China Mieville on RPGs

May 9, 2008

From PIQ magazine, vol. 3 June 2008, China Mieville and the Unheroes of Un Lun Dun by Paul Starr

If people want to play games in that world- even if they want to play them using characters from the books- it would be foolish for me to think I could stop them….

…people are doing this all the time, whether it be fanfiction, or – if you’re talking about kid’s books- any time a kid waves a stick and calls himself Harry Potter, he’s roleplaying in that world. You’re not going to be able to stop him from doing that, and why would you want to? All fiction, to varying degrees, is interactive. Merely thinking about what happened after the book finished, people will be interacting with your world, and it seems to me that wanting to play a game in it is just an extrapolation, in a slightly geeky direction, of that tendency of the readers.

…we’re talking about inhabiting the world. And that’s what readers of genre fiction in particular do; they inhabit the worlds they read about. That’s one of the things that marks out our field. That, to me, is exciting and interesting, so I don’t really empathize with [authorial possessiveness]

I haven’t read any of his books, but I think that’s a pretty good outlook on both genre writing, and the creative stuff that people do inspired by mass media.


  1. Make haste and read “Perdido Street Station.” It will make you think of the richest steampunk roleplaying setting ever, plus it’s a wonderful read in and of itself.

    “The Scar,” set in the same world a little bit later, is a more mature work and lacks for a definite hero (in the since that the protagonists are not always the ones you can root for) but it is an astonishing work as well. Any fan of fantasy will probably love Meiville’s richly textured worlds and his scintillating use of language.

  2. I enthusiastically second the motion, and recommend those two books especially from what he’s written. He’s an extraordinary author who just runs roughshod over the usual genre categories, bursting their bounds entirely. Its genre fiction without any of the usual genre conventions. Reading Perdido Street Station and The Scar were also both great ways to expand my vocabulary with words like “barquentine” and “desquamate”…very much worth the read.

  3. I’ll be the dissenter and recommend that you *don’t* read “Perdido Street Station.” Or, if you do, maybe ignore the hype so you don’t feel too let down at the end. It’s an exercise in ’90s pierced slacker grotesquerie, literally made me nauseous at many points, and I keep meaning to just plain throw it in the trash, but resist out of my general habit of treating my books preciously. It’s getting donated to a library, at least.

  4. Ok. Enough book reviews for this comment thread. I’m interested more in the idea of how people interact with fictional settings, and the creative act of doing so.

  5. D20 came out with a Bas-Lag supplement in the now non-published Dragon Magazine with some of the tech inside. I would love to see an update of the work in fourth edition. I was looking forward to seeing an “ab-dead” template, but alas it was only one magazine and not as detailed as I could hope for.

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