China Miéville

English writer
Art’s something you choose to make … it’s a bringing together of … of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person.

China Miéville (born 6 September 1972) is a Hugo, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus award-winning English fantastic fiction writer.

QuotesEdit

 
The reason that I like SF and fantasy and horror is that to me it's the pulp wing of surrealism.
 
There’s simultaneously something rigorous and something playful in genre. It’s about the positing of something impossible and then taking that impossibility and granting it its own terms and systematicity. It’s carnivalesque in its impossibility and overturning of reality, but it’s rationalist in that it pretends it is real.
  • I am often asked is [my work] science fiction or fantasy and my answer is usually ‘Yes’.
  • As far as I'm concerned, some of the best literature of the last hundred years has come out of the genre tradition and of course the best of it challenges expectations just as the best of literary fiction challenges those expectations. But it's not that genre fiction is any more a constraint than mimetic fiction. So I see myself very much as a genre writer. I love the fantastic genres. I see what I'm doing as a development of them but very much a part of them. I never feel that I'm leaving them behind. I try and be as experimental and avant-garde and stretching as I can be but I don't see that as turning my back on the genre at all. Genre has always been able to encompass that.
    • Interview with 3am
  • The reason that I like SF and fantasy and horror is that to me it's the pulp wing of surrealism.
    • Interview with 3am
  • The thing about good pulp is that you trust the reader and you know that the mind is a machine to process metaphors so of course all those connections will be there. But you've also granted the fantastic its own dynamic and allowed that awe. There's no contradiction. So I want to have monsters as a metaphor but I also want monsters because monsters are cool. There's no contradiction.
    • Interview with 3am
  • But it's a prize that... if you're into science-fiction and fantasy you grow up reading books with "Hugo [Award-winner]" on the cover. And this is very, very moving, to be in that position oneself. It's an odd situation [too], because, as you say, it was a tie, which is very rare with the Hugo, which has happened, like three times over sixty years, or something. But I prefer to think of it as a quantum Hugo and that Paolo Bacigalupi and I oscillate between between Hugo particle and wave form, this year. So it's properly science-fictional.
  • The other, more nebulous, but very strong influence of RPGs was the weird fetish for systematization, the way everything is reduced to “game stats.” If you take something like Cthulhu in Lovecraft, for example, it is completely incomprehensible and beyond all human categorization. But in the game Call of Cthulhu, you see Cthulhu’s “strength,” “dexterity,” and so on, carefully expressed numerically. There’s something superheroically banalifying about that approach to the fantastic. On one level it misses the point entirely, but I must admit it appeals to me in its application of some weirdly misplaced rigor onto the fantastic: it’s a kind of exaggeratedly precise approach to secondary world creation.
  • There’s simultaneously something rigorous and something playful in genre. It’s about the positing of something impossible—whether not-yet-possible or never-possible—and then taking that impossibility and granting it its own terms and systematicity. It’s carnivalesque in its impossibility and overturning of reality, but it’s rationalist in that it pretends it is real. And it’s that second element which I think those who dip their toes in the SF pond so often forget. They think sf is “about” analogies, and metaphors, and so on. I refute that—I think that those are inevitable components, but it’s the surrendering to the impossible, the weird, that characterizes genre. Those flirting with SF don’t surrender to it; they distance themselves from it, and have a neon sub-text saying, “It’s okay, this isn’t really about spaceships or aliens, it’s about real life,” not understanding that it can be both, and would do the latter better if it was serious about the former.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon
  • Although we revolutionary socialists are always accused of being Utopian, nothing strikes me as more Utopian than the reformist belief that with a bit of tinkering and some good faith, we can systematically improve the world. You have to ask how many decades of broken promises and failed schemes it will take to disprove that hope. Marxism isn’t about saying you’ll get a perfect world: it’s about saying we can get a better world than this one, and it’s hard to imagine, no matter how many mistakes we make, that it could be much worse than the mass starvation, war, oppression, and exploitation we have now. In a world where 30,000 to 40,000 children die of malnutrition daily while grain ships are designed to dump food into the sea if the price dips too low, it’s worth the risk.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon
  • Socialism and SF are the two most fundamental influences in my life.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon
  • I refuse to play the wink-wink-nudge-nudge game with readers. I don’t like whimsy because it doesn’t treat the fantastic seriously, and treating the fantastic seriously is one of the best ways of celebrating dialectical human consciousness there is. The one-sided celebration of the ego-driven contextually constrained instrumentally rational (as opposed to rational in a broader sense) is bureaucratic: the one-sided celebration of the subconscious, desire/fantasy driven is at best utopian, at worst sociopathic. The best fantasies—which include sf and horror—are constructed with a careful dialectic between conscious and subconscious.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon

