A cordial dislike of allegory

China Mieville, the author of the upcoming novel The City And The City, has said that he prefers not to literally insert political subtext into his work, but instead allow people to draw their own conclusions and make their own readings from the narrative.

mievillechinaChina Mieville, the author of the upcoming novel The City And The City, has said that he prefers not to literally insert political subtext into his work, but instead allow people to draw their own conclusions and make their own readings from the narrative.

“I’m kind of uncomfortable when people talk about the allegorical readings of books,” said Mieville in a telephone interview with SciFiNow. “Which is not to say that I don’t think they have metaphoric resonance, because they clearly do, and since I’m interested in social and political aspects of modern life it would be very odd if those things didn’t reflect in the fiction. But I get very uncomfortable with the idea that these books are “really about” such and such, and what it “really means”, and if the person in the book is there to create an allegory, and I feel…I think there’s a Tolkien quote where he said that he has a cordial dislike of allegory, and I agree with him on that completely.”

Many authors, screenwriters, actors and professionals associated with the genre in the past have said that science fiction should serve as a mirror for the world, and a vehicle for commenting on current affairs. Mieville, however, disagrees, perhaps surprisingly considering that he once stood for election as a Member of Parliament and published a book on Marxist legal theory, Between Legal Rights. “What science fiction and what the fantastic can do at its best is to literalise the metaphors, to treat them as literal things, and let the metaphoric resonance get on with itself without too much heavy-handed involvement…if it’s too strong then it collapses into itself and becomes an unbelievable narrative, and then nobody’s happy.”

41xgiiutnrl_ss500_1The City And The City is released this month in hardcover through Tor UK, with a retail price of £17.99. Look for SciFiNow issue 29, on sale 10 June, for the full interview with China Mieville, updates on the War Of The Words competition, and our dedicated literary section.