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China and the Monstraße

“I’m not a leftist trying to smuggle in my evil message by the nefarious means of fantasy novels. I’m a science fiction and fantasy geek. I love this stuff. And when I write my novels, I’m not writing them to make political points. I’m writing them because I passionately love monsters and the weird and horror stories and strange situations and surrealism, and what I want to do is communicate that. But, because I come at this with a political perspective, the world that I’m creating is embedded with many of the concerns that I have… I’m trying to say I’ve invented this world that I think is really cool and I have these really big stories to tell in it and one of the ways that I find to make that interesting is to think about it politically. If you want to do that too, that’s fantastic. But if not, isn’t this a cool monster?”

– China Mieville

In the 2004 short story “Reports Of Certain Events In London”, Mieville creates an uncanny and decentring narrative about streets and roads that have evolved to become autonomous, shifting, and semi-sentient. It is one of the most clever examples of ‘weird fiction’ I have read in many years, perhaps equalled only by Jeff VanDerMeer’s Ambergris works. I have always been interesting by drifting and wandering concepts of ecology and ethology being applied to the non-living, but in this case, we have entities with defined if somewhat alien topologies and topographies which are possessors of very real ‘lives’ of their own. When we think of urban locations, with their tangible sociological identities and histories, the notion of some vital force, though metaphorical, makes for a very interesting rupture in normal ways of ‘seeing’. The eerie alchemy of Paracelsian and Spencerian science with Lovecraftian horror that pervades Mieville’s stuff makes for very engaging reading, and not just from an entertainment perspective. The journal Collapse, one of the few print periodicals to which I actually subscribe, provides superb philosophical explorations of these themes of abjection, nihilism, and horror through the lens of speculative realism, weaving together thinkers and writers as disparate as Paul Churchland and Thomas Metzinger to Lorenz Oken and Edmund Husserl. Challenging, iconoclastic, and infuriating,Collapse caters neither to the ‘search for meaning’ evinced in contemporary complexity sciences nor the displaced obscurantism of poststructuralism.

“Against such reactionary philosophical protectionism, it is the business of a thoroughgoing naturalism to emphasize– rather than minimize –the corrosive power of scientific reductionism vis a vis both the tenets of phenomenological orthodoxy and the established parameters of socio-cultural consensus. The task can be achieved by exposing the entirely contingent, conventional character of the phenomenological self-image promulgated through the myth of subjective interiority; by denouncing the hallucinatory character of privileged access [the lynchpin of all foundationalist demands]; and by inveighing against the illusory authority of the first-person perspective; myths which, whether taken separately or in combination, serve to shore up the subjectivist ideology through which liberal democratic capitalism convinces a stupified population of consumers that they are sovereign individuals, naturally endowed with freedom of choice, and that the interests of subjective freedom coincide with the interests of a free market economy. It is by puncturing the persistent myths of first-person autonomy and of the irreducibility of consciousness; it is by excoriating the apparently inviolable ubiquity of the cultural privilege which folk psychological superstition has successfully arrogated itself through the process of its enshrinement in the medium of natural language, that a virulently anti-phenomenological skepticism of the kind espoused by Quine, or an eliminative materialism such as that endorsed by Paul Churchland, suggesting as they do that a radical reconfiguration both of our own self-image and of our vision of the world around us is always possible, can help undermine those phenomenological Ur-doxaswhich help perpetuate the cultural consensus manufactured by capitalism.”

– Ray Brassier

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