I’ve just completed an in-depth interview with one of my favourite living authors – China Miéville – to mark the publication of his latest novel, Railsea. If you haven’t read his particular brand of speculative fiction, you’ve got a real treat in store. I’ve pasted a brief (and hopefully intriguing) extract from the middle of the interview below: you can read the entire piece online over at Boing Boing.
China: …I think that obsession and passion—any kind of passion, really, meaning seeing the world through a particular prism—are invaluable and one of the most interesting, if fraught and dangerous, ways to live.
Do you remember, years ago, Channel 4 had a programme that Jon Ronson used to present that was on really late at night, called “For the Love Of…,” and all he would do is sit down at a table with a group of enthusiasts, and they would just talk for a couple of hours? One week, it was model train enthusiasts, the next week tropical fish. He would just be this ingénue, and he would get them to talk, get into arguments, the micro-politics. And it was intoxicating to watch—even/especially if you didn’t know anything about the particular obsession.
The other thing I remember is that, me and my mum, one of the things we used to talk about was a love of specialist magazines. You’d go to a really big newsagent or whatever, where they had a huge selection, and you’d pick up a couple of specialist magazines from an area about which you knew nothing—hiking, model railways, whatever it might be—and very, very quickly you would start to pick up the fact that there are dissidents and mainstreams, all of that. It gave you this extremely passionate window into the “now”.
Tom: Today, of course, you go online, and you can see that the Wikipedia entries for something like Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes are higher quality, better-referenced, longer and better-researched than many entries about the Second World War. You have this strange inversion in collective belief and emphasis, which ends up generating a lot more material a lot more confidently around the small stuff than the big stuff.
China: This is one of the bad things about the geekocratic moment. Even speaking as someone who loves geek culture at its best, nevertheless I think the sense of priorities is often skewed to the point of being demented.
Tom: Passion is very distorting. If the only reference you have is the strength of your own feeling, and you don’t temper it with something like a sense of social good or importance…
China: Yes, if you don’t contextualize it, it becomes disaggregated from totality—and ultimately it’s totality that one is interested in, social totality.