Published in Overland Issue 188 Spring 2007 Culture Writing against reality Rjurik Davidson Speculative fiction – an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, horror and other non-realist forms – has always been peculiarly suited to political radicalism since the form investigates a world that is ‘other’ to our own, a world which is in some way changed or altered. It is a thought experiment: by developing this sense of estrangement, science fiction asks us to think back upon our own society.1 Crudely put, the departure from our empirical reality attracts those who would change that reality. Leftists have always found the utopian mode of science fiction particularly useful for investigating and advocating other modes of social relations, while the strongest trend within feminist fiction is surely found within the genre.2 The radicalism associated with science fiction extends to criticism – within the academy, Frederic Jameson is probably the most famous enthusiast.3 Two writers at the forefront of radical speculative fiction are Kim Stanley Robinson and China Miéville. They spoke recently to Overland. KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: FORWARD INTO HISTORY Californian Kim Stanley Robinson (born 23 March 1952) emerged in the 1980s as a ‘hard’ science fiction writer, with his early Orange County trilogy (The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge) investigating possible dystopian and utopian futures for California, but it was his massive sprawling multi-volume Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) that propelled him to science-fictional fame. Robinson’s work is a sustained investigation into society’s relationship to the environment, the role of science in society, the nature and development of history and the potential for utopian post-capitalism. Robinson has noted the destruction of orchards in the agricultural community when he was young as important to both his personal radicalisation and his discovery of science fiction.4 Describing himself as “an American Leftist”, he explains that “there is a long tradition of utopian science fiction actually influencing politics in America … there’s a place in the public sphere and in people’s political thinking for imagining how the future could be better”. Science fiction and changing the world form “really a natural movement: in essence, create scenarios describing things being hammered out so that they work better. Improvements are made and ameliorations are made. And so I’ve thought of myself as being part of that tradition. At least that’s one aspect of my aesthetic program.” Robinson’s Mars trilogy investigates 200 years of future history, chronicling the colonisation of Mars, the debates about whether to ‘terraform’ the planet and its development into a post-capitalist society, with the colonisers debating the kind of world they’d like to build – both physically and socially – and breaking into different factions depending on their views. These novels, and his later The Years of Rice and Salt, ask complex questions. What is history? To what extent does economics determine social development? How does social transformation occur? What role does human choice play in how history is worked out? KSR: Science fiction is a historical literature because the theoretical act or the imaginative act that you perform is to postulate some kind of a future. The thing that makes it other than fantasy is the inclusion of a history connecting that future back to our present moment. Having provided that history, either explicitly in the text or implicitly, you are also providing a theory of history, unavoidably. You have to suggest what you think are the most powerful determinants, and also a philosophy of history is expressed, by whether you portray history as something that can be planned and consciously worked out to make things better in a kind of enlightenment mode, or whether it’s just so contingent and filled with inexplicable events that it’s out of our control … All aspects of a philosophy of history end up expressed in any given single science fiction novel, even if they are merely part of the armature of the subtext. And if you care to play with these things specifically, then you can begin to make statements in the form of imaginative experiments or thought experiments: “If this is the correct theory of history then we should see something like this.” Then you write it out in a concrete form. It’s often in the novelistic detail of the text where you begin to believe or disbelieve in the theory that’s being expressed, because it seems coherent, convincing, likely or plausible, etc. These themes extend throughout Robinson’s oeuvre. In The Years of Rice and Salt he supposes the Black Death decimates the European population in 1420 to such an extent that capitalism, science and industrialisation occurred first in the East. Tracing 700 years, the novel asks whether events would follow the same course under radically different conditions. KSR: I had to meditate on the oddity of history as it was really played out: the strangeness of the way that Europe dominated the rest of the world for the past 500 years and how that doesn’t make sense in most theoretical terms and has to be explained. It struck me that in the explaining of the one and only history we have, people come up with theories that might be rather limited because they only have the one sample. So I had a certain freedom to suggest things might turn out otherwise. But on the other