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China Miéville leads radical SF's invasion of the mainstream
The radicalism inherent in the best science fiction is at the heart of Miéville's work, and makes it perfect reading for our troubled times

Is SF becoming cool? If it is, as China Miéville claims, then the award-winning author, whose new novel Embassytown hit the shelves yesterday, may have something to do with it. In our current era of austerity, with the largest-ever protest march on the nation's capital and a previously apathetic youth culture rallying to the UK Uncut banner, Miéville's homebrew of weird fiction and radical politics seems ever more relevant. Despite the current slew of mindless SF-flavoured Hollywood blockbusters, Miéville reminds us that beneath SF's skin-deep popular appeal beats a radical heart.

HG Wells's The War of the Worlds was originally published as part of the jingoistic "invasion literature" that fuelled imperial Britain's xenophobia. But Wells's description of alien heat rays vaporising the people of Woking and the home counties (still a common fantasy to this day) has since been widely read as damning metaphor for Britian's own campaigns in India and elsewhere. George Orwell, a sometime critic of Wells, nonetheless shared a passion for the radical metaphor. As a warning against totalitarianism and the oppressive structures of power, his novel 1984 is held as totemic by both left and right.

In the post-war era, British SF writers continued the radical debate. JG Ballard never tired of skewering the insanity of the industrial, technological world and its crushing effect on human psychology, in novels including High Rise, Concrete Island and Crash. M John Harrison constructed a fluid metaphor for the sickness he perceived in Thatcher's Britain in the fantastical, imagined city of Viriconium. And Iain M Banks has succeeded in smuggling some of the most radical and damning reflections of society onto the bestseller list. Novels such as The Player of Games reflect the depths of our corruption, wrapped up in a utopian vision that shows what we could, so easily, become.

For the full article

The Guardian