A Strategy for Ruination: An interview with China Miéville

From the Boston Review:

MievillefinalfinalartEditor's Note: Writing about China Miéville in the Guardian, fantasy luminary Ursula K. Le Guin opined, “You can’t talk about Miéville without using the word ‘brilliant.’” Miéville is a rare sort of polyglot, an acclaimed novelist—he has won nearly every award for fantasy and science fiction that there is, often multiple times—who is equally comfortable in the worlds of politics and academia. Combining his skills as a storyteller and Marxist theorist, his most recent book, October, regales readers with the key events of the Russian Revolution. In this interview, Miéville discusses the intersections between his creative oeuvre and the political projects of utopia and dystopia.

Boston Review: You are often quoted as saying that you want to write a book in every genre. Nonetheless, many of your books have centered around themes of utopia and dystopia. Do you feel as though dystopia has finally, well-and-truly slipped the bounds of genre?

China Miéville: Dystopia and utopia are themes, optics, viruses that can infect any field or genre. Hence you find utopian, dystopian, and heterotopian aspects in stories across the board: westerns, romances, crime—let alone, more obviously, in science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy.

To the extent that, before anything else, texts are -topias (particularly utopias) narrowly conceived—warnings, suggestions, cookbooks, or proposals—they are mostly uninteresting to me. Still, the often-repeated slur that utopias are “dull” has never been politically innocent: it bespeaks reaction. When Emil Cioran attacks utopias for lacking the “rupture” of real life—“the totality of sleeping monsters”—he ignores the ruptures and monsters that lurk in -topias too. As texts, -topias get interesting to the extent that they deviate, underperform, or do too much. Rather the excess of the Big Rock Candy Mountain, with its cigarette trees and lemonade springs, than the plod of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888). In their conflicts, aporias, and surpluses, they can captivate. Alexander Bogdanov’s 1908 science fiction novel Red Star, for example, is fairly stodgy gruel until the protagonist, Leonid, veers unexpectedly and seemingly off-script through madness and the pedagogy gets opaque.

None of which is to argue against -topias of any prefix, still less of utopian yearning tout court. They are indispensable. But the -topian drive is more contradictory and succulent than some of its vulgar advocates, no less than its critics, make out.

More here.