hand, I began also to feel constrained by the material reality of the medieval world. For example, there were artisan shops all over the world working on metal in particular, and learning a lot, and at first thinking that what they were doing was alchemy and might have magical elements, but then that belief was slowly transformed by practice into a working science. And there were very advanced mathematics in India and the Islamic world in the medieval period. There was no doubt in my mind that technology would have progressed and science would have been born. If it happened perhaps a half-century or even a century later than it did in our world – because of some oddity of European geography or history – nevertheless it still would have happened. Then I began to think, “Well, maybe I am some kind of material determinist, something similar to a historical determinist, or even to a Marxist theory of history.” THE PROTO-POLITICS OF SCIENCE Robinson is a great defender of science5 and his novels are definitively science fiction. While many writers in the genre hold technologically determinist views, he examines science in the context of social relations. As Frederic Jameson argues, “scientific facts and findings, presuppositions and activities are themselves staged: namely, as data and raw materials for the solving of problems, rather than as abstract and contemplative features of an epistemology or scientific world picture”.6 Importantly, Robinson considers science as developing in contradiction with the needs of capitalism. KSR: It seems to me more and more that science and capitalism are almost like Siamese twins, because in our one and only history they did grow up together, and science has been essentially working with a gun to its head almost all along in its history … So science does need to be de-linked from capitalism and I think there’s a kind of giant cosmic battle going on in our history, now especially. These Siamese twins are fighting for dominance over the way that we think and act in the world. I side with science as against capitalism and would like to suggest that there’s a battle going on between them, and that they are not the same. And that although scientists have had to struggle with being servants and being subaltern to capital (like everybody else), nevertheless they’ve been better than almost anyone at functioning and improving our lot in really material and obvious ways, like increased lifetimes and better health care and lower infant mortality and a little bit more leisure time (at least in theory). Perhaps surprisingly, Robinson is also interested in Buddhist philosophy. In The Years of Rice and Salt and the Science in the Capital series (Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting), he reverses the usual opposition between science and Buddhism – an opposition that emerged powerfully, for example, during the 1960s counter-culture.7 He rejects the view held by those who see ‘scientism’ as a form of totalitarian domination. Rather than antinomies, Robinson sees a commonality between science and Buddhism. KSR: Science has an attitude towards the universe that can be described as devotional: there’s an intensity of interest, and an attempt to understand how it works, that is not dissimilar to the way that Buddhism intends to pay attention to the reality that we’re in right now. And the lack of an afterlife, or rewards system, except in subsequent human lives – the focus on reality, and causal explanations, and the here and now – there are just enough similarities to be able to try to explore that more, which I did in my recent Science in the Capital series, which is a very-near-future kind of ‘utopia now’ series about climate change – a utopian black comedy. THE NEEDS OF FICTION: A SCIENCE FICTIONAL REALISM Robinson is at pains to point out that the work of a novelist differs from that of a theorist or historian. Fiction follows its own narrative conventions and structures: for example, the development of characters, the posing of problems for those characters (and the social groups they represent) and their resolution. KSR: I work as a novelist and I am not an organised or coherent political thinker. So when I’m interested in these issues, what I’ll often do is, without really being able to articulate them very clearly, try to set up a story in which they’re banging around together. The most likely and interesting plot that I can make up often says something. It’s the most that I can say. Not any summarisation out of the book, but really the texture of the novel itself, with all of its actions and sentences, would be my final statement on those subjects, until I start the next one. Perhaps Robinson’s main formal innovation is his development of the multi-character novel spanning great lengths of time.8 His technique is not unlike that employed by the great realist novelists (at least in Lukács’ account), with their attempts to develop a picture of society and its ‘complex totality’ through the development of ‘typical’ characters: at one and the same time, representatives of social forces and yet still richly individualised. KSR: I had ideas for novels that were peculiar, unusual in the time that I wanted to cover. I think if you ask people “How many years should a novel describe?” they would typically keep it to within one lifetime … The Mars novels covered a couple of hundred years. Since it was in the future, they have their longevity treatment and some characters are alive the whole way through. Of