China Starts the Week

On Monday China Miéville was one of the four guests on Radio 4’s Start The Week program, which is available as a podcast from the BBC (hopefully in all territories).

China is on at the end, but the whole thing is worth a listen. Indeed in many ways it is a SpecFic special as two of the other authors discussed, Dante and Shakespeare, where not shy of turning their backs on realism. Also China gets to comment in the other sections.

The discussion of EmbassyTown is fairly short but interesting. Host Andrew Marr clearly had difficulty with the SF and the usefulness of cognitive estrangement, but was smart enough to pick up on some Swift references which would anchor the book for his non-genre listeners. I was fascinated to see that A.N. Wilson absolutely loved the book. Now I want to get him and John Mullan together in a cage fight.

My main memory of the program, however, is going to be Andrew Marr mistakenly identifying Dante’s classic work as Paradise Lost. From now on, every time I make a stupid mistake in a podcast, I shall remember that.

Talking of EmbassyTown and podcasts, it is one of the books featured in the latest edition of The Writer and the Critic — one which was recorded live at Continuum 7 in Melbourne and guest-started Cat Valente. As often happens, Mondy and Kirsten get into a big fight about the book, and the messages it may or may not contain. In this case they are arguing mainly about the colonialism theme and whether or not the humans should have left the Akiekei alone in their apparent state of innocent bliss. Kirsten will doubtless be pleased to hear China, in the BBC program, talking about the Akiekei’s language being Edenic.

My own view is that China is far cleverer than most reviews have given him credit for. The colonialism theme is obvious, and like Kirsten and Mondy we can argue over the rights and wrongs of the human actions. However, in my own review for Salon Futura I argued that it is possible to read the Ariekei as being a metaphor for ourselves being colonized by the media and having to learn to understand the lies we are being told. When you do that, suddenly you are in the position of identifying with the Ariekei rather than with the humans, and your views as to whether you want to have your consciousness raised can change. That in turn feeds back into our thoughts about colonialism.

One thought on “China Starts the Week

  1. We’re still arguing about it!

    But you’re reading is fascinating and not one I’d thought of. Thanks for that.

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