Tag Archives: china miéville

Raunch Reviews: Bas-Lag

Raunch Reviews: Bas-Lag

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: Bas-Lag

The Author: China Miéville
Work in Question: The Bas-Lag Cycle
The Profanity: “Jabber”/ “By Jabber”/ “Jabber &^%!”

I’m going to be honest, I really like “Jabber.” The word comes from the Bas-Lagian pietist Saint Jabber who is apparently some sort of deity within the world. That makes this term a straightforward oath and easily accessible to most English speaking populations (where blasphemous oaths like this are commonplace). Plus there’s something that rolls off the tongue with “Jabber.” It’s easy to say, doesn’t need to be shortened, and feels natural when read. Likewise, it can be coupled with other vulgarities, therefore expanding its use. One slight mark against it, however, is the lack of any worshipers. Most of the characters in Miéville’s book aren’t the church-going type, but even among the background we don’t see much in the way of a Church of St. Jabber. There’s an area of slums in the city-state of New Crobuzon named St. Jabber’s Mound but otherwise, it’s fairly quiet. So while “Jabber” is grounded within in-world history—any real offense is lost on the reader.

Score: Empty Swear (4.0)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


China Miéville

Fantasy As A Challenge

“When people dis fantasy—mainstream readers and SF readers alike—they are almost always talking about one sub-genre of fantastic literature. They are talking about Tolkien, and Tolkien’s innumerable heirs. Call it ‘epic’, or ‘high’, or ‘genre’ fantasy, this is what fantasy has come to mean. Which is misleading as well as unfortunate.

Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious—you can’t ignore it, so don’t even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there’s a lot to dislike—his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien’s clichés—elves ‘n’ dwarfs ‘n’ magic rings—have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was ‘consolation’, thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.

That is a revolting idea, and one, thankfully, that plenty of fantasists have ignored. From the Surrealists through the pulps—via Mervyn Peake and Mikhael Bulgakov and Stefan Grabiński and Bruno Schulz and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison and I could go on—the best writers have used the fantastic aesthetic precisely to challenge, to alienate, to subvert and undermine expectations.

Of course I’m not saying that any fan of Tolkien is no friend of mine—that would cut my social circle considerably. Nor would I claim that it’s impossible to write a good fantasy book with elves and dwarfs in it—Michael Swanwick’s superb IRON DRAGON’S DAUGHTER gives the lie to that. But given that the pleasure of fantasy is supposed to be in its limitless creativity, why not try to come up with some different themes, as well as unconventional monsters? Why not use fantasy to challenge social and aesthetic lies?

Thankfully, the alternative tradition of fantasy has never died. And it’s getting stronger. Chris Wooding, Michael Swanwick, Mary Gentle, Paul di Filippo, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others, are all producing works based on fantasy’s radicalism. Where traditional fantasy has been rural and bucolic, this is often urban, and frequently brutal. Characters are more than cardboard cutouts, and they’re not defined by race or sex. Things are gritty and tricky, just as in real life. This is fantasy not as comfort-food, but as challenge.

The critic Gabe Chouinard has said that we’re entering a new period, a renaissance in the creative radicalism of fantasy that hasn’t been seen since the New Wave of the sixties and seventies, and in echo of which he has christened the Next Wave. I don’t know if he’s right, but I’m excited. This is a radical literature. It’s the literature we most deserve.”

China Miéville


I don’t usually post quotes this long, but as I’ve been working on Coal Belly, and after publishing my essay on problematic fiction this quote from 2002 has been kicking around in my head. (Originally from here, but it’s been modified over the years.)

My work has frequently been described as “difficult to categorize”—and while I label the Bell Forging Cycle as urban fantasy for simplicity, it’s no secret that its more accurate description is much more complicated. I revel in this, genre classification is boring at best and writing dangerous or challenging fiction within the “Next Wave” the “New Weird” or whatever we want to call it is exactly where I want to be as a writer.

💀🦑💀

#My5: The Bell Forging Cycle

Welcome to #My5, a project that I’ve started, with a few of my fellow authors, across the internet. In this and other posts, we’re going to delve into five things that had influenced our current projects: it could be five people, five books, five songs, five comics or a mixture of some or all—you never know. Why five? It’s an arbitrary limitation, but it’s digestible and prevents these posts from running away from us. If you’re an author and you’re interested in joining us, you can read the introduction post or check out the info at the bottom of this post. So, without further ado, here’s #My 5: The Bell Forging Cycle.


Inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere, and it’s different for each writer. For me, there are key instances that trigger something in my mind that inspired me to create the world of the Territories.

I tend to pitch The Bell Forging Cycle as “Lovecraftian Urban Fantasy,” which is a relatively narrow descriptive. In my article for Fantasy Book Critic, I described the series as a “dark cyberpunk post-post-apocalyptic dystopian weird western cosmic horror urban fantasy adventure,” which, yeah, was a mouthful. Instead of explaining how all that works, I figured it’d be fun to use #My5 in a way that lets me share how all of those pieces come together.


Five Influences, #1 - The Lovecraft Mythos1. The Lovecraft Mythos

This is the obvious one, but it’s important enough that I need to mention it first. I didn’t start reading H.P. Lovecraft until I was in my early twenties and attending college. While Cthulhu, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth were on my mind, it wasn’t until a conversation in 2007 with my friend, Josh Montreuil, that I had the idea of mixing the mythos with a story like the one I wanted to write.

Longtime readers of the Lovecraftian mythos can see the signs in the world. The books are set in a world rebuilt after Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones returned, caused an apocalypse, and once again faded into myth. Their influence has a fundamental impact on the world. Landmasses have been reshaped, and humanity is no longer alone; exotic species lifted from the mythos now inhabit the world alongside us. Dark cults from stories like The Call of Cthulhu, The Haunter of the Dark, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth have risen to become large organized religions. While a knowledge of the mythos isn’t necessary to enjoy the books, there’s no denying that Lovecraft’s influence is scattered through everything.


Kowloon Walled City2. Kowloon Walled City

It’s probably no secret that I’m a cyberpunk fan. Books like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neil Stephenson’s Snowcrash, and movies like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner are seminal works in my life. Cities of cement and chrome, coupled with the compression of humanity, were a draw for me. In each of those worlds were millions of stories. So, when I discovered a real world example of those strange, stacked cyberpunk cities, I was fascinated.

Kowloon was a densely populated neighborhood that existed in Hong Kong during the middle of the 20th-century. Thirty-three thousand people lived within 6.4 acres of space stacked atop each other up to a height of 140 ft. The result of this mass was an isolated, multileveled community, filled with all manner of individuals, organizations, businesses, schools, and unique cultures. (Check out this fascinating cross section map or this detailed illustration to see how dense it was.) Kowloon’s existence became the spark that eventually became Lovat. It was the real-life example that triggered my concept of the vast megalopolis by the sea.


Five Influences, #3 - The Dark Tower3. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Stephen King’s opus is an early forerunner of genre mixing; an intense blend of western tropes, fantasy locations, and science-fiction problems, mixed with a post-apocalyptic road story starring gunslingers. I started reading the series in high school and quickly devoured what I could until it finally ended in 2004. Up until The Dark Tower series, most of the sci-fi and fantasy I read was fairly conventional.

Seeing this strange new world presented in such a way opened my eyes to what fiction could become. I can still picture walking with the Ka-Tet of Nineteen throughout Mid and Endworld. There is so much to love. The Lobstrosities, Shardik, Blaine the Mono, the city of Lud, the plains of Mejis, the Wolves of Thunderclap, and Devar-Toi are all vivid in my mind, and I continually find myself revisiting the series to this day.

And, if you’re wondering, I absolutely remember the face of my father.


Five Influences, #4 - Bas-Lag

4. China Miéville’s Bas-Lag

I love worldbuilding; I love seeding the potential of new locations and stories throughout prose. If it was King who showed me my first glimpses of weird fiction, China Miéville refined it. Perdido Street Station constructed a world that proved to me that fantasy didn’t have to be elves and dwarves, hobbits and men, orcs and dragons.

His Bas-Lag series—my favorite of which is The Scar—takes those ideas to a whole new level. Strange species crawl through Mieville’s books: bug-headed women, vampires, half-machine hybrids, sentient cacti, tiny gargoyles, disembodied hand-shaped parasites, scabmettlers—the human-like creatures who’s blood congeals to the point that it can become a sort of armor—and that’s just the start. That same approach is applied to everything from governmental structure to economics. Each book opens up new lands and strange new species, and throughout it all, Mieville does it right. He mixes and blends and creates a profound concoction that still stick with me.


