Miéville at Utopiales (2010)
|Born||China Tom Miéville|
6 September 1972
Norwich, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Short-story writer, novelist, essayist and comic book author|
|Literary movement||New Weird|
|Notable works||Perdido Street Station (2000)|
The City & the City (2009)
China Tom Miéville // mee-AY-vəl; born 6 September 1972) is a British urban fantasy fiction author, essayist, comic book writer, socialist political activist and literary critic. He often describes his work as weird fiction and is allied to the loosely associated movement of writers called New Weird.(
Miéville has won numerous awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award (thrice), the British Fantasy Award (twice), Locus Awards for Best Fantasy Novel (four times) and Best Science Fiction Novel and Best Novelette and Best Young Adult Book, as well as the Hugo, Kitschies, and World Fantasy Awards.
Miéville is active in left-wing politics in the UK, and has previously been a member of the International Socialist Organization (US), and the short-lived International Socialist Network (UK). He was formerly a member of the Socialist Workers Party, and in 2013 became a founding member of Left Unity. He stood for Regent's Park and Kensington North for the Socialist Alliance in the 2001 UK General election, gaining 1.2% of votes cast. He published his PhD thesis on Marxism and international law as a book in 2005. During 2012–13 he was writer-in-residence at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2015.
Born in Norwich, Miéville was brought up in Willesden and has lived in London since early childhood. He grew up with his sister Jemima and mother Claudia, a translator, writer and teacher, daughter of Leo Claude Vaux Miéville, whose wife Youla (née Harrison) was granddaughter of the 4th Baron Hatherton. His parents separated soon after his birth, and he has said that he "never really knew" his father. They chose his first name, China, from a dictionary, looking for a beautiful name. By virtue of his mother's birth in New York City, Miéville holds dual American and British citizenship. In 1982 his mother married Paul Lightfoot; they divorced in 1992.
Miéville attended Oakham School, a co-educational independent school in Oakham, Rutland, for two years. At the age of eighteen, in 1990, he taught English for a year in Egypt, where he developed an interest in Arab culture and in Middle Eastern politics.
Miéville studied for a BA degree in social anthropology at Clare College, Cambridge, graduating in 1994, and gained both a master's degree and PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics in 2001. Miéville has also held a Frank Knox fellowship at Harvard University. After becoming dissatisfied with the ability of post-modern theories to explain history and political events, he became a Marxist at university. A book version of his PhD thesis, entitled Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law, was published in the UK in 2005 by Brill in their "Historical Materialism" series, and in the United States in 2006 by Haymarket Books.
Miéville has said he plans to write a novel in every genre. To this end, he has "constructed an oeuvre" that is indebted to genre styles ranging from classic American Western (in Iron Council) to sea-quest (in The Scar) to detective noir (in The City & the City).
Yet Miéville's works all describe fantastical or supernatural worlds or scenarios; Robert Hanks has discussed his work in relation to the categories of science fiction, of fantasy and of "urban surrealism". Miéville has listed M. John Harrison, Michael de Larrabeiti, Michael Moorcock, Thomas M. Disch, Charles Williams, Tim Powers, and J. G. Ballard as literary "heroes"; he has also frequently discussed as influences H. P. Lovecraft, Mervyn Peake, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Gene Wolfe. He has said that he would like his novels "to be read for [his imagined city] New Crobuzon as Iain Sinclair does for London". Miéville has admitted that his books contain some allusions to Russian writers, including Andrei Platonov, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Evgeny Voiskunsky [ru] and Isai Lukodyanov [ru].
Miéville played a great deal of Dungeons & Dragons and similar roleplaying games (RPGs) in his youth. He attributes his tendency to systematisation of magic and theology to this influence. In his novel Perdido Street Station, he refers to characters interested "only in gold and experience". The February 2007 issue of Dragon Magazine interpreted the world presented in his books according to Dungeons & Dragons rules. The Player's Handbook for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons cited his novel Perdido Street Station as a source of inspiration for the game's designers.
Miéville works to move fantasy away from J. R. R. Tolkien's influence, which he finds stultifying and reactionary. He once described Tolkien as "the wen on the arse of fantasy literature". Miéville has cited Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible Trilogy as one of his biggest influences; he wrote an introduction for the trilogy's 2002 reissue. The introduction was eventually left out of the book, but appears on de Larrabeiti's website. Miéville is also indebted to Moorcock, having cited his essay "Epic Pooh" as the source upon which he is "riffing" or even simply "cheerleading" in his critique of Tolkien-imitative fantasy. Despite this, he has praised Tolkien for his contributions to fantasy, especially in a 2009 blog post where he gave 5 reasons why Tolkien was praise-worthy.
Miéville's left-wing politics become evident in his writing (particularly in Iron Council, his third Bas-Lag novel) as do his theoretical ideas about literature. In several panel discussions at conventions about the relationship of politics and writing, he has opposed right-wingers in heated arguments. He has, however, said:
I'm not a leftist trying to smuggle in my evil message by the nefarious means of fantasy novels. I'm a science fiction and fantasy geek. I love this stuff. And when I write my novels, I'm not writing them to make political points. I'm writing them because I passionately love monsters and the weird and horror stories and strange situations and surrealism, and what I want to do is communicate that. But, because I come at this with a political perspective, the world that I'm creating is embedded with many of the concerns that I have. [...] I'm trying to say I’ve invented this world that I think is really cool and I have these really big stories to tell in it and one of the ways that I find to make that interesting is to think about it politically. If you want to do that too, that's fantastic. But if not, isn't this a cool monster?
Miéville has previously been a member of the International Socialist Organization (US) and, until 13 March 2013, was also a member of the Socialist Workers Party (UK). He stood unsuccessfully for the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in the 2001 general election as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance, gaining 459 votes, i.e. 1.2%, in Regent's Park and Kensington North, a Labour constituency.
In August 2013, Mieville was one of nine signatories (along with fellow novelist and former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen, veteran film-maker and socialist Ken Loach, academic Gilbert Achcar and General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Kate Hudson) of an open letter to the Guardian newspaper announcing the foundation of a "new party of the left", to be called Left Unity. The letter, which claims that Labour policies on "austerity" and breaking of ties with trades unions amount to a "final betrayal of the working-class people it was founded to represent", states that Left Unity will be launched at a "founding conference" in London on 30 November 2013 and will provide, as an "alternative" to Labour, "a party that is socialist, environmentalist, feminist and opposed to all forms of discrimination".
In 2015, he was announced as one of the founding editors of a new quarterly, Salvage, with editor-in-chief Rosie Warren, editor Jamie Allinson and contributing editors Richard Seymour, Magpie Corvid and Charlotte Bence.
October, published in 2017, documents the dramatic events of the Russian revolution. Jonathan Steele, reviewed it for The Guardian. Steele considers it an ideological though nuanced retelling: “known as a left-wing activist, … Miéville writes with the brio and excitement of an enthusiast who would have wanted the revolution to succeed. But he is primarily interested in the dramatic narrative — the weird facts — of the most turbulent year in Russia’s history”
A comprehensive list of Miéville's work is available at the ISFDB.
In the corners of literature where such divisions are regarded as important, there is a debate about what genre China Miéville's novels belong to. He has twice won the Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction, but sci-fi purists complain that his frequent breaches of the laws of nature – magic, in other words – place him in the 'fantasy' camp. [...] Miéville himself dislikes that label, with its overtones of elves and dwarves, and has suggested the term 'weird'. A more precise category might be 'urban surrealism': surveying his career so far, it looks as if his central concern is life in the modern city, though filtered through dreams and nightmares.