Appropriate Means
An Interview with China Miéville

Interviewed by Mark Bould

[from New Politics, vol. 9, no. 3 (new series),
whole no. 35, Summer 2003]

CHINA MIÉVILLE is the author of three highly regarded fantasy novels -- King Rat (1998), the award-winning Perdido Street Station (2000), The Scar (2002) -- and the novella The Tain (2002). He has served on the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism since 1998, and in 2001 he stood as a Socialist Alliance candidate in the British general election.

MARK BOULD is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. He is on the editorial board of Historical Materialism and an editorial consultant for Science Fiction Studies. He is the author of The Cinema of John Sayles (Wallflower 2004) and Film Noir: From Fritz Lang to Fight Club (Wallflower 2005).


AS FAR BACK AS Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) writers have used science fiction and horror conventions for their own literary and political purposes. In this interview one of the new stars of genre-based storytelling talks about Tolkein, Surrealism, Marxism and the special significance of collective action.

Mark Bould: Let's begin by discussing your fiction. When did you start writing?

China Miéville: Pretty much as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I loved doing it at school, and since I was in my early teens I took it seriously as something I might want to try to do with my life. Becoming a writer was inextricably bound up with the question of science fiction (sf) and fantasy; I was interested in writing because I loved reading, and what I loved reading -- as a kid in particular -- was genre-based fiction. So my passion for writing came from that.

MB: Which authors do you see as being most influential on your work?

CM: When I was reading sf and fantasy as a kid, I wasn't really conscious of there being different schools. I didn't really know that there was this stream of writing and that stream of writing, so I was reading Jack Chalker and Robert Silverberg and Mike Moorcock and M. John Harrison and some of the older stuff like H.P. Lovecraft and some of the classics of Golden Age science fiction, but once I became a bit more conscious of the fact that there were different streams within the genres, I noticed that I'd never really got on with a lot of the classic sf. I never really enjoyed Robert A. Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov. It's not that I never read them, but they weren't my loves. The fiction that most inspired me, that I most loved, was that which I then discovered was part of what was called the New Wave: writers like Michael Moorcock, M. John Harrison, Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, Pamela Zoline -- the writers who were writing around New Worlds magazine in Britain -- and the writers doing the American version of the New Wave, like Thomas Disch, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg (who predated it but was quite open-minded about it). Subsequently, other traditions became very important to me, like the Weird Tales tradition and some non-generic traditions -- Surrealism in particular -- and also individual writers in no particular category, like the Zimbabwean Dambudzo Marechera.

Assessing the Value of Fantasy

MB: People often seem to find it odd that a materialist should be drawn to fantasy and, although probably to a slightly lesser extent, sf. What's the value of fantasy for a Marxist?

CM: I have to preface this by saying that this is all theorisation after the fact, that I didn't set out to develop a Marxist defence of fantasy. It was the literature that I knew and loved, and as I grew into a political and theoretical consciousness I tried to make sense of that.

The other thing is that for me fantasy and sf and supernatural horror are very much triangulation points in the same broad field of fantastic literature. It's not all that uncommon for Marxists to be into sf; and for me, my love of certain types of fantasy and horror is part of exactly the same process as my love of sf. And you're right, there is a nervousness about that on the left, partly because there's a sort of unconscious, default, almost Stalinist notion about the functionality of literature that is part of a lot of Marxist thinking on this. I've had people react slightly nervously to the fact that I write and love ghost stories, and feeling the need to point out to me that ghosts don't actually exist, as if this is something that one has to be a bit worried about. You see this kind of thinking in its most theoretically sophisticated forms in critics like Darko Suvin, whose extremely influential Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (1979) drew a very sharp distinction between sf and fantasy on the basis that fantasy, being about never-possible things, was mystificatory. To me, that is a misunderstanding of what literature is about, what literature is for. And I think it is also inconsistent. Suvin has recently modified his position somewhat, but I don't think even back in the day he would have said it about someone like Franz Kafka or Mikhail Bulgakov. There's an inconsistency on the left between the treatment of, on the one hand, genre fantasy -- fantasy which surrenders itself to the internal logic of its own fantastic -- and, on the other, the slightly oneiric fantasy of people like Kafka. To me literature should not be about a straightforward reflection on the real world; and so I have no problems with fantasy. I have gone into some detail about this in my introduction to the Historical Materialism symposium on Marxism and fantasy; I've tried to indicate some of the specifics of how one can approach fantasy a little more open-mindedly. But this starts from the fact that I loved the literature and didn't get my knickers in a twist. It didn't bother me. I loved it, I enjoyed loving it, and I could see no contradiction at all in loving it and in being a Marxist.

