Neither a Contract Nor a Promise: Five Movements To Watch Out For (Guest Blogger China Mieville)

       (The City & The City, an Amazon featured book for June.)

It's been a while since we've had some red-hot literary-movement action. Part of the problem is that the declaration of such movements, schools, salons, moments, manifestoes, sets, etc, tends to be a post-facto thing. Someone--a participant or otherwise--notices a bunch of writers and artists doing some stuff through which the observer considers there to be some shared thread(s). Give it a name, and boom: performative taxonomy complete.

So, missing the tendentious genealogies, the reclamations of forgotten texts and bigging-up of some new, pining for a smidge of controversy, I thought we could save a bit of time by naming a few movements in advance, then writing books to fit. That way we could start arguing about them without having to wait through those tiresome publication schedules.

Accordingly, what follows are a few modest proposals for literary/artistic movements to fulfil the moment