of the conversation:
BLDGBLOG: Let’s go back to the idea of the police procedural. It’s intriguing to compare how a police officer and a novelist might look at the city—the sorts of details they both might notice or the narratives they both might pick up on. Broadly speaking, each engages in detection—a kind of hermeneutics of urban space. How did this idea of urban investigation—the “mythic urbanology” you mentioned earlier—shape your writing of The City and The City?
Miéville: On the question of the police procedural and detection, for me, the big touchstones here were detective fiction, not real police. Obviously they are related, but they’re related in a very convoluted, mediated way.
What I wanted to do was write something that had a great deal of fidelity—hopefully not camp fidelity, but absolute rigorous fidelity—to certain generic protocols of policing and criminology. That was the drive, much more than trying to find out how police really do their investigations. The way a cop inhabits the city is doubtless a fascinating thing, but what was much more important to me for this book was the way that the genre of crime, as an aesthetic field, relates to the city.
The whole notion of decoding the city—the notion that, in a crime drama, the city is a text of clues, in a kind of constant, quantum oscillation between possibilities, with the moment of the solution really being a collapse and, in a sense, a kind of tragedy—was really important to me.