MB: Since the 1960s fantasy has inevitably been cast in the shadow of J.R.R. Tolkien, and consequently there has been a widespread perception that fantasy is engaged in a nostalgic embrace of the idiocy of rural, hobbit life. But your novels are resolutely urban fantasies: both King Rat and The Tain offer vividly imagined versions of London; London is also visible through the sprawling city of New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station; and despite setting The Scar almost entirely at sea most of the action takes place in a vast floating city called the Armada. What is the attraction of the city, and of London in particular?

CM: For some reason, London is one of the cities that refracts literature with a peculiarly intense hallucinatory power: think about Thomas De Quincey and Charles Dickens, through to Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair and Neil Gaiman, and other younger writers who I think have been neglected, like ‘Two Fingers' and ‘James T. Kirk', the authors of the drum'n'bass novel Junglist. London has this intensity, and I see myself writing in this London tradition. I grew up in London, and London is an influence on me, but at least as much an influence on me as the real London is the literary refraction of London. And, in broader, political terms, city life is simply more interesting to me than rural life (of which I've had a bit: didn't like it, came back). Again, after the fact, one can think of all kinds of political reasoning.

The nostalgia for rural life in Tolkien and all his innumerable grandchildren is politically very problematic. There are two things I'd want to say about that, though. First, although I'm on record at tedious length about how much I don't particularly like Tolkien and have all sorts of problems with him, we should not dis Tolkien for the crimes of his epigones, who came after and are immeasurably worse and less interesting and more straightforwardly reactionary than he. And second, the fact that a reactionary -- contradictorily but, I think, broadly reactionary -- impulse is evident in his writing, his aesthetic, is not of course a reason to dismiss him. There are plenty of writers whose politics do not stand in the way of their creating brilliant literature -- most famously Balzac for Marx, but also Louis-Ferdinand Céline or, within genre fantasy, Gene Wolfe -- and their politics is so embedded in their prose that you cannot simply get away from it either, you have to engage with it. The problem with Tolkien is that the prose itself, the form of the writing, intersects with his reactionary aesthetic so as to create what is, for me, very flat literature.

For my part, I start simply by being more interested in cities and then, as a political person, I try to politicise that fact in my own writing. Having said that, in the novel I'm writing at the moment, quite a lot of it takes place not in a city: that's because I'm trying to mediate my own interest in urban environments through more than simply the constant repetition of a hallucinatorily there city. That is fine but is a limited way of doing it.

But one thing you've pointed out there which I think is very important in the left's suspicion of fantasy is the rapid creation of genre fantasy. People don't seem to realise it is really a very recent phenomenon. You are talking about post-1950s; and, in its intense and self-conscious form, post-1960s. Before that, not only would you not have had a problem with leftists being interested in, say, Fritz Leiber, but Fritz Leiber himself was a leftist, albeit of a gentle liberal stamp, as were a lot of writers who were around that environment in the States. Judith Merril was a Trotskyist, apparently.

MB: One of the things that makes urban fantasy interesting is the extent to which it enables or encourages writers to move away from a Manichean conflict between good and evil. In Perdido Street Station you have the economics going on behind the events, and The Scar becomes very much a critique of colonialism. Is this tendency in your work a conscious attempt to revise the parameters established by Tolkien's popularity?

