Author Event: China Mieville overlays The City & The City (June 2009)
Author: China Mieville
Book: The City & The City
Sponsor: Harvard Book Store
Venue: First Parish Church; Cambridge, MA
China Mieville is a master. Until you meet him or hear him speak, he is the demigod, the big black ominous fog of Un Lun Dun, the dark force that lurks behind the pages of Perdido Street Station and stares piercingly at you from the back cover so that one can’t help but notice his rippling tatooed biceps, striking piercings, and generally intimidating presence. So naturally, I walked into my first China Mieville author event expecting to cower in the front row before this great Socialist figure (politicians scare me).
I was completely taken aback. Within a couple minutes, and even more so as the evening went on, it became apparent that Mieville was actually rather carefree and … jovial… I might say. A lot of cool and amazing things were said throughout the event. I think I’ll make do with a bit of description and then try to relate some of the highlights of the evening.
I assume by “overlays”, the Harvard Book Store meant “reads”, because it was a reading. Mieville read two passages from The City & The City and it was, well, pretty amazing listening to Mieville speak his own words in his lilting British accent. I had finished the book before the event and followed along in the book, and Mieville changed sentences here and there for continuity. Mieville also manages to talk very fast (both reading and talking) while enunciating every syllable.
And then there was the Q&A session, which was highly amusing. I’ll post here semi-faithful transcripts of some of the more remarkable questions and responses:
Mieville: I declare that The City & The City falls into this genre I named
called noird– from noir and weird…. Noird! Now, I really want to
have it as an established genre. I really want to make up a genre and
have it successful on the internet… yeah… wait… this is going to
be blogged isn’t it? I’m going to find it in a literary blog somewhere
right? Well, anyway, go forth and make noird a genre… fly my pretties!
Q: So, what other books would you say fall into this noird genre?
I don’t know what else would fall into this category. The best part of
this whole thing is just making up the name. It’s like why I
joined/started so many bands when I was younger… the best part was
making up the names.
Q: What were the names of those bands?
Mieville: Well, one day, my band and I were sitting around trying to think of a band name, and one of my band members flicked a peanut.. and another said “watch that peanut go!”. And so, the name of our band was “Watch That Peanut Go!”. (Mieville also talked about band names for other bands he was in like DJ Crisis and Bonerock? I’m not sure if I have either of those correct…)
On Un Lun Dun and writing YA
Mieville: When I was younger, I used to be in my room, and imagine what would
happen if a portal were to SUDDENLY open up under my bed… but only
for a limited time! Like a limited time only portal. And I used to wonder if I was brave enough to crawl into that portal into a magical
land in that instant it opened up. Anyway, that mindset has never quite
left me and I’ve always wanted to write YA…
So that wraps up the more memorable and amazing Mieville moments of the night. Overall, Mieville is simply a fantastic speaker with lots of great energy. He definitely has a boyish charm despite his appearance; I’m going to be making it my business to attend any more Mieville events that pop up.
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