Short FictionEdit

Looking for Jake (2005)Edit

All page numbers from the trade paperback first American edition published by Del Rey ISBN 0-345-47607-7
See the Wikipedia page for original publication details
All italics as in the original stories
  • “There’s three ways not to see what you don’t want to,” she told me. “One is the coward’s way and too painful. The other is to close your eyes forever, which is the same as the first, when it comes to it. The third is the hardest and the best: you have to make sure only the things you can afford to see come before you.”
    • Details (p. 111)
  • You make what you see into a window, and you see what you want through it. You make what you see a sort of a door.
    • Details (p. 113)
  • In a newsagent’s he picked up a copy of the Standard, and hesitated by the chocolate, looking at the low-fat version he had trained himself to pretend he liked but suddenly hungry for a real bar, which with guilty devil-may-care he took and paid for.
    • Go Between (p. 129)
  • It’s the first principle, isn’t it? Whoever’s arguing fiercest for violence is the cop.
    • ’Tis the Season (p. 195)
  • This was not the time for rage but for politics and strategy.
    • The Tain (p. 252)
  • You didn’t know, but not knowing is no excuse.
    • The Tain (p. 254)
  • What if the chosen one misunderstands what he’s been chosen for?
    • The Tain (p. 301)

Three Moments of an Explosion (2015)Edit

All page numbers from the hardcover first American edition published by Del Rey ISBN 978-1-101-88472-0
See the Wikipedia page for original publication details
All italics as in the original stories
  • Across the globe, in dark places of the earth, secret lairs were rarely caves of monsters or marvels but markets. Shops. The worst-kept secret in circulation was that certain activities invested items in their proximity with certain affects, effects, and powers, and made them hugely valuable. And that thus it was imperative that they be sold. That, certainly, had been the case for as long as there had been people and things, but there were always fluctuations. The occult economies of charged items were always jostling.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 101)
  • Lists make magic, the rhythm of itemized words: you do not list ten techniques, numbered and chantable, in austere prose appropriate for some early-millennium rebooted Book of Thoth, and not know that you have written an incantation.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 102)
  • Abomination from one perspective, it was advertising copy from another.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 102)
  • Koning was a self-made expert. She snuggled what she’d bought in the nest she had made of shredded grimoires and scrunched-up rules of engagement. She watched it. It did nothing.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 103)
  • Metamorphosis is death. Inside a pupa larval flesh breaks down utterly, as if in chemical spill. Eyes do not become other eyes nor mouthparts mouths. All parts are lost in a reconfiguring slop, as absolutely formless as a salted slug, that ex liquid nihilo self-organizes into a quite other animal. A cocoon is not a transformation pod but an execution chamber, one that doubles as a birthplace, and is parsimonious with matter.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 104)
  • Koning’s skills were adequate, her calculations plausible enough, that the plans were hubristic but not quite mad.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 107)
  • The priest was nodding as he sang. I remembered his anger. I remembered when his companion said, “Bastards,” and I realized I didn’t know if she meant the godnappers, or the gods who’d let themselves be taken, who’d let everyone down.
    • The Buzzard’s Egg (p. 121)
  • Joanna took Mel to Dresden, to the Frauenkirche. The timed their visit to coincide with a monthly English evensong. “Firebombs not enough?” Mel whispered. “Now we inflict Anglicanism on them?”
    • Säcken (p. 127)
  • Annalise’s fantasies involve disappearance. She catastrophizes all the time, and makes things worse than they need to be by doing so.
    • Dreaded Outcome (p. 159)
  • She knows most of this, to some extent, and she knows she’s depressed, but if knowing the problem was the solution, most patients wouldn’t need us at all.
    • Dreaded Outcome (p. 159)
  • “Do you even know why you’re angry with me?” Simone shouted.
    “Oh, I’ll figure something out,” Tova said.
    • After the Festival (p. 196)
  • You were sick of sentimentality, of the moralism, maneuvering, and malice that comes with it.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 202)
  • We know the axes on which we should judge, and age has never been one.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 203)
  • That was a salvo of something against something.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 209)
  • I told myself I had no choice but in a situation like that the choice you have is how you go about not having a choice.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 211)
  • “So what’s your alternative?” people say, as if that’s logic. We don’t have to have an alternative, that’s not how critique works. We may do, and if we do, you’re welcome, but if we don’t that no more invalidates our hate for this, for what is, than does that of a serf for her lord, her flail-backed insistence that this must end, whether or not she accompanies it with a blueprint for free wage labour. Than does the millennially paced rage of the steepening shelf of the benthic plain for a system imposed by the cruelest and most crass hydrothermal vent, if that anemone-crusted angle of descent does not propose a submerged lake of black salt.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 215)
  • How is it appropriate to feel? she thought. Only humans dread. Dread is appropriate to nothing. It’s the surplus of animal fear, it’s never indicated, it’s nothing but itself.
    • Keep (p. 280)
  • They think I’m old-fashioned? Is being against racism and hatred old-fashioned? OK, I’m old-fashioned.
    • The Junket (p. 320)
  • Moral your artistic proclivities are not, nor fitting for a physician, though I won’t deny the skill in them. They are, I will say it, unnatural.
    • The Design (p. 374)
  • It was an unusually hot afternoon. One of those days all slowly ambling bumblebees and honeysuckle and so forth, at which the English countryside, when it puts its mind to it, excels, and quite unlike any summer day anywhere else. Calm and still and lovely, but never without a sense of something impending. The sort of day one misses even as one experiences it.
    • The Design (p. 377)