course, if you’re covering 200 years, and trying to tell the whole story of an entire society, you need multiple viewpoints and that does come from Dick, though he got it from Faulkner and other modernists. I’ve expanded on that kind of multiple viewpoint novel, to stretch it out and try to capture the long rhythms of history and yet still keep readers connected to the characters that they cared about when they began the book. CLIMATE CHANGE AND SCIENCE IN THE CAPITAL The landscape has always been important to Robinson’s fiction. Perhaps more than any other science fiction author, he has investigated the relationship between politics and the environment: introducing a whole new factor (the environment) into, say, the old Marxist conception of base and superstructure.9 Robinson’s latest novels, the Science in the Capital series, explore climate change. The key moment occurs as the North Atlantic Gulf Stream – a great current that circles the Atlantic, alternately rising and falling depending on the warmth and salinity of the water – begins to shut down. The consequences are devastating: Washington is flooded and North America threatens to plunge into a new Ice Age. This ‘crux moment’ then drives the kind of serious shifts in political and social policy that Robinson sees as crucial to tackling climate change – shifts which ultimately imply a utopian post-capitalism. KSR: What climate change is bringing home to us in a way that can no longer be denied is that capitalism rests on some fundamental lies about our relationship to nature. Essentially its economics are a kind of astrology, a false science, a pseudoscience that pretends to describe reality, but really only describes a certain set of unjust laws. So economics is not ecology, and that’s too bad because it’s ecology that we need … Capitalist economics is always exteriorising real costs, so that the real costs of doing business and making a profit, particularly the cost of the natural world being destroyed, were never ever factored in, but really laid off on the future. And now the future has arrived. Now we have to factor in those costs. What that will do is completely wreck the notion that we’re making a profit from most of the actions of the economy. The environment is beginning to crash because of the carbon problem, but not just the carbon problem. One of the things I’d like to point out to people is that we’re now using climate change as a kind of metonymy. We speak of it as if it’s the only issue with the environment, but it is really only symptomatic of a much larger habitat crash and coming mass extinction event. We’ve really not figured out a permaculture that can get along with nature over the long haul … These are the questions that science and politics ought to be exploring together, that human science as a totality ought to be exploring very intently, using ecology and the rest of the sciences as a guide to make up an economics that is actually sustainable, and is just. CHINA MIÉVILLE AND THE NEW WEIRD Younger than Robinson, China Miéville burst onto the scene with his second novel, the sprawling, gothic fantasy Perdido Street Station. An active socialist and member of the British Socialist Workers Party who ran for parliament as a member of Socialist Alliance in 2001,10 he is widely considered a key figure in the ‘New Weird’, a movement emphasising the unity between science fiction and fantasy. Miéville too sees speculative fiction as particularly suited to radicalism. CM: When you look at the strengths of the tradition of radical speculative fiction – people like Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock and Octavia Butler and Ken McLeod and Ian Banks – there’s clearly something there. It is to do with the aesthetic of radical estrangement, radical difference: the fact that the genre doesn’t take reality for granted. My only caveat is that it would be dangerous for those of us who are on the Left of speculative fiction to feel like somehow it is innately our terrain. Because there have been plenty of writers who don’t come out of the Left, many of whom are very brilliant writers. There a sense of radical estrangement which we on the Left tend to think is innately our terrain, but that sort of estrangement and alienation from liberalism and modernity doesn’t necessarily have to be on the Left. In other words, because conservatives also identify fundamental problems with liberal capitalism and the culture of commodification, some Right-wing writers can share particular sensibilities with the Left.11 CM: I think, for example, of someone like Gene Wolfe. I think Gene Wolfe – The Shadow of the Torturer – is one of the outstanding writers of the twentieth century. He’s a completely amazing and brilliant writer and has an absolutely fantastic understanding of that strangeness of science fiction and fantasy and he’s also a Right-wing Catholic. You can easily understand how that might set him with an abrasive relationship with the everyday, just like us, but it doesn’t necessarily make it a Left relationship. But it does make for fantastic critical art. So because the best of speculative fiction does have a kind of radical, critical, questioning, alienated edge (in a good way), it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s Left-wing, although the Left does have a strong tradition. AGAINST THE CRUDE EQUATION: IN DEFENCE OF FANTASY Debates about the New Weird aside, some would classify Miéville’s fiction as fantasy, a form often regarded as inherently