In The City & the City (Reviews, Apr. 13), British fantasy author Miéville gives an old-fashioned police procedural a makeover.
Most of your novels have been set in secondary worlds like Un Lun Dun and Bas Lag. Why in The City & the City did you opt to use a real-world setting?
I'd long been interested in writing a crime novel, and though there's a fair tradition of such novels set in science-fictional or fantastic locations, I was more interested in a police procedural that was recognizably real, though with strange elements. I wanted to try to get something of an homage to the cityscapes of eastern Europe at least as imagined and constructed through art, books, films. Setting it at a vague edge of Europe both makes it more familiar and, I hope, more tantalizingly half-strange than an overtly fantasticated setting would.
Why, given your past use of revolutionaries and other nonconformists as protagonists, tell this story from a policeman's point of view?
I don't choose protagonists for the sake of politics, but because of whatever's appropriate to the story. This was a crime novel, and a police procedural. And I wanted to play fair, and to write the kind of book that my mum would like—it was a present to her. So I wanted it to have a mystery and a corpse and an investigation and so on. It was always going to be a police officer who was the viewpoint character.
Geoff Ryman's Mundane SF manifesto decries the “improbable ideas” of New Weird writers like yourself. Does it amuse you to know The City & the City would qualify as a work of Mundane SF?
Does it? Then sure! Why not? I like manifestos and movements a lot, so maybe up to a point the more one qualifies for, the better, so long as you can do something interesting with them. Maybe some readers won't like The City & the City for not being “Weird” or “New Weird” enough, but I repudiate neither those old labels nor this new Mundanity. It shouldn't be about fidelity to formalities, but about interesting performances.
Will you continue with fantastic police procedurals or explore some other genre?
I'm just finishing a manuscript that is more of an urban fantastic grotesque, I guess: it's an anatomy, in certain senses. I've got a science fiction thing, with spaceships and aliens and whatnot, ticking over. I don't know what then, it depends what flotsam bobs to the top of the headsoup.