Five Influences, #5 - Hellblazer5. HellBlazer (In particular M. R. Carey’s run)

One of the granddaddies of urban fantasy, the Vertigo comic series, follows the magician for hire, John Constantine as he drinks and smokes his way through England, America, Hell, and all parts in between. There is something about his wisecracking ways and indifferent attitude that I love. Constantine is relatable; he isn’t some all-powerful superhero; he isn’t some wealthy playboy; he is a working class stiff who is more clever than good and more determined than heroic.

Constantine is relatable. He is Walter White, a man doing bad things for good reasons. While Waldo Bell isn’t Constantine, there is a similarity between the characters. Both are dogged and driven men who would stop at nothing and go to any lengths to defeat what they see as evil. Heroes don’t always need to be golden paragons of humanity. They can and should be flawed.


So those are #My5, my collection of properties that influenced The Bell Forging Cycle. Each has had a profound impact on me creatively. You can check out my series at bellforgingcycle.com or hit up any of the specific books at the links below to read excerpts and learn more about the world of the Territories.

The Stars Were Right – Old Broken Road – Red Litten World

I’m not alone in collecting #My5! Other authors have joined me and written their #My5. You can find their articles by following the links below. Make sure to look for links at the bottom of their posts as well.


Are you a published (indie or traditional) author who is interested in joining in the #My5 fun? Write your article following the format above (remember, the limit is five), link to your work and others’ posts, and shoot me an email at hello at kmalexander.com, and I’ll add you to the list above and the official #My5 page! You can download the #My5 logo at any of the links below.

Download the #My5 Logo600×600 PNGs: White | Black
1200×1200 PNGs: White | Black
(Vector version available upon request.)

China Miéville

The Appeal of the Fantastic

“Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they’re not absurd.”

China Miéville

Those who have been following both my writing and this blog know that alongside writers like Neil Gaiman, Mark Twain, and Ursula K. LeGuin, the English novelist China Miéville is one of my biggest influences.

Recently, I just finished his latest book, This Census Taker (and it was wonderful.) The fanboy in me wanted more so I shuffled some books around in my to-read stack so while on my way to Lilac City Comicon I was able to listen to the first half of the Iron Council (which I am also loving and regrettably have never read.) So, Miéville work and his process have been on my mind.

If you want more Miéville beyond his novels, make sure to check out his dissertation at the University of Kansas: Cognition as Ideology: A Dialectic of SF Theory. I’ve featured it in past Friday Link Packs, but you can watch the full lecture on YouTube. It’s great and worth watching.

Friday Link Pack 09/04/2015

Friday Link Pack — End of the Year Edition (2015)

Happy New Year! Well, we’re finally here, at the end of all things. Okay, not the end of all things, just the end of the Friday Link Pack. As I mentioned earlier in December, this will be the last Link Pack going forward. [Details Here.] We’ve reached number one-hundred, and it just so happens to be the official End of the Year Edition! [Previous years: 2014, 2013] In this, I compile the best-loved links I’ve shared over 2015 into one big post. As always, some of these I’ve mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Even though the Link Pack is ending on the blog I’ll still continue to share stuff I find interesting on Twitter.

All right, let’s see which links you liked the most:

My Most Popular Posts Of 2015:

Map of the Known Territories
The official map to the Bell Forging Cycle has been getting a bunch of interest ever since I shared it in August. The biggest version of the map was also one of the most clicked images on the entire site. Glad everyone likes it so much. [Attn: map contains some minor Old Broken Road spoilers.]

The 2015 Lovecraft-Inspired Gift Guide
Put together this post in early December and every loved it. (Big thanks to everyone over on r/Lovecraft and r/Cthulhu.) Gifts for the Lovecraft fan on your list, or of course, yourself. A whole slew of books, music, games, and a lot more. If you’re looking for a place to spend some of that Christmas cash, look no further.

Mad Max and the Art of Worldbuilding
I’m happy to see how much everyone enjoyed my look at worldbuilding from the viewpoint of one of my favorite movies of the year, Mad Max: Fury Road. I have another article in the works following this up.


Note: I also got a lot of traffic to my Mysterious Package posts. However after some emails and not wanting to spoil things for others I elected to remove them from my site. That is why they aren’t featured on today’s list.


Most Clicked Writing Links Of 2015:

What I Get Paid For My Novels: Or, Why I’m Not Quitting My Day Job
Novelist Kameron Hurley opens up and shares how much she has made on each of her books. It’s a fantastic post. Awesome to see transparency like this. I think this is good info for every author, indie or traditional, it helps set the record straight.

