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General > Which Mieville Books are Which Genre?

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message 1: by Bookwyrm (last edited Jul 27, 2014 04:18PM) (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments Bear with me here, I don't mean are they "New Weird" or Horror or Fantasy or whatever. I read an interview with Mieville where he said he wanted to write a book in "every major genre" or words to that effect. I think it was just after The City & The City, which is obviously his "Detective" novel; he also said that The Iron Council was his "Western" and The Scar was his "Maritime" book, I assume that Railsea is another in that genre.

I wonder if other Mievillians were family with this theme in his work and which books were which "genres"?


message 2: by Traveller (last edited Jul 28, 2014 04:53AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Hi Dewi! Yes, we did discuss it somewhere here on Mievillians, I can't remember where now.

I also remember Mieville feels that his works transcends genre fiction and has a foot in the door to literary fiction.

Though the fantasy elements would make most people shy away from such a possibility, one has to admit that genre boundaries have started to blend and fade with the assaults of post-modern fiction on such boundaries, in that it tends to parody and pastiche genres and styles of writing.


message 3: by Bookwyrm (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments I know it is not a crude insertion of his individual works into particular boxes and yes, Mieveille's work is where genre fiction(s)bleeds over into literary fiction.

Railsea is a pretty odd take on the 19thC high seas adventure novel, TC+TC is an original take on detective fiction, I bet that The Iron Council is a very strange "Western", I just wondered which books he felt were in the vein of which genres.


message 4: by Traveller (last edited Jul 28, 2014 10:19AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Yes, Railsea = 19th century adventure novel slash YA, TC&TC = detective, Iron Council = Western, PSS = Urban Fantasy, I think Embassytown can be seen as space opera (with a philosophical, linguistic twist :P ), Unlundun is children's fiction, King Rat is retold fairly tale ...annnnd.... not sure where I would place The Scar.... marine adventure and spy thriller with BDSM elements ? Haven't read Kraken yet.
And then of course there are short stories and even a comic.


message 5: by Puddin Pointy-Toes (last edited Jul 28, 2014 10:23AM) (new)

Puddin Pointy-Toes (jkingweb) | 201 comments Personally I'd place Embassytown squarely in the science-fiction genre. Its space opera elements are, to me, window dressing and wholely secondary to the speculative human soul-searching typified by the works of Dick and Clark, for instance.

As for The Scar, high-seas adventure is mostly what I got out of it, but political intrigue does indeed play a major part: I'd say that you could easily call it a spy novel. Perdido Street Station defies classification for me, though...


message 6: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Hmm, well, come to think of it, besides urban fantasy, PSS does actually have a lot of horror elements as well? ..and thriller, and... love story, and...


Puddin Pointy-Toes (jkingweb) | 201 comments You see where my difficulty arises. ;)


message 8: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye | 173 comments Kraken now...horrortheology
would you agree?


message 9: by Bookwyrm (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments I wonder if Kraken is his "comedy", I read an interview where he more or less described it as such and said he had been influenced by Thomas Pynchon. There are bits that are clearly meant to be funny and it extremely OTT and grand guignol but the unrelenting bleakness - everything is dirty and nasty and so many of the charcters are such arseholes that it undercuts that, for me at least. That said I, maybe if I reread it I might think otherwise.


message 10: by Traveller (last edited Feb 12, 2015 03:12AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Dewi wrote: "I wonder if Kraken is his "comedy", I read an interview where he more or less described it as such and said he had been influenced by Thomas Pynchon. There are bits that are clearly meant to be fun..."

Sadly i still didn't manage to get through it; and now that you mention that i think you have helped me to suddenly realize why i don't like some po-mo.

Because of it's playful nature, po-mo is often rather focused on being funny and 'clever' at creating in-jokes and subtexts to the expense of plot and character...

(Just in case other posters didn't know: Thomas Pynchon is an icon of postmodernist (po-mo for short) fiction. Postmodernist fiction is a contemporary genre which tends to be eclectic, self-referential (metafictional), tends to subvert traditional meaning and usages and stereotypes, and likes to pastiche (do vignettes that copy the styles of other genres).

In any case, CM's Railsea is a good example of po-mo fiction because it riffs a lot on traditional "adventure" literature, but it subverts and changes a lot of the traditions; it is also metafictional, etc. To me the funniest example of self-consious metafictional riffing in Railsea was where CM sarcastically comments on Robinson Crusoe, though the book is generally a riff on Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.


message 11: by Bookwyrm (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments I wonder if you are overstating the case of Mieville as a PoMo author, or Railsea as a PoMo text. I don't disagree with what you abou the book and yes, it is clearly referencing Moby Dick and many other texts besides but doesn't much fiction do that? Having said that I can't think of a an example but books referencing books/intertextuality is so common and has been around for so long I don't think we need to invoke Postmodernism.


message 12: by Traveller (last edited Feb 13, 2015 02:06AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Dewi wrote: "I wonder if you are overstating the case of Mieville as a PoMo author, or Railsea as a PoMo text. I don't disagree with what you abou the book and yes, it is clearly referencing Moby Dick and many ..."

Yes, many other texts do that, and if they conform to the other characteristics, then they will most probably indeed be po-mo. That's because we currently live in the period of, the age of postmodernism. We are living in a postmodernist culture.

Have a look at Wikipedia's list of po-mo authors:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...