conservative. In his introduction to the theoretical journal Historical Materialism‘s special issue on fantasy, Miéville defended the genre against its Left detractors, claiming that it shares the same “cognitive effect” as its science fiction sibling and that it is “good to think with”. Miéville’s argument extends to a discussion of imaginative thought under capitalism where he notes, following Marx’s discussion of commodity fetishism, that “the social relations of the everyday – that ‘fantastic form’ – are the dreams, the ‘grotesque ideas’, of the commodities that rule”.12 He investigates the development of the imaginative act in radical politics, via discussions of Lenin and Gramsci, before asserting that no “matter how commodified and domesticated the fantastic in its various forms might be, we need fantasy to think the world, and to change it”.13 He explains: There’s a very crude equation that’s sometimes made, which is that science fiction is the speculative fiction of a political upturn and fantasy is the speculative fiction of a political downturn. Although that’s very, very crude, there’s a small element of truth to it. So the fact that a lot people want to immerse themselves in these fantasies of the ‘destiny of a kitchen-boy and a feudal landscape’ and so on does make me feel less than wholeheartedly comfortable. When I criticise the Left critique of fantasy, what I’m not doing is trying to defend all of those books. Because a lot of those books, I think, are escapist or at least attempt to be escapist. In fact, they’re deeply ideological, of course. What I’m arguing is not that “there is no such thing as reactionary or escapist fantasy”, but that what those writers have done is to take the historical accident that a particular vein of fantasy has come to define the field and used it to critique the whole field. In fact fantasy is much more various than that. It’s only kind of a historical quirk that in the last thirty years one particular kind of fantasy has come to define the whole field. CONNECTING WITH ANTI-CAPITALISM With Perdido Street Station, Miéville aimed to reverse the classic – and now deeply commodified – forms of fantasy fiction: “I … made a checklist of the kind of things Tolkien does and set out to invert them: so where his is a feudal world, mine is capitalist; his is rural, mine is urban; his is very Manichean in its morality, mine is all about shades of grey – and not even shades of grey, really, but genuinely insoluble moral and political conundrums, where there is no right answer.”14 This was a shift of some significance, opening up a whole new realm for fantasy. The city – in Miéville and others such as Ian R. McLeod and Jeff Vandermeer – is an imaginary late nineteenth century space in flux. One only needs to think of the rapid shifts in urban culture during that period to get a sense of its potential: grubby urban ghettos, new counter-cultures, emerging and half-formed sciences. Crucially, science and magic co-inhabit which, as Miéville notes, represents the assertion of a philosophical materialism.15 He relates this development in recent fantasy to the radical anti-capitalist movement of the late 1990s and start of the new century. CM: My original working hypothesis was that this was a reflection of the shifting of society after the retrenchment of Thatcherism and Reaganism, and that there was some relationship between the freeing up of the social imagination that was manifest in the anti-capitalist movement, particularly around the very late nineties and early noughties, and the genre. The slogan ‘Another world is possible’ always seemed to me to be really key there because politically it was a rebuke to Thatcher’s ‘There is no alternative’. What that meant was a lot of the norms and rules of speculative fiction began to break down in a very creative way, so that if you were doing a fantasy, it didn’t have to be set in a feudal middle ages, if you were doing a mainstream novel, you didn’t have to preclude fantastic elements. There has been a shift and there’s less of a sense of complete potentiality, but at the same time it hasn’t gone back to the much harder political and concomitantly aesthetic time it was before. Partly because at the level of aesthetics and literature we can still build on that stuff that came out of those times, so even though things might not be quite as exuberant as they were, we still have those books that came out in the past decade to build on and to build a new tradition from. That’s where I come from, I think. PRESSING THE LIMITS OF SPECULATIVE FICTION In Miéville’s Iron Council he returns to the world of Perdido Street Station and the pirate novel The Scar to write a book “which was overtly political and precisely about my kind of politics in this world I’ve created”.16 It investigates all kinds of political and moral activities: pamphleteering, ‘necessary murder’, terrorism, revolution. But Miéville anticipated that the sexual politics would generate the strongest reaction. CM: When I wrote Iron Council I was expecting there to be a fair amount of kerfuffle about the fact that the main character is gay and there’s a fairly explicit gay sex scene and so on. And to my great pleasure, I was wrong about that and actually almost no-one has commented on it. I was really pleased about that, and I felt to some extent I owed the genre and the readers an apology because I thought ‘I’m going to be really radical now and I’m going to have this explicit gay character’ and actually people