Thursday, March 24, 2016

Megatext 1: China Miéville

I'm very pleased to announce an exciting book discussion series that we're calling Megatext, where we won't talk about only one book--instead, we'll discuss an author, digging into themes and topics. The idea here is that you needn't have read everything, or even more than one book, but you're interested in their work and ideas as a whole.

This discussion is being supported by Open Books, who are hosting, and by Think Galactic, who have been talking about this idea since gushing over the fictional SF/F club in Jo Walton's "Among Others". Besides having an insightful discussion, however, one of my goals for this group is to bring together some readers from as many of the other SF/F groups of Chicagoland (and there are many) as we can, and perhaps also bring in some new folks.

Megatext 1: China Miéville
Thursday, March 24 6:30pm
Open Books, 651 W. Lake St.
(Facebook Event Page)
 Discussing Marxism & Halloween.
For the first meeting, we're going to discuss China Miéville! Here's how this works:
  1. Read one or more things that he's written. I have some suggestions below.
  2. Come to the meeting!
  3. We'll have a little bit of structure--a quick introduction/overview and some comments. Possibly some Provocative Remarks or Questions. We liked the idea of having one or more moderators/discussion leaders for these Megatext meetings, and I will be trying that hat on for Miéville.
  4. Then we'll go around and discuss! The format of this will depend a bit on how many people show up, and what we want to talk about. Feel free to just listen in if you don't feel like discussing.
  5. Afterwards, possibly a jaunt to a local pub of some kind.
 Some ideas on what to read, and what we might discuss, below:

If you're just going to read one thing, I strongly suggest "Iron Council" (2004). I think it's his best work, and, love it or hate it, it does all the things he's noted for. It's set in his Bas-Lag universe (sprawling, complicated fantasy), and has its politics most prominently on its sleeve. And it's wonderful.

I do love these new covers.
That said, if that does not look like your cup of tea, the following are my top suggestions:
  • "The City & The City" (2009) is delightful, and probably the easiest for non-SF/F-heavy readers. It's a police procedural with noir influences set in a very interesting city. And another city.
  • "The Scar" (2002) is the most accessible of his Bas-Lag books. There are pirates. And vampires. And monsters, lots of monsters, not all of them inhuman.
  • "Embassytown" (2011) is indicated for Those Who Require Spaceships. Also for Those Who Require Philosophy of Language.
  • His most recent short story collection, "Three Moments of an Explosion" (2015), is superb. I recommend it for those who want the most concentrated weird, and also if you want to see him flexing his horror/uncanny muscles.
Positron would like to remind you to hydrate properly
after flexing, in terms of horrific/uncanny writing
or otherwise.
Themes we might get into include:
  • The New Weird genre or movement, and its relationship to and use of horror and the uncanny.
  • Capitalism, socialism, and the state as viewed through the lens of his work.
  • The fantasy genre and its evolution, purposes, and tropes. Miéville has some biting critiques of Tolkien and his imitators, yet is a fan of D&D-style gaming and bestiaries.
  • Miéville's style across his books, particularly the occasionally baroque prose and his use of neologisms & wordplay.
  • Influences we think we see at work, or how we think this relates to other trends in speculative fiction.
  • If all attendees overlap on having read one of his books, we might just drill down on that one to discuss.

That's it! I may add some other resources (things to read/watch online) here at some point before the club. If Facebook's a thing you do, check out the event page.

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