CM: Yes, it is in both cases, but I'd be anxious about making it sound professorial. I don't come at writing these books as a leftist wanting to kick against the pricks by writing a revisionist fantasy novel. I come at this as a lover of fantastic literature who wants to write the kind of fantasy novel or sf novel that I would like to read. Having said which, as a political person who is fairly interested in what is by now no longer a terribly radical thing to do -- to question the structures of the genre -- I do try to do that. For example, writing Perdido Street Station, I started with wanting to write a big fat sprawling gothic book with loads and loads of monsters in it; I then thought that one of the ways to do that that would be interesting for me would be to interrogate the structures of fantasy and write a deliberately anti-Tolkienesque fantasy. Having decided the basic thrust of the story and the aesthetic, I then made a checklist of the kind of things Tolkien does and set out to invert them: so where his is a feudal world, mine is capitalist; his is rural, mine is urban; his is very Manichean in its morality, mine is all about shades of grey -- and not even shades of grey, really, but genuinely insoluble moral and political conundrums, where there is no right answer. With The Scar even more so. I wanted to write a really good romping adventure, a big pirate book with lots of monsters and pirates hitting each other with swords and journeys looking for hidden treasure. I wanted to write that kind of yarn I love, but I also thought that whereas in Perdido Street Station I'd been critiquing and subverting Tolkien, in The Scar I wanted to look at the structures of quest fantasy as it has developed since Tolkien and to write an anti-quest. Quests are a very strong tradition in fantasy, and I wanted to take a lot of the structural tropes of the quest and undermine them at every step.

When you talk about revisionism, there are two different levels to that. One is political, in the sense that to write an anti-colonial novel is to be historically and politically revisionist vis-a-vis colonialism itself. The other is that in the field of fantasy there are such strong generic traditions, that you can also be a revisionist at the level of the generic tradition. So you end up writing a book that is both an anti- fantasy and an anti-colonialist anti-fantasy. Which, now I've said it, sounds rather grandiose.

MB: And this must be one of the areas where you are most aware of the influence of M. John Harrison, who with his novel Climbers finally succeeded in writing a fantasy novel with absolutely no fantasy in it.

CM: Absolutely. Mike Harrison is probably the biggest single influence on me, although our prose styles are radically different. He is an absolute giant figure. His career for the last twenty-five years has basically been a kind of degutting of fantasy from the inside. One difference between me and Mike is that I'm more or less at ease with my own pulp roots. I'm much pulpier than he is, I like the pulp tradition, for all its faults, and I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with fantasy; I just think the way it's been done creates all sorts of problems. Whereas Mike genuinely thinks there is something inescapably shallow and escapist about the form of fantasy, and although he can't leave it alone -- at one level he loves it and is fascinated by it -- his critique is in some ways more fundamental and punitive than mine.

The Legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien

MB: One of the things that does seem to link Tolkien, particularly The Lord of the Rings , with your work is suffering. The amount his characters suffer is something many of his imitators just don't seem to notice and is peculiarly absent from their work; and yet your novels often seem to be full of suffering and grief.

CM: I think you're right about this, and that there is a real danger here of creating a kind of pornography of grief. It's something I'm concerned with: endlessly putting your characters through the emotional mill as a kind of spurious seriousness-by-numbers. And I think if I have a tendency, it's that, and I worry about it and try not to do it. But you're right about the fact that followers of Tolkien often don't seem to notice the suffering.

One of the reasons I make my characters suffer quite a lot is because I am genuinely interested in this question of insoluble conundrums, situations in which one cannot take a correct position, and they are often around the results and causes of suffering, and so it gets thrown up a lot. That is in stark contrast to the worst of the post-Tolkien fantasists. However, although Tolkien is much more interesting than they, mine is also a different approach to suffering than Tolkien's, because for Tolkien suffering is Tragic-with-a-capital-‘T'. At some level it is redemptive. I wouldn't want to over-egg that, because I wouldn't want to suggest that everything happens for the best in Tolkien, but there is a sense in which the suffering of Tolkien's characters is a moment of immense transcendent moral purpose.

I'm interested in the contingency of suffering, and one of the things I've tried to get away from is the notion of transcendental moralism of any sort. The fact that there is no straightforwardly happy ending in Tolkien -- which is one of the things that makes him more interesting than many of his followers -- does not mean that his are not books structured by transcendent moralism. Tolkien famously said that fantasy should be about consolation. Now some people have argued that the end of The Lord of the Rings is very sad, and is therefore not consolatory. But that's a misunderstanding of consolation. A happy ending is merely the most banal and vulgar form of consolation. Tolkien's consolation is substantially more thoughtful and critical, but it is still consolatory because it is still about coming to terms with something -- the status quo, the vale of tears, whatever -- and it is predicated on transcendent moralism.