were fine about it. I felt, ‘my gosh’. After the 1960s and 70s, most of these taboos, if we’re talking about social taboos, have been broken. Clearly writers of colour are still under-represented in the field. But in terms of the literary representations, we have broken an awful lot of those barriers. For Miéville, the combination of politics and narrative presents no real problems and for “anyone who wants to do the job of extraction, the politics in Perdido and The Scar and so on are pretty clear. But because it’s not what the book is ‘about’, in some narrow sense, you don’t have to be interested in that at an explicit level to like the books.” He continues: Iron Council is a slight exception to that because it was my attempt to write quite self-consciously a book infused by a sense of radicalism and revolution. And even in that, I tried to make it accessible to those who aren’t interested or don’t agree, because I come out of a pulp tradition so there’s a strong sense of narrative and cliff-hangers and monsters and all that stuff. And each of those monsters and narrative hooks will have a political unconscious but they also have a super-ego, and if you’re not interested in the unconscious you can read them at the super-ego level. I come to this as someone who grew up on pulp fiction and genre fiction and loves it and also someone who’s a socialist – so there’s never been a sense of having to square the two. Inevitable my books are going to have political elements and I’m completely fine with that, I wouldn’t want it any other way and it would be impossible for it to be any other way. Miéville believes that speculative fiction should open itself up to greater formal experimentalism, although he warns against “a rather crude transgressive aesthetic which thinks that because something is a taboo, the breaking of it is inherently a good thing to do. That’s a very crude kind of radicalism.” He writes in the tradition of the New Wave of science fiction writers of the 1960s and 70s who in the words of one participant aimed “to elevate SF to its true potential as the heirs of Joyce and Kafka, Beckett and Genet”.17 CM: If I think about the genre of speculative fiction, writings like those by William Burroughs, like Dhalgren by Delany, things that do try and play certain avant-garde games at the level of form as well as content, they are quite contested. Although there are enormously strong supporters of those works within the field, there are also people who see that – quite explicitly in some cases – as being a load of silly, unnecessary nonsense and that what ‘we’re’ all about is telling a good story. Often the prose of speculative fiction can be … quite flat because there’s a notion that, for ‘us’, the prose itself should be like a clear glass window, and that where our weirdness comes in is the content, which is behind the window. So we make the window as clear as possible and then we get to look through into the strangeness beyond. That’s a misunderstanding of what prose is, and there’s nothing wrong with having an experimental attitude and having a plate-glass window in front of it so that it fractures what you’re representing. Because prose is always a medium as well as the message behind it, the attempt to make it invisible a) is never going to work and b) is not desirable anyway. Miéville’s prose is muscular and at times consciously experimental. Iron Council, in particular, is evidence of his love of “arcane words and baroque sentence structure”.18 His short stories – perhaps the most under-appreciated element of his work – quite often show the influence of the New Wave. ‘Looking for Jake’, for example, a story about the slow disappearance of the entire population of London under the pressure of some powerful entropic force, bears the powerful imprint of Ballard and M. John Harrison. CM: It sounds funny because we did have our high modernist moment in genre, and it was called the New Wave. You look at someone like Ballard: it’s completely to do with fracture and cut-up and avant-garde of form and so on. But it doesn’t seem to have had such an immensely powerful influence in the genre as one might think. I mean there are plenty of writers, particularly in Britain, who are the children of the New Wave, but there isn’t a particularly strong sense of that formal experimentation – and that baton hasn’t been taken up as much as it could. THE FUTURE OF THE FUTURE Miéville is excited by the increasing organisation of Leftist science fiction circles, noting the emergence of a new, specifically Left-wing, science fiction convention in the United States called Think Galactic: I think it’s a very good thing; I’m very excited about it. There is an increasing centre of gravity of radical science fiction readers and writers and one might as well draw on that. It is explicitly taking its cue from WisCon [feminist science fiction convention] and being a progressive and radical centre of gravity for science fiction in the US. In contrast, Robinson would like to see Leftist speculative fiction reaching out into the broader culture: I would prefer to see the Leftist science fiction community crashing the boards of every science fiction convention and gathering and conference. Although WisCon is obviously a lot of fun for its attendees, I don’t actually think its people have taken the right strategy by sequestering themselves and all of their great work into something that is not exactly a closed shop, but something that not enough people see. All science