"Embassytown," by China Miéville

Kate Eshelby,Random House
China Mieville, Embassytown
Random House, Kate Eshelby

Jeff Glor talks to China Miéville following the release of "Embassytown," an ambitious, rollicking novel about alien contact and war in the far distant future. If you're looking for something different, it might be worth a shot. Miéville's writing and ideas can be mind-bending.

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

China Miéville: A combination of an idea for double-voiced aliens that I'd had many years ago, when I was a kid; some stuff I'd been reading on the philosophy of language; and a notion of space travel as a kind of 18th Century maritime adventure.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

CM: I left a long time - a few years - between the first and the second draft of this book, and was perhaps not exactly surprised, but certainly fascinated, to verify how much critical distance that granted me, how I was able to improve it, the sense of remove that helped its editing. Since its publication I've been very surprised, and very gratified, to discover how many readers who don't come out of a science-fiction tradition have been willing to give a chance to a book featuring spaceships, aliens and zap guns.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

CM: I'd be an academic, in the field of International Law. That was always the original plan, and why I pursued a PhD and research in the ways I did. I still try to keep my hand in scholarly writing, in fact, publishing things now and then, whenever I can, going to conferences, and so on. I like research a lot. Ultimately I like writing fiction a bit more, though, is all.

JG: What else are you reading right now?

CM: I'm about two thirds of the way through "Liberalism: A Counter-history," by Domenico Losurdo, not a right-wing hatchet job as the title might suggest to some but a superb critique from the left, examining the political history of Europe and the US, and the complicity of its systems and many of its supposed theorists of democracy with grotesque racist reaction. And "The Great Lover," by Michael Cisco, who continues his astonishing carving out of an alternative tradition of the fantastic, in which Thomas Bernhardt is at least as important an influence as Tolkien or Howard or Poe.

JG: What's next for you?

CM: I'm just finishing up a draft of another book, and am raring to go on a whole bunch of other projects, in a bunch of styles and fora. You'll notice I'm being evasive and unspecific, and I apologize for that. Truth is I'm very superstitious about talking about work in progress. It always seems to me a good way to make God laugh, tell her my plans, so I'd rather not grant that hostage to fortune. 

For more on "Embassytown," visit the Random House website.
  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.