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Interview with China Miéville, author of 2010 Hugo Award-winner "The City & The City"

China Miéville talks about "The City & The City," his sci-fi/fantasy/detective novel which shares the 2010 Hugo Award for best novel.

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While reading “The City & The City” I couldn’t help thinking that it would make a fabulous but incredibly challenging movie. How could anyone film the shadowy, overlapping parts of Beszel and Ul Qoma that all citizens are ordered to “unsee”? Might there someday be a film version of “The City & The City”?
Oh, yes, [a movie version of “The City & The City] is a possibility. I think the term is “we’re in discussions.” Of course I’ve been around the block with this kind of thing before and I retain what I think is the only kind of strategy on this and that is one of profound cynicism. Until I’m in the cinema with lights going down.... But I love the idea. And I have very clear ideas as to how it could be done. I’m skeptical about some of my other books in terms of movies but “The City & The City” is one that I think could work. I would favor a lo-fi, suggestive, backhanded approach. But that may not be the way a director would want to go!

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Would you ever write another book set in Beszel and Ul Qoma?
It’s possible. I think it would be very foolish of me to preclude anything. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to imagine any book going back there that wouldn’t seem kind of deflated. I would always much rather write too few books about a place than too many. The conceit in my mind for “The City & The City” was that there was a whole series of crime novels featuring the protagonist, Inspector Tyador Borlu, of which this was the last. When I wrote it I wanted the subtitle to be “The Last Inspector Tyador Borlu Mystery” but my publishers didn’t want me to because they said then people will look for the first one and they won’t find it and then they won’t buy anything. But that’s what I wanted, what I envisioned my head. And there’s a couple of references in the book to previous cases that don’t actually exist. That’s my conceit, that this is the final one of a long series, which won all kinds of crime awards – in my head!

A lot of readers who don’t normally go for sci fi – me included – read your books. Does that please you?
It can’t possibly not! It’s really nice to feel that you’re not talking just to one particular audience but my only caveat to that is, while it’s very flattering and nice to hear people say that, I myself have a lot of love and respect for the tradition that I come out of and I would not want to be seen as someone who’s trying to distance himself from that tradition because I think it’s a tradition that has been many things to be proud of about it and without that tradition I don’t think that I would be a writer at all. What I would hope is that [reading my books] might also be a kind of gateway into that tradition.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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