fiction should be feminist science fiction if it really wants to speak for the future generations. I would prefer all these allied political efforts to be diffused out into the whole science fiction culture, and that’s sort of what I see with Leftism. I’m really proud of and impressed by the work of McLeod and Miéville and Ian Banks and Geoff Ryman and Gwyneth Jones. What, then, of the future of the form itself? Both writers are optimistic about the genre. Miéville has argued that a “brief survey of popular books, television, comics, video games etc. illustrates the extent to which the fantastic had become a default cultural vernacular”, while Robinson has gone so far to claim that “we are living inside a science fiction novel”.19 He explains: The tropes and the imagery, the methods of thought, the extrapolation etc. are all standard everyday mental equipment and part of our lived reality. Which means science fiction as a genre has got a very strange problem. Because as an SF writer you have to either become a domestic realist and say, “What I write is really what we live in, and therefore I am simply a realist novelist and doing realism actually more realistically than the supposed realism of the late modernist or bestseller list genre” – and that’s what I would claim for my Science in the Capital books – or else you have to think very hard about what it’s going to be like a hundred years from now, given where we are now. This is the hard work of science fiction all over again, in a culture that’s changing very, very rapidly and has a lot of structural instabilities and contradictions, as Marx pointed out, that are not resolvable, that are going to lead to various kinds of ruptures. The science fiction writer today would have to describe those ruptures and those changes, and that’s really hard. 1. The classic definition is by literary theorist Darko Suvin who, borrowing Brechtian terminology, describes science fiction as a literature of ‘cognitive estrangement’. See Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, Yale University Press, London, 1980. 2. To begin with, see the work of Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marge Piercy, Suzy McKee Charnas, Octavia Butler and, despite her attempts at distancing herself from science fiction, Margaret Atwood. 3. See his recent book, Archaeologies of the Future: This Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions, (Verso, London, 2005), which collects his most important work on the subject. Other Marxist luminaries include Darko Suvin and Carl Freedman. 4. Nick Gevers, ‘Wilderness, Utopia, History: An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson’ , accessed 4 June 2007. 5. Some of his reflections on science and the future can be listened to on podcast at . 6. Frederic Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions, Verso, London, 2005, 394. 7. Though its precedents run much further back, including, for example, to German idealist philosophy of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 8. Robinson cites the work of Philip K. Dick as one influence in this multi-character form. Robinson wrote as a doctoral dissertation, under Frederic Jameson’s supervision, an excellent early study of Dick which was published as The Novels of Philip K. Dick, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, 1984. 9. When I met Robinson in Glasgow in 2005, he in fact defended this very conception in front of a group of his fans. 10. Miéville is also the author of a scholarly book, Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law, Brill Academy Publishers, Leiden, 2005. 11. Terry Eagleton makes a similar argument. See, for example, The Gatekeeper, Penguin, London, 2001, 12-18 and ‘A Future for Socialism’, Arena Journal, New Series 16, 2000/1. 12. China Miéville, ‘Editorial Introduction’, Historical Materialism, vol. 10 no. 4, 2002, 42. 13. Ibid., 48. 14. Mark Bould, ‘Appropriate Means: An Interview with China Miéville’, New Politics, vol. 9 no. 3 (new series), 2003, , accessed 17 July 2007. 15. See Joan Gordon, ‘Reveling in Genre: An Interview with China Miéville’, Science Fiction Studies #91, vol. 30 no. 3, 2003, . 16. ‘China Miéville’, , accessed 4 June 2007. 17. Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made of, Free Press, New York, 1998, 14. Disch’s attitude to both the New Wave and science fiction is now at the least less idealistic, at the worst somewhat cynical. Itself a matter of substantial debate, the New Wave could include Michael Moorcock, J.G. Ballard, Pamela Zoline, Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel Delany, Harlan Ellison and Norman Spinrad. 18. ‘China Miéville’, , accessed 4 June 2007 19. China Miéville, ‘Editorial Introduction’, Historical Materialism, vol. 10 no. 4, 2002, 40. ‘Kim Stanley Robinson: Chop Wood, Carry Water’, , accessed 4 June 2007. Rjurik Davidson is Overland‘s reviews editor and writes speculative fiction. © Rjurik Davidson Overland 188 – spring 2007, pp. 38-45 Like this piece? Subscribe! Rjurik Davidson Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson. More by Rjurik Davidson Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays 4 First published in Overland Issue 228 3 June 202225 July 2022 Main Posts Myth–archetype–story–f[r]iction: Helen Garner’s How to End a Story Moya Costello The third volume of Helen Garner’s diaries, How To End a Story, is a reminder of how affecting books, or art and culture more widely, are. 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