China Miéville

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China Miéville
China Mieville.jpg
Miéville at Utopiales in 2010
Born China Tom Miéville
(1972-09-06) 6 September 1972 (age 46)
Norwich, England, UK
Occupation Writer, novelist
Period 1998–present
Genre Fantasy, Steampunk, New Weird, Weird fiction

China Tom Miéville (/ˈnə miˈvəl/; born 6 September 1972) is an English fantasy fiction author, comic writer and academic. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th-century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird.

He is active in left-wing politics as a member of the International Socialist Organization (US) and formerly a member of the Socialist Workers Party (UK) until resigning in 2013 over the SWP internal crisis about allegations of rape against 'Comrade Delta'.[1] In 2013 he became a founding member of Left Unity.[2] He stood for Regent's Park and Kensington North for the Socialist Alliance in the 2001 UK General election. He published his PhD thesis on Marxism and international law as a book. During 2012–13 he was writer-in-residence at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Early life

Born in Norwich, Miéville was brought up in Willesden, northwest London, and has lived in the city since early childhood. He grew up with his sister Jemima and mother Claudia, a translator, writer and teacher. His parents separated soon after his birth, and he has said that he "never really knew" his father.[3] They chose his first name, China, from a dictionary, looking for a beautiful name.[3] By virtue of his mother's birth in New York City, Miéville holds dual American and British citizenship.


Miéville attended Oakham School, a co-educational independent school in Oakham, Rutland, for two years. At the age of eighteen, in 1990, he taught English for a year in Egypt, where he developed an interest in Arab culture and in Middle Eastern politics.

Miéville studied for a BA degree in social anthropology at Clare College, Cambridge, graduating in 1994, and gained both a master's degree and PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics in 2001. Miéville has also held a Frank Knox fellowship at Harvard University.[3] After becoming dissatisfied with the ability of post-modern theories to explain history and political events, he became a Marxist at university.[1] A book version of his PhD thesis, entitled Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law, was published in the UK in 2005 by Brill in their "Historical Materialism" series, and in the United States in 2006 by Haymarket Books.

Literary influences

Miéville has said he plans to write a novel in every genre.[4] To this end, he has 'constructed an oeuvre' that is indebted to genre styles ranging from classic American Western (in Iron Council) to sea-quest (in The Scar) to detective noir (in The City & the City).[citation needed] Yet Miéville's works all describe worlds or scenarios that are fantastical or supernatural[original research?]; his work has been categorised as science fiction, fantasy and as "urban surrealism".[5] Miéville has listed M. John Harrison, Michael de Larrabeiti, Michael Moorcock, Thomas M. Disch, Charles Williams, Tim Powers, and J. G. Ballard as literary "heroes"; he has also frequently discussed as influences H. P. Lovecraft, Mervyn Peake, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Gene Wolfe. He has said that he would like his novels "to be read for [his imagined city] New Crobuzon as Iain Sinclair does for London."

Miéville played a great deal of Dungeons & Dragons and similar roleplaying games (RPG) in his youth. He attributes his tendency to systematisation of magic and technology to this influence.[citation needed] In his novel Perdido Street Station, he refers to characters interested "only in gold and experience." The February 2007 issue of Dragon Magazine interpreted the world presented in his books according to Dungeons & Dragons rules.

In 2010, Miéville made his first foray into writing for RPGs with a contribution to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game supplement Guide to the River Kingdoms.[6]

Miéville works to move fantasy away from J. R. R. Tolkien's influence, which for him is stultifying and reactionary. He once described Tolkien as "the wen on the arse of fantasy literature."[7] Miéville has cited Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible Trilogy as one of his biggest influences; he wrote an introduction for the trilogy's 2002 reissue. The introduction was eventually left out of the book, but is now available on de Larrabeiti's website.[8] Miéville is also indebted to Moorcock, having cited his essay "Epic Pooh" as the source upon which he is "riffing" or even simply "cheerleading" in his critique of Tolkien-imitative fantasy.

Miéville's left-wing politics are evident in his writing (particularly in Iron Council, his third Bas-Lag novel) as well as his theoretical ideas about literature. In several panel discussions at conventions about the relationship of politics and writing, he has opposed right-wingers in heated arguments. He has, however, said:

I’m not a leftist trying to smuggle in my evil message by the nefarious means of fantasy novels. I’m a science fiction and fantasy geek. I love this stuff. And when I write my novels, I’m not writing them to make political points. I’m writing them because I passionately love monsters and the weird and horror stories and strange situations and surrealism, and what I want to do is communicate that. But, because I come at this with a political perspective, the world that I’m creating is embedded with many of the concerns that I have... I’m trying to say I’ve invented this world that I think is really cool and I have these really big stories to tell in it and one of the ways that I find to make that interesting is to think about it politically. If you want to do that too, that’s fantastic. But if not, isn’t this a cool monster?[9]


In Between Equal Rights (2005), his only major political writing, Miéville advocates a revised version of the legal theory of the Russian Marxist Evgeny Pashukanis, as applied to international law. He synthesises ideas drawn from the Critical Legal Studies movement, particularly Martti Koskenniemi, as well as US international legal theorist Myres McDougal. Miéville argues that the form taken by the law, a process of deciding disputes between abstract, formally equal subjects, can only be explained as essentially related to capitalism's system of generalised commodity exchange, which requires participants with equal rights to property.

