The Manchester Review
Geoff Ryman
Writers Talk with China Miéville
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A number of Fantasy and SF writers have been going into crime fiction: Mike Marshall, Paul McCauley…

Also Jedediah Barry, Jeff Vandemeer, even the new Pynchon takes the form of a detective novel. I’ve frequently committed manifesto, and I’ve got into a debate with Nick Mamatas about what to call the trend. I want Weird plus Noir to become ‘Noird.’ He wants Hardboiled plus Weird to equal ‘Weird Boiled’. So it’s a battle of the memes to see who can name this burgeoning subgenre.

I’m no stranger to manifestos myself... I came up with Mundane SF.

Someone pointed out to me that The City and the City follows mundane rules.

Ah, but you have to know you are playing the mundane game when you write the story.

Well I’m into retro-causality, I can certainly claim it’s a mundane novel.

Talk a bit about your children’s book Un Lun Dun, where it fits in.

I’d written something after Iron Council. People who read it for me were sceptical about it, and I was a bit concerned about that. It’s as yet unpublished. I wanted to write something that was an unabashed joy. Iron Council is a book I’m immensely proud of, prouder even than the other books in some ways, but it was a hard book to write, it came from quite deep. I wanted to write out of unmediated pleasure, an hommage to kids’ books that I grew up with: Lewis Carroll, Joan Aitken, Michael de Larrabeiti and others. I always wanted to write a book for younger readers. It was an abrupt decision, and the book came very, very quickly, written with immense pleasure. Some of the material I’d been carrying around for quite a long time. For example the ninja dustbins, the Binja, I invented when I was ten. It was a great pleasure accreting all that stuff. Un Lun Dun felt like a continuation of the phantasmagorical tradition of previous books but with different kinds of material. Farah Mendelssohn said that fantasy for younger readers can be based around literalized wordplay. Once you get older it is more often literalized metaphor.

I‘m thinking of The Phantom Tollbooth. When I was a kid, I loved it for the magic, but later, all the wordplay made it seem full of messages and warnings.

For me at times that can come close to leaden allegory. I was not interested in the Spelling Bee as a kind of literalized pun or lesson, but I was very interested in a six-foot bumblebee. The Alice books are the perfect books for that age, predicated on word play but never, never didactic.

Oz doesn’t moralize or teach lessons either.

The Narnia books were a big deal for me when young, but there was a kernel of dissatisfaction. I was aware of another agenda. As you get older, it gets more noticeable. I think Lewis is a very bullying writer, essentially a bully of the Upper Fifth. I find the cruelty in the condescension to children ugly.