(I'm actually quite surprised to see Milan Kundera and Vladimir Nabokov on that list.)

I am not saying that all of Mieville's work is po-mo, but I would like to aver that Railsea most definitely is, and for my reasons as to why I claim this, feel free to have a look at my review of the book, where I talked extensively about that particular point:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 13: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 1 comments I'd say it goes like this:

Perdido Street Station: Horror
The Scar: Maritime
Iron Council: Old West
The City & The City: Detective Noir
Kraken: Urban/Contemporary
Embassytown: SF


message 14: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Kenneth wrote: "I'd say it goes like this:

Perdido Street Station: Horror
The Scar: Maritime
Iron Council: Old West
The City & The City: Detective Noir
Kraken: Urban/Contemporary
Embassytown: SF"


Sounds good. :)


message 15: by Bookwyrm (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments Dewi wrote: "I wonder if you are overstating the case of Mieville as a PoMo author, or Railsea as a PoMo text. I don't disagree with what you abou the book and yes, it is clearly referencing Moby Dick and many ..."

I've read your review and I'm afraid I'm still not convinced. I am familiar with PoMo authors and the tropes generally ascribed to the genre.

My point was that authors have always referenced other books and genres and often subverted them. Austen's Northanger Abbey satires Gothic novels for example. Furthermore, Tristram Shandy was the first novel to be self reflexive and acknowledge its own exist as a novel and that was published in the 1760s.

At what point does Mieville break the fourth wall? I'm not disputing that, I just can't remember it.

You make the point that we are living in a/the PoMo era, does that mean that, technically, we can define all novels published in this era as PoMo?

I don't disagree with any of your points I just can't help feel that they are overstated, that's all. Interesting debate at any rate.


message 16: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Dewi wrote: "Dewi wrote: "I wonder if you are overstating the case of Mieville as a PoMo author, or Railsea as a PoMo text. I don't disagree with what you abou the book and yes, it is clearly referencing Moby D..."

Okay, let me try and understand which POV you're talking from. Which books/authors WOULD you describe as po-mo, and why would you categorize them as such, according to which criteria?


message 17: by Bookwyrm (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments At the risk of being a massive knob having just disagreed with you defining Railsea as PoMo... I'm not sure that I'm comfortable definning any author as PoMo (every time I type that I feel like a massive knob), there are tropes in lots of contemporary works as you have said nad, yes, we are living in the the age of Postmodernism.

The term is too nebulous for me to want to employ and I think it gets bandied about a lot, perhaps unnecessarily. Tropes like pastiche and intertextuality are so widespread and go back so far I'm reluctant that I don't see them as synonymous with postmodernism. I suppose I tend to think of books as "having elements of postmodernism" rather than "being" postmodern. Does that make sense?


message 18: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments I suppose so, but having done courses on modernism, postmodernism and the like at uni, I suppose I'm going to feel more inclined to want to apply that background?

...but i think i do understand where you are coming from. Po-mo and Derridean terms like differance and deconstruction are pretty often being bandied about in casual ways that might not always fit in with what the terms mean in a more academic sense. Even though I used Wikipedia as my source for some of my quotes in my Railsea review, I can assure you that if hadn't been too lazy to retype, I could have quoted for you out of more strictly academic sources.

I almost feel as if the gauntlet has been thrown down for me now to do a proper "po-mo" review, but I'm going to have to choose something else, and this time I'll quote from more reputable academic sources. But that will have to wait for a few weeks. Feel free to prod me again in about 4 week's time.


message 19: by Bookwyrm (last edited Feb 14, 2015 03:53PM) (new)

Bookwyrm | 10 comments I did an English bachelors way back in the dark ages (graduated in 2000) and that's actually what puts me off using the term. Adittedly I didn't really study much after Modernism, our 20thc Lit course was low on the "post" stuff.

There was a book we were recommended to buy prior to starting the course published in the mid-90s that complained of "deconstructed" being used willy-nilly in the minstream, even then. I can remember as first years we discovered the term "Postmodern" and were keen to aply the label to anything, probably to look clever.

I'm not saying that that's what you were doing, it's just that stuff, all those years ago made me wary of the term. Ultimately, perhaps it's just a matter of personal preference.


message 20: by Traveller (last edited Feb 15, 2015 02:29PM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments I know what you mean, (though modernism as a period of course went by pretty long ago - for example many postmodernist theorists' work was published after modernism went by as a period (most people date the start of the postmodern era around the 1950's, but especially after the late 60's)) but I don't think I generally tend to bandy postmodernist terms around too easily.
A lot of postmodernist/postmodern theory and literature was indeed written after 2000, though...

Also, it's only Railsea that I labelled as postmodern.
You might note that although almost all of his work is allusive, and that Kraken, for example, contains a lot of cultural riffing, that Railsea was the only one of his works that I have singled out as being truly a work with the full shebang of po-mo characteristics.

Also, note that there is a difference between postmodernism and postmodernity.
In that regard, it's probably not very helpful to talk of "po-mo", indeed.... though when it comes to literature, the label used most often appears to be "postmodern". Just that alone can be pretty confusing, because the theorists (you know, Foucault, Derrida, Jameson, Lyotard, Habermas, Baudrillard et al) are called postmodernist theorists. So yeah, confusing, sometimes.

Btw, here is one article that mentions CM's er.. intentions: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/10/a-ca...


message 21: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments ...and then there's this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-pos...


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