I try to structure my books around the contingency of agency, and that's not an anarchism or a nihilism, it's about people in a messy reality genuinely struggling to do their best morally and politically, and that sometimes this causes contradictions. My books are about people who try to live and love together in a system that is not structured according to transcendent morals, and therefore the tragedy of suffering is not a capital ‘T' moral Tragedy. The tragedy is precisely that it is contingent. Sometimes it's the result of cock-ups, and sometimes because of human venality or oppression. Sometimes there's an easy way out, sometimes there isn't. The characters are trying to deal with the complexity of an order in which the only morals are the ones that we create.

MB: Part of that transcendence in Tolkien and many of his imitators is the inherent racism which structures their fictional worlds, in which characters are defined in terms of traits that their entire species is said to possess. Your rejection of this logic is particularly noticeable in Perdido Street Station.

CM: I think we need to be a little bit generous here. This is not to say that Tolkien was personally a racist, and in fact he was splendidly angry with his German publishers for trying to ascertain whether he was Aryan. He was appalled by their anti-semitism. However, the point about Tolkien and his heirs is that whether or not they are racist, whether or not their characters are racist, theirs are worlds in which racism is true, in that people really are defined by their race. If you are an Orc in Middle-Earth you are, definitionally, a shit; if you are an elf, you might be difficult to deal with but you are, definitionally, noble. What I tried to do with Perdido Street Station was create a world in which racism was very real but also wasn't true. So because this is a world in which racial oppression and racial tension are factors, people are defined racially, and stereotyped. But it is racism that is causal, not race, and there are therefore hundreds and thousands of people who don't fit the clichés; there's even a little section (which probably reads as horribly didactic) in which someone is discussed as being very much not like the stereotype of their own race, and the way racists are able to rationalise that by saying, ‘Yes, but that's Bob; he's my friend, he's different'.

The key is that in traditional fantasy in which race is a defining characteristic, you have worlds where racism is true; in my worlds racism is very important, but it is no more true than it is in our world. Parenthetically, that leaves you with certain interesting situations, because one of the things you are trying to do as a fantasist is to create genuinely alien characters that are precisely not human, but if you have them as sympathetic characters, empathetic characters, characters the reader can understand, then you're not really making them not human. In my books, for example, there is a sense in which although they're full of aliens and creatures and weird monsters, it's kind of a Star Trek alien-ness; it's basically a thin-coating of latex rubber over what are humans of different ethnological traditions. I don't say that as a self-flagellation, because I simply cannot work out a way to be able to create characters that the reader can genuinely identify with that are not therefore, definitionally, empathically human. And so what I do is try to have it both ways: have a large number of monsters with which you can empathise, and which are therefore humans in make-up, really, although they might come from very different cultural traditions and thus behave very differently, and also have a few who are genuinely alien and that think nothing like humans and are therefore only described; I would never try to get inside their heads because if you're inside their heads they're not aliens any more. So I was interested in trying to depict the truly alien, but I didn't want to do that all the way through because it would become kitsch and it would undermine that point about race and racism.

Collective Activism is Irreplaceable

MB: Let's move on to discuss your involvement in politics and activism. Tell me about your political development.

CM: I've been an activist in the broader sense of someone who went on demos and was involved in local organisations since I was a teenager. However, as an activist, I was a radical liberal: I was in the anti-apartheid movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and so on. I identified myself as being on the left, but I did not have much of a theoretical understanding of Marxism beyond the then postmodernist common sense that it was dead, teleological, wrong, and so on. When I was at university, I went to a couple of Socialist Workers Party meetings, and I attended Marxism 1994, the SWP summer school, and was hugely impressed by the extent to which my moronic criticisms of Marxism were systematically taken apart. I had been very disenchanted with postmodernism -- I was studying anthropology and the moral and ethnic relativism of postmodernism really alienated me because it was so unable to deal systematically with the fact of oppression -- and so my radical liberal activism suddenly came face to face with Marxism as a theoretical system. I was hugely attracted to the fact that Marxism could quite calmly explain everything, or at least attempt to. Whether or not you thought it was right, is not what I'm saying; but, for example, I was very attracted to feminist theory but I remember being struck by the fact that it could offer you a plausible theory of women's oppression but it did not have very much to say about, say, exchange-rate fluctuations in the 1970s. Whereas Marxism could do both. I was stunned by that. Whether or not you thought it was right, it had something to say about everything because of its overall theoretical shape. So I went away and started to read up on Marxism. I spent a couple of years familiarising myself with Marxist theory. I did a Masters in International Relations at the London School of Economics, and I was reading up on Marxist theory there, and then I went and studied in the States for a year and was still reading, and also slowly getting to grips with the profusion of far left groups and finding out who was saying what, politically and theoretically. I was still going on demos but now self-consciously as a Marxist. I was always closest to the SWP, because they had introduced me to Marxism, but as I got more to grips with the specifics of theories I did find myself persuaded by their take on most things, and I eventually joined some years ago.