Perdido Street Station (2000)Edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books
  • She was intelligent enough to realize that her excitement was childish, but not mature enough to care.
    • p. 32
  • We have watched mutant creatures crawl from sewers into cold flat starlight and whisper shyly to each other, drawing maps and messages in faecal mud.
    I have sat with the wind at my side and seen cruel things, wicked things.
    My scars and bonestubs itch. I am forgetting the weight, the sweep, the motion of wings. If I were not garuda I would pray. But I will not obeise myself before arrogant spirits.
    • p. 51
  • "Art’s something you choose to make … it’s a bringing together of … of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person."
    • p. 82
  • Now what are we looking at right here? What’s bang in the middle? Some people think that’s mathematics there. Fine. But if maths is the study that best allows you to think your way to the centre, what’re the forces you’re investigating? Maths is totally abstract, at one level, square roots of minus one and the like, but the world is nothing if not rigorously mathematical. So this is a way of looking at the world which unifies all the forces: mental, social, physical.
    • pp. 145-146
  • This was the most difficult, the most extraordinary transition. Her body had been a source of shame and disgust; to engage in activities with no purpose at all except to revel in their sheer physicality had first nauseated, then terrified, and finally liberated her.
    • p. 188
  • Lin realized that she was living in an unsustainable realm. It combined sanctimony, decadence, insecurity and snobbery in a weird, neurotic brew. It was parasitic.
    • p. 188
  • Andrej’s mind, like any sane human’s … was a constantly convulsing dialectical unity of consciousness and subconsciousness, the battening down and channelling of dreams and desires, the recurring re-creation of the subliminal by the contradictory, the rational-capricious ego. And vice versa. The interaction of levels of consciousness into an unstable and permanently self-renewing whole.
    • p. 553
  • To take the choice of another … to forget their concrete reality, to abstract them, to forget that you are a node in a matrix, that actions have consequences. We must not take the choice of another being. What is community but a means to … for all we individuals to have … our choices.
    • p. 607

The Scar (2002)Edit

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books
  • Tearfly looked at Bellis curiously, bewildered by her ignorance. She did not care. What was important to her was where she was fleeing from, not where she was, or where she was going.
    • Part 1 “Channels”, chapter 2 (p. 21)
  • I’m not waiting to die, I don’t believe I’ll die, I am waiting for something else.
    To arrive. To understand. To be at my destination.
    • Part 1 “Channels”, Interlude II (p. 65)
  • She felt so alien, bowed under culture shock as crippling as migraine.
    • Part 2 “Salt”, chapter 6 (p. 78)
  • Neither dust nor light stirred. It was as if time had been bled dry and given up.
    • Part 3 “The Compass Factory”, chapter 20 (p. 241)
  • For every action, there’s an infinity of outcomes. Countless trillions are possible, many milliards are likely, millions might be considered probable, several occur as possibilities to us as observers—and one comes true.
    • Part 6 “Morning Walker”, chapter 34 (p. 394)
  • We say what happens now. We’re taking control. We’re turning around; we’re heading home. Your orders to proceed...are in-fucking-validated.
    • Part 7 “The Lookout”, chapter 47 (p. 557)