Cognition as Ideology: A Dialectic of SF Theory
In January, I shared this wonderful talk from China Miéville regarding the importance of fantasy in our modern society. I highly recommend it to anyone who reads or writes speculative fiction.

Why Horror Is Good For You (And Even Better For Your Kids)
Artist Greg Ruth gives us six fantastic reasons why we should all read horror. I’m really happy this was so well received, it’s still one of my favorite articles I shared this year.

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing
I have long been a fan of writer’s personal lists of rules. It’s always good to glean what you can apply to your list (and yeah, we all have our personal list.) Neil Gaiman is no exception. (Note #5.)

10 Twenty-First Century Bestsellers People Tried to Ban (and Why)
The stories behind people trying to ban books are always fascinating to me. History has proven that when one tries to impose prohibition, the effect is usually opposite of the intent. What was it Mark Twain said? Oh yeah: “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky. It is the prohibition that makes anything precious.”


Most Clicked Art Links Of 2015:

Kari-Lise Alexander Paints Nordic Beauties In “A Lovelorn Theft”
Kari-Lise’s latest solo show opened at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco at the end of September, and a lot of folks were interested in seeing her work. In this post, High Fructose highlighted many of the pieces from that show. After watching the series develop throughout 2015, I was excited to see it in the wild. I’m sure you’ll agree this series is gorgeous.

Women Trying To Sleep Unsuccessfully In Western Art History
For hundreds of years,  women in art have been trying to take a break and catch some Zs. For whatever reason no one wants to let them. Art is weird.

Korean Artist Beautifully Illustrates What Real Love Looks Like
I loved these sweet little illustrations by Puuung, and so did you. Small touching moments rendered beautifully. Each tells its own story. [Thanks again to Stalara for sharing.]

I See Music Because I Have Synesthesia, So I Decided To Paint What I Hear
Painter Melissa McCracken is a synesthete. When she hears music it comes to her in a variety of colors. Instead of trying to describe what she sees she has decided to paint it instead. The results are fascinating.


Most Clicked Random Links of 2015:

20 Maps That Never Happened
From war plans for the invasion of Canada to the fifty states redrawn with equal populations, Vox explores twenty imaginary maps. You know, I’d be cool living in the state of Rainer.

Abandoned Indonesian Church Shaped Like a Massive Clucking Chicken
Some people do strange things to get messages from God; things like building a strangely shaped church in the middle of the jungle. Apparently the builder had intended it to look like a dove, but it’s clearly a chicken.

Arcology: Cutaways Of The Future City-Hives That Never Were
The futurist idea of arcologies is a mainstay of science fiction. I even play with the concept in the Bell Forging books. So when I saw this post from Cory Doctorow about Paolo Soleri’s 1969 book: Arcology: The City in the Image of Man. It was something I was very interested in. The book sounds fascinating, but the images… you need to see the images. [Thanks again to Steve for sharing this.]

I Won A $5,000 Magic: The Gathering Tournament On Shrooms
I’ve never done shrooms, but this article is hilarious regardless. As my friend Rob pointed out, this is the Magic: The Gathering version of James Blagden’s Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No. [Thanks to Rob for sharing this.]


Most Clicked Weird Wikipedia Link of 2015:

After watching the video, I’d wager it’s safe to say that this is probably one of the more creepy Weird Wikipedia links in 2015. Check out the article and make sure to turn the captions on, makes it that much more effective.

Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion
“The Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion was a television signal hijacking that occurred in Chicago, Illinois, United States on the evening of November 22, 1987. It is an example of what is known in the television business as broadcast signal intrusion. The intruder was successful in interrupting two broadcast television stations within the course of three hours. The hijackers were never identified.”

Make sure you watch the video as well:


Lovecraft Story Of The Year:

The Shadow over Innsmouth
Yay! My favorite Lovecraft story was also YOUR favorite. Happy to see this listed as the story of the year. It’s a good one. [Fun Fact: the Innsmouth folk served as the source of inspiration for the anur in my books.]


Animated GIF Of The Year:

I can't get enough GIFs of robot struggling to play soccer/football.

Friday Link Pack 09/18/2015

Friday Link Pack 09/18/2015

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s back! It’s time for the Friday Link Pack. Some of these links I’ve mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…

RED LITTEN WORLD:

[Note: As we draw closer and closer to the October 6th release date I will have new Red Litten World news every week, fitting we give it its own category.]

