Category Archives: speculative fiction

Weird Council, China Mieville and runners who unsee

I’m not an English lit person but I thought that I should write a non-research, non-expert post about China Mieville – as I’m slowly becoming immersed into his books. This is for two reasons mainly: first, I wonder whether the phenomenon of the author’s public boom-recognition is limited amongst academics or whether non-academics are fascinated by Mieville’s work to the same extent. After all, and as it was made clear in the plenary discussion during the Weird Council conference earlier this month (see video below), Mieville is an academic, he writes critical theory when he doesn’t write fiction and it’s interesting to ask what this means to his fiction and whether recognising this critical element in his fiction is essentially what makes reading pleasurable for academics (See for instance the fascinating comments, by conference delegates mostly, on Twitter #mieville2012, collated here as a nice story by Martin Eve). I think though that an additional factor for the pertinence of Mieville’s work eluded the plenary, for obvious reasons: his habitus, as a man in front of a camera in the numerous interview clips that can be found on YouTube, or as a key – photogenic – figure in the debate about the future of the book. I would think this is kind of important – he is basically the epitome of cool, in a dark way, of course.

I had difficulty reading Mieville’s prose (it seemed too flat to me, almost boring) until I listened to him read his work (For instance, listen to the ‘Three moments of an explosion’ here). Then I realised that there is a certain rhythm in his language that needs to be listened to – so I started reading loudly to myself. It all made sense.

The second reason for the post is today’s run. I often run with a friend who is Canadian and we end up talking about living in Britain and cultural differences – our primary issue being what we both perceive as, well, more or less rudeness. We’ve both noticed how in the UK runners don’t ususally acknowledge each other when their paths cross – similarly, cyclists rarely do. Today I counted encounters during my run and came home pleased with the two genuine nod&smile occurences (in 25 crossings with other runners). And I kept thinking of unseeing in everyday life, I kept thinking of The City and the City.

* This post specially dedicated to a good friend who moans that he needs a dictionary to access my writing.

** I didn’t attend the conference.

the sticky fingers of time

I watched Hilary Brougher’s The Sticky Fingers of Time (1997) the other day, an independent SF time-travel film that comments on gender, sexuality and racialised issues – and is also fun to watch. There is a good review out there, ‘Ofelia’s Kiss: Racing the Sticky Fingers of Time’, though my interest was on time understood as potential – and how intersting that the film finds this potential in the past.

Strange days and the dispossesed

I continue my explorations these days into pleasurable sci-fi territories I’d forgotten about during my doctoral study (contrary to what the Thesis whisperer blogger describes as her experience of repression during PhD study, I didn’t binge any trash fiction literature during my study – well, except for a bit of True Blood). And so I watched Kathryn Bigelow’s film Strange Days (1995) and the Lawnmower Man (1992) again, and will spend winter holidays probably watching again some VR, time travel and AI classics. Strange Days was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman director to win an Oscar for the 2008 film The Hurt Locker. The film received substantial attention when it was released, especially since ideas about virtual life and cyberspace (and the vocabulary that emerged to describe technological change and new mediated experiences) were quite popular at the time. The film represents a dystopian version of pre -Y2K Los Angeles -is interesting because Continue reading