And so ends our series on genre writers and their beginnings. Seeing us to an elegant close is China Mieville, author of numerous award-winning stories such as the Bas-Lag trilogy, The City & The City, and most recently, Kraken.
This is a formulation I’ve used before, but generally when people, particularly those not from the genre scene, ask me how I got into this stuff, my response is to ask them rather how they got out of it. If you look at the stories that spellbind a class of 6-year-olds, if you look at what they’re drawing, what they’re reading, what they’re writing, monsters, spaceships, dream-logic, aliens, witches, chimeras and estrangement of all kinds, cognitive and otherwise, is going on. If you look at the same class 10 years later, a large number of them them – probably a majority – will have left that aside, or a large part of it, to focus instead on what we’d call ‘realist’ or ‘mimetic’ literature (though, with the increasingly successful monetisation of geek culture, particularly comics and movies, I’m not sure if that’s as majority a shift (or abandonment, if you’re polemically inclined) as it used to be). Obviously the reasons for that shift are complicated, and beyond the scope of the discussion here, but the point is that like most writers in the field, I came to it from being a reader in the field, and I think most readers in the field are not people who come to it so much as people who never put it down. We – geeks, whatever – have tremendous fidelity to our obsessions.