Read A Free Sample Chapter Of Red Litten World Today
You can read an excerpt from my next novel for free over on its official site. I hope you enjoy it, help spread the word and please tell your friends!

Red Litten World Is Available For Preorder
Preorders are open! You can order the eBook of Red Litten World and have it delivered to your reader the morning of October 6th. Simple and efficient. (There ares a few platforms that don’t allow for preordering, for those Red Litten World will still arrive October 6th, but you’ll have to purchase it the old fashioned way.)

WRITING:

The Most Banned And Challenged Books Of 2014
File under books you should read. Some of these are surprising, some aren’t. Some have been there a while. (It’s no secret I am a huge fan of #6, as a matter of fact, I just got the recent trade of Saga in the mail a few days ago! Yay!)

H. P. Lovecraft & H. R. Giger: How Their Dreams Became Our Nightmares
A great guest post by John A. DeLaughter over on Lovecraft eZine focusing on Lovecraft and Giger and how the visions of these two quiet and nondescript men entered the collective consciousness and pop culture.

5 Lessons Learned From Writing 10 Fiction Books
Mystery author Joanna Penn can easily be called an industry veteran, and with the release of her latest book, Deviance, she has offered to share advice she’s learned after writing ten novels. It’s good stuff, and worth a read. Also, if you’re a mystery fan grab one of her books.

China Miéville’s 6 Favorite Books
My favorite weird fiction author shares his top six books. As you’d expect they’re not mainstream darlings, a really unique selection. (Miéville has a new collection of short stories out as well, I just started Three Moments of an Explosion and I’m really enjoying it.)

Crunch Time: The Realities Of Indie Publishing
What does it take to launch a book as an indie publisher? Quite a bit actually and doing it right takes a lot of effort. In this post, I go into details on my book launching process and even include my list for the launch of Red Litten World.

ART:

A Lovelorn Theft
My amazing wife and partner, Kari-Lise, latest series is now on view at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco and it’s amazing. (There’s only a handful of pieces left so if something catches your eye make sure you contact Kim at Modern Eden.) We went down to SF last weekend for the opening. It was great meeting everyone, big thank-you to those who came out and said “hello!”

New Cubist Tattoos By Peter Aurisch
I love it when tattoos break the conventional idea of what a tattoo should be, instead of another pretend sailor icon the owner chooses something fresh and unique that stands out. This work from Peter Aurisch fits that latter group.

RANDOM:

What The Hell Are These?? (WARNING: Not For The Faint Of Heart)
You’ll never guess what these weird looking appendages belong to. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but yeah… creepy and disturbing. Nature is wacky. [Thanks to my editor, Lola Landekic for sharing this with me. I think.]

Don’t Ignore The Background [Video]
One of my absolute favorite YouTube shows, Nerdwriter, explores the visual stories told in the background of one of my absolute favorite movies, Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. There are a lot of great lessons about subtle storytelling and worldbuilding here, stuff I use myself when I write my books. This video is very much worth your eight minutes.

Iconic Book Covers Come To Life In Beautiful, Subtle GIFs
Classic book covers animated. The result is as the title suggests often beautiful. Would be cool to see this sort of thing become “a thing” it’s a fun way to draw attention to books. That said, if you’re an author and you want to do something similar for your own book, consider contacting Albinson Design, their work is fantastic. (They do book trailers as well.)

A Mysterious Package
So far this has been my most popular blog post of the year. Last Tuesday, I got a strange  and creepy little parcel in the mail. Inside… well, wouldn’t want to spoil the fun, but in this blog post, I document what I found.

WEIRD WIKIPEDIA:

Shadow Person
“A shadow person (also known as a shadow figure, shadow being or black mass) is the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, particularly as interpreted by believers in the paranormal or supernatural as the presence of a spirit or other entity. Many methamphetamine addicts report hallucinations of “shadow people”, as a result of sleep deprivation.”

[FUN & RANDOM FACT: The umbra species from my Lovecraftian urban fantasy series, The Bell Forging Cycle, is partially inspired by shadow people.]

H.P. LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:

The Very Old Folk
Found in a 1927 letter addressed to Donald Wandrei, this story is: the roman legion meets The Hills Have Eyes with a dash of Dallas.

GIF OF THE WEEK:

a clown