The process of joining a revolutionary organisation had a very big impact on me because it introduced me to a new way of thinking. People are very sceptical of what they think of as groupthink in organisations, and they worry that you lose your independence of mind and so on. Instead, I have been very pleased and excited by this new kind of thinking, which is thinking strategically. I'd never had to think strategically before. It's a combination of political thinking, theoretical thinking, and thinking as part of a collective. I find that very exciting, both politically and intellectually. Since then, I've been active to varying degrees. I was extremely active when I was a parliamentary candidate for the Socialist Alliance.

MB: How did the Socialist Alliance candidacy come about?

CM: I was asked by the local Socialist Alliance. The MP in my area was Karen Buck who had been a loyal follower of the Labour leader Tony Blair. On one level it was extremely bad timing because I had a deadline for The Scar and I had a deadline for my PhD, but I was honoured to be asked, so I sat down and thought about it very seriously -- ‘What will this take? Can I do justice to it?' -- and it was something I couldn't not do. So I devoted two months to it, and poured myself into it. I don't regret it at all and I would certainly do it again.

MB: In what ways do you see an overlap between your activism and your fiction? Do you consider writing fiction itself as a form of activism?

CM: I quite emphatically think my writing is not activism, and I quite emphatically think that that is a really important distinction to maintain. A lot of writers have an amazingly self- important relationship with what it is they do. You saw this a lot in the aftermath of 9/11 when there were a plethora of articles on ‘How do I, as a writer, respond to this?', most of which started off saying something like ‘Writing seems's almost embarrassed to write now; it doesn't seem very important'. Which was an ingenious and totally disingenuous piece of sleight-of-hand, because it's vastly self-important to suggest that what one has to do ‘as a writer' is discover the correct response to this appalling occurrence, to find the correct way of writing. The one that sticks in my mind is Zadie Smith claiming that ‘as a writer' she was now turning to minimalist prose as a response to 9/11. Despite the little feint at self-denigration, what it's actually about is self-importance, it's about saying that our writing is an important intervention into the world, and I don't think that's the case, certainly not in the way implied. I'm not saying that you shouldn't relate to your writing politically -- I think it's wonderful to relate to your writing politically and to think politically about what you do, and to play political games with your writing -- but I think you're really kidding yourself if you see it as activism or as an alternative to activism.

The reason I find it hard to express this is because it may sound like I'm talking about art for art's sake, or about stripping politics out of writing, which is emphatically not what I'm trying to say. I don't think you can and I don't think you should, but reading and writing, even politically, is not the same thing and cannot be a replacement or substitute for collective activism.

The relationship between writing and activism was brilliantly expressed by Benjamin Péret, the Surrealist, who struggled with exactly this question and came up with a brilliant conclusion in his essay ‘The Dishonour of Poets'. He tries to express that dialectical separation and interrelation between activism and writing poetry: ‘[T]he poet struggles against all oppression . . . It does not follow that he wants to put poetry at the service of political, even revolutionary action. But his being a poet has made him a revolutionary who must fight on all terrains: on the terrain of poetry by appropriate means and on the terrain of social action, without ever confusing the two fields of action under penalty of reestablishing the confusion that is to be dissipated and consequently ceasing to be a poet, that is to say, a revolutionary.' It's a lovely little passage because he's trying to express something very hard to express, he's wrestling with this dialectic. Although there's a romanticization of poetry in there, I love the fact that he says it is absolutely crucial to distinguish social action and poetry for the sake of the social activism and for the sake of the poetry. For the sake of being a writer, you have to be clear that what you are doing is writing, whether or not you want to do it polemically and politically, and as a social activist what you are doing is social activism. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I think very hard and very politically about my writing, but that I don't think it is my contribution to the struggle. Collective activism is irreplaceable.

chScholarship and Politics

MB: Where does your academic writing fit?

