China Mieville - no alien visitors just yet!

china.gif China Mieville has written some of the most profound and imaginative dark fantasy since Mervyn Peake and, perhaps more successfully than anyone writing in (or out) of genre, has captured the sheer size and multi-layered complexity of the Big City from London in King Rat to the unforgettable sprawl of New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station. Successful author and academic, Mieville is also a political activist, member of the British Socialist Workers Party, and occasional contributor to The Socialist Review.

In January he contributed a sardonic article called The Struggle for Intergalactic Socialism, a title that encapsulates his political and genre interests - Trotskyism and SF.

The Struggle for Intergalactic Socialism is considerably less serious than his other contributions (read The Lies That Aren't Meant To Deceive Us for a dose of justifiable anger), although there is purpose here too. The premise of the article is that 'The desire to meet "higher life forms" is just another expression of enthusiasm for socialism from above - way above', in other words, it reveals a yearning for intervention from enlightened (socialist) aliens 'on behalf of earth's oppressed masses'. Mieville goes on to explain his lack of enthusiasm for visitors from outer space:

We socialist SF fans ... definitely do not want aliens to visit. Because to be dropped in on by higher life forms while the world is still in the disgusting, shameful chaos of capitalism would simply be too embarrassing. It would be the cosmic equivalent of having unexpected guests pop over for a drink when the house is a mess...

The socialist position on alien visitations is like St Augustine's position on chastity and continence: we're all in favour of them, just not yet.

I don't agree with everything Mieville has to say. I'm certainly not taken by his dismissal of Tolkien's work as reactionary - yes, I agree it's reactionary, but to dismiss it for that is to throw the baby out with the bath water. But whether or not you agree with his explanation in The Struggle for Intergalactic Socialism for why we're in the mess we're in (capitalism), it's hard to fault his grimly humorous conclusion!

China Mieville is the author of four novels - King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council (all highly recommended) - a novella, The Tain, a collection of short stories, Looking for Jake, and a doctoral thesis published as Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law (on my list of books to be read). His latest work is a young adult fantasy called Un Lun Dun.

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