But, he argues, just as the symmetry of commodity exchange conceals class division and exploitation, the symmetry of law conceals violent power relations. Law is structurally indeterminate as applied to particular cases, and so the interpretation which becomes official is always a matter of force; the stronger of the contesting parties in each legal dispute will ultimately obtain the sanction of law. Therefore, he states: "The attempt to replace war and inequality with law is not merely utopian but is precisely self-defeating. A world structured around international law cannot but be one of imperialist violence. The chaotic and bloody world around us is the rule of law."[10]

Miéville is a member of the International Socialist Organization (US) and, until 13 March 2013, also a member of the Socialist Workers Party (UK).[11] He stood unsuccessfully for the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in the 2001 general election as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance, gaining 459 votes, i.e. 1.2%,[12] in Regent's Park and Kensington North, a Labour constituency.[13]

In January 2013, he emerged as a critic of the SWP's leadership and in March resigned[11] over the leadership's handling of rape allegations against a SWP member.[14][15]

In August 2013, Mieville was one of nine signatories (along with fellow novelist and former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen, veteran film-maker and socialist Ken Loach, academic Gilbert Achcar and General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Kate Hudson) of an open letter to the Guardian newspaper announcing the foundation of a "new party of the left", to be called Left Unity. The letter, which claims that Labour policies on "austerity" and breaking of ties with trades unions amount to a "final betrayal of the working-class people it was founded to represent", states that Left Unity will be launched at a "founding conference" in London on 30 November 2013 and will provide, as an "alternative" to Labour, "a party that is socialist, environmentalist, feminist and opposed to all forms of discrimination".[2]

In 2015, he was announced as one of the founding editors of a new quarterly, Salvage, with editor-in-chief Rosie Warren, editor Jamie Allinson and contributing editors Richard Seymour, Magpie Corvid and Charlotte Bence.[citation needed]



Bas-Lag series

Stand-alone novels

China Miéville on Bookbits radio talks about Embassytown.


Short story collections

Comic books



  • In 2006 Miéville's short story "Details" (collected in Looking for Jake) was adapted as a screenplay by Dan Kay, and subsequently picked up by the studio Paramount Vantage.[18]
  • In February 2013, a stage adaptation of The City and the City, written by Christopher M. Walsh and directed by Dorothy Milne, made its world premiere at Lifeline Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. Miéville attended the 16 March 2013 production of the adaptation.
  • In August 2015 a television adaptation of the novel The City & the City was announced by the BBC. It is due to air on BBC 2.[19]
  • The story Familiar, from his Looking for Jake collection, is currently being adapted to film by Mythos Studios.


Miéville just after winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2010


  1. 1.0 1.1 "SWP factions: Two errors of the opposition". Weekly Worker. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Letters: "Left Unity ready to offer an alternative"". The Guardian. 12 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Joan Gordon – Reveling in Genre: An Interview with China Miéville". 1 November 2003. Retrieved 2 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "A Truly Monstrous Thing to Do: Mieville Interview", '
  5. Hanks, Robert (2009-06-15). "The City and the City by China Miéville: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to the River Kingdoms (PFRPG) Print Edition", Paizo Publishing Website.
  7. "Scar by China Mieville". Retrieved 5 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. China Miéville, "'The Borribles'. An Introduction".
  9. U.S.A. "The Believer – Interview with China Miéville". Retrieved 28 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Miéville, China (2006). Between Equal Rights. Haymarket Books. ISBN 1-931859-33-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> P. 319.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Resigning from the Socialist Workers Party", International Socialism, 11 March 2013
  12. "BBC NEWS – VOTE 2001 – RESULTS & CONSTITUENCIES – Regent's Park & Kensington North". BBC News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Ansible 168, July 2001.
  14. Laurie Penny, "What does the SWP's way of dealing with sex assault allegations tell us about the left?", New Statesman, 11 January 2013
  15. Paul Kellogg "Britain: Reflections on the crisis in the Socialist Workers Party", LINKS – International Journal of Socialist Renewal (blog), 13 January 2013.
  17. Penguin Random HouseThis Census Taker
  18. "Paramount Vantage Gets 'Details'", IndieWire Archived 28 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award: 2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 28 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Awards won by Perdido Street Station". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 28 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award: 2003 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 3 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Awards won by Scar". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 3 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award: 2005 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 28 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Flood, Alison (6 September 2010). "China Miéville and Paolo Bacigalupi tie for Hugo award". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Locus Publications (5 September 2010). "Locus Online News » 2010 Hugo Awards Winners". Retrieved 28 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Locus Publications (31 October 2010). "Locus Online News » World Fantasy Awards Winners". Retrieved 28 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "2012 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. Retrieved 9 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links