CM: There's a great deal of suspicion on the left of academicism, and much of it is deserved. There are loads of academics and scholars who write deliberately obfuscatory stuff. There is a tradition whereby they are definitely trying to make things less rather than more accessible, and that is to be opposed. So I understand the concern, but I have to say that for me reading theory, and reading in some cases quite high falutin' theory, was central to becoming a Marxist and an activist. There's no contradiction for me. I'm on the editorial board of Historical Materialism , I completed my PhD that I'm currently trying to turn into a book, and I find reading theory fascinating. Discovering theory at university was extraordinarily intellectually liberating. I know some people are alienated by it, but for me I constantly had the sense of it being like wandering into a whole wing of my head I didn't know existed and turning on the lights, and so I feel that there is a danger about being too philistine about theory. I do recognise the problems, and think that as a socialist you have to constantly guard against unnecessary complexity and obfuscation in expression, but I am very interested in the projects of Marxist theory at all levels. It's analogous in some ways to the question of fiction. There are writers who say my contribution is this fantastic poem I wrote -- which is bollocks -- and equally there are Marxist academics who will look you straight in the eye and tell you that their activism is that they've written this brilliant deconstruction of the transformation problem, or whatever, to which my response would be, ‘Well, it may be a brilliant essay, I may find it incredibly liberating and be delighted that you've written it, but it's not a substitute for collective activism'. Of course that doesn't mean that the theory's not valuable, which is why I work on the board of Historical Materialism and enjoy writing and publishing theoretical stuff.

MB: The editorial work is again in a slightly different position in this relationship in that it is a collective process, and part of the purpose of being on that board is to work collectively both with each other in order to produce the journal but also with the people who submit work to the journal.

CM: I don't think it can be meaningfully thought of as activism just because it is a collective endeavour, but it is about the development of the journal that is itself about the development of Marxist theory as an explanatory force. And as an activist I think its explanatory force is a transformative force, and so it is related to activism but at a remove. For me, if you read a Marxist essay on Bush's war drive, there is a fairly clear connection; if you read a Marxist essay on, say, the relationship between Hegel and Spinoza, the line to activism is considerably more attenuated and opaque. However, because Marxism is a total theory, anything, no matter how obscure, which contributes to the sum of Marxist theory is ultimately a progressive thing. Which obviously shouldn't be taken as carte blanche to write deliberately obscurist stuff, but I'm open to theoretical approaches to quite abstruse things because it fascinates me and makes me more theoretically rigorous, which ultimately affects my activism.

MB: What can you tell me about your PhD?

CM: The title of the PhD is A Historical Materialist Analysis of International Law and the Legal Form, which I'll jazz up slightly for the book, but not much, probably Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law , and it's exactly what it says. It draws on the writings of Pashukanis, the Bolshevik legal theorist, and marries it with the insights of certain radical international legal theorists like Martti Koskenniemi, who is a very brilliant left-postmodernist, and tries to Marxify that. There is not a strong tradition of Marxist theory in international law, but there is a small but very good strain of radical postmodernist writing. The dissertation describes the emergence of the international legal system as the development of the legal form as a logic in the international sphere as being directly related to and an expression of the spread of commodity relations internationally. It talks about the spread of colonialism and mercantilism and the changing nature of international law as you get into the epoch of imperialism. It tries to be the first step toward a Pashukanisite theory of international law.

MB: Where do you think your scholarly work might take you next?

CM: I get really frustrated with discussions about state capitalism. There are people who think this is a dead issue, and there are a lot of people, often leftist academics, who treat the theory of state capitalism as if it is self-evidently moronic. Sometimes I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding on the left about what state capitalist theory is. It's not just about saying ‘We don't like the Soviet Union', it's not just about saying ‘We don't want to ally ourselves with Stalinism'. It is a deeply thought-through, if unfinished, body of theory which attempts to explain the nature of capitalism in general and specific forms of capitalism in particular, and I do wish people would be less intellectually close-minded about it. My thinking along these lines owes a great deal to my partner Emma Bircham who is doing a PhD which directly interrogates some of these issues. I've got really excited about this whole area of theory and so I might try to do some scholarly work on that.

I've also got more and more interested in the theoretical issues surrounding genre, and science fiction, and fantasy, and would like to do some investigations there, but would have to do some frantic reading in literary theory. As ever it's a question of time. Right at the moment I've got some more monster stories to get out of my system first.


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