Iron Council (2004)Edit

All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Del Rey Books ISBN 978-0-345-45842-1
  • She shouted, “Arms and tongues, Spiral?” and waggled her arms and stuck out her tongue, and the old man crowed and did the same. “He’s for the first, against the second, as I recall,” she said to Ori. “Has he chanted for you? ‘Too much yammer, not enough hammer.’”
    • Part 2 “Returns”, chapter 8 (p. 85)
  • The chief was a thuggish man: nervous, Cutter saw, because he knew he was a mediocrity become by kink of history a ruler.
    • Part 3 “Wineland”, chapter 12 (p. 130)
  • Judah knows the trow will be eradicated and their homes lost to history, but he will not be party to it, and he has tried to stand in its way.
    • “Anamnesis” (p. 191)
  • I want to know everything, he says.
    • “Anamnesis” (p. 202)
  • When the rich grow afraid, they get nasty. We say: A government for need not greed!
    • “Anamnesis” (p. 222)
  • Ori supposed there were as many unspeakable stories as there were men come back from war.
    • Part 4 “The Hainting”, chapter 15 (p. 314)
  • “History...” Jacobs spoke with terse authority. Brought Ori to a hush. “Is all full. And dripping. With the corpses. Of them who trusted the incorruptible.”
    • Part 4 “The Hainting”, chapter 15 (p. 319)
  • “We’re all racing,” he said.
    “Yeah, but some of us in the wrong direction.”
    • Part 6 “The Caucus Race”, chapter 20 (p. 364)

Un Lun Dun (2007)Edit

All page numbers from the hardcover American first edition published by Del Rey Books ISBN 978-0-345-49516-7
  • “My dad hates umbrellas,” said Deeba, swinging her own. “When it rains he always says the same thing. ‘I do not believe the presence of moisture in the air is sufficient reason to overturn society’s usual sensible taboo against wielding spiked clubs at eye level.’”
    • Chapter 3, “The Visiting Smoke” (p. 11)
  • Throw something away and you declare it obsolete.
    • Chapter 12, “Safe Conduct” (p. 52)
  • There are no cats in UnLondon, for example, because they’re not magic and mysterious at all, they’re idiots.
    • Chapter 12, “Safe Conduct” (p. 53)
  • It had some allies. Believe me, there’s nothing so terrible that someone won’t support it.
    • Chapter 22, “History Lessons” (p. 90)
  • “Destiny’s bunk,” said the book. “That’s why this lot aren’t the Propheseers anymore.”
    “From here on in,” said Mortar, “we’re the Order of Suggesters.”
    • Chapter 98, “Fit for Heroes” (p. 419)

The City & the City (2009)Edit

All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Del Rey Books ISBN 978-0-345-49752-9
  • There is no theology so desperate that you can’t find it.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 38)
  • “She probably used proxies and a cleaner-upper online too, because there was bugger-all of interest in her cache.”
    “You have no idea what you’re saying, do you, boss?”
    “None at all. I had the techies write it all out phonetically for me.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 139)
  • It is more foolish and childish to assume there is a conspiracy, or that there is not?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 141)
  • He tried to grin but it did not go well.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 297)

Kraken: An Anatomy (2010)Edit

All page numbers from the American first hardcover edition published by Ballantine Books ISBN 978-0-345-49749-9
All italics as in the book
  • Folklore was self-generating.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 29)
  • “I’m asking you all to have faith. Don’t be afraid. ‘How could it have gone?’ people have asked me. ‘Why aren’t the gods doing anything?’ Remember two things. The gods don’t owe us anything. That’s not why we worship. We worship because they’re gods. This is their universe, not ours. What they choose they choose and it’s not ours to know why.”
    Christ, thought Billy, what a grim theology. It was a wonder they could keep anyone in the room, without the emotional quid pro quo of hope.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 101)
  • “I know, I know,” Moore said. “Mad beliefs like that, eh? Must be some metaphor, right? Must mean something else?” Shook his head. “What an awfully arrogant thing. What if faiths are exactly what they are? And mean exactly what they say?”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 105)
  • It should be illegal to be so much younger than me.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 121)
  • Why wouldn’t the gods of the world be giant squid? What better beast? It wouldn’t take much to imagine those tentacles closing around the world, now would it?
    • Chapter 24 (p. 145)
  • Word got around. It does that. A city like London was always going to be a paradox, it’s so very riddled with the opposite, so Swiss-cheesed with moral holes. All those alternative pathways to the official ones and to those that made Londoners proud: there’d be quite contrary tendencies.
    There, there was no state worth shit, no sanctions but self-help, no homeostasis but that of violence. The specialist police dipped in, and were tolerated as a sect or offhandedly killed like the cack-handed anthropologists. “Oh, here we go, FSRC again,” wink wink stab stab.
    Even absent a sovereign, things in London chugged on effectively. Might made right, and that was no moral precept but a statement of simple fact. It really was law, this law enforced by bouncers, bruisers and bounty hunters, venal suburban shoguns. Absolutely Fanny Adams to do with justice. Have your opinions about that, by all means—London had its social bandits—but that was fact.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 181)
  • We want the same thing, you and me. If we can mess with them, everyone’s happy. Except them. Which is the point, right?”
    • Chapter 32 (p. 185)
  • There are people out there who’d rather be tools than people.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 252)
  • That was how he did it. He was never just a thug. Just thugs only ever got so far. The best thugs were all psychologists.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 253)
  • The tricky bit with this technique was not getting the summons to work: it was to not summon too much.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 254)
  • “Whether you agree with the bloody predicates or not, Constable Collingswood, you should consider the possibility that faith might be a way of thinking more rigorously than the woolly bullshit of most atheists. It’s not an intellectual mistake.” He tapped his forehead. “It’s a way of thinking about all sorts of other things, as well as itself. The Virgin birth’s a way of thinking about women and about love. The ark is a far more bloody logical way of thinking about the question of animal husbandry than the delightful ad hoc thuggery we’ve instituted. Creationism’s a way of thinking I am not worthless at a time when people were being told and shown they were. You want to get angry about that bloody admirable humanist doctrine, and why would you want to blame Clinton. But you’re not just too young, you’re too bloody ignorant to know about welfare reform.”
    They stared at each other. It was tense, and weirdly slightly funny.
    “Yeah but,” Collingswood said cautiously. “Only, it’s not totally admirable, is it, given that it’s total fucking bollocks.”
    They stared some more.
    “Well,” Vardy said. “That is true. I would have to concede that, unfortunately.” Neither of them laughed, but they could have done.
    • Chapter 42 (pp. 257-258)
  • The sea. I bet you the sea might have ideas. Wouldn’t surprise me if the bastard ocean might have a little something to do with all this. Stands to reason, right? Taking back what’s its? Render unto sea, sir.
    • Chapter 44 (p. 268)
  • “And for what it’s worth, which in my professional opinion isn’t a bloody lot, I’ll pray for you.”
    “Pray to what?” Marge said. He smiled. The jukebox played “Wise Up Sucker” by Pop Will Eat Itself.
    “Fuck it,” the man said. “Tell you what. What’s the point collecting stuff you don’t use? I’ll pray to all of them.”
    • Chapter 44 (p. 268)
  • In London, Heresiopolis was always the draw. Some midnight-of-all or other was predicted every few days or nights. Most came to nothing, leaving relevant prophets cringing with a unique embarrassment as the sun rose. It was a very particular shame, that of now ex-worshipers avoiding each other’s eyes in the unexpected aftermath of “final” acts—crimes, admissions, debaucheries and abandon.
    Believers tried to talk the universe into giving their version a go.
    • Chapter 58 (p. 353)
  • London is an endless skirmish between angles and emptiness.
    • Chapter 61 (p. 377)
  • Could you really feel the hand of destiny while pointing a Glock?
    • Chapter 62 (p. 385)
  • Byrne was good, her expertise indispensable, her commitment to the project swiftly personal, but she could not unwind death itself. Only filigree it, in certain ways.
    • Chapter 67 (p. 420)
  • He planned his funeral, his oration, the invitations, the snubs, but that, death itself, was always Plan B. How, he would have said to his specialists, might we bypass this unpleasantness?
    • Chapter 67 (p. 420)
  • This was the remnant of honour, nostalgic for spurious legendary times.
    • Chapter 67 (p. 421)
  • “Paul knows where we are.”
    “What are you talking about?” Billy said. He gestured beyond the trailer. “I don’t know where we are and I’m there.”
    • Chapter 69 (p. 429)
  • So long as it fated, fate didn’t care what it fated.
    • Chapter 80 (p. 496)
  • He had remembered Vardy’s melancholy, the rage in him, and what Collingswood had once said. She was right. Vardy’s tragedy was that his faith had been defeated by the evidence, and he could not stop missing that faith. He was not a creationist, not any longer, not for years. And that was unbearable to him. He could only wish that his erstwhile wrongness had been right.
    • Chapter 80 (p. 497)

Embassytown (2011)Edit

  • It felt like being a child again, though it was not. Being a child is like nothing. It's only being. Later, when we think about it, we make it into youth.
    • Chapter "Formerly, 2"
  • Before the humans came, we didn't speak so much of certain things. Before the humans came, we didn't speak so much. Before the humans came, we didn't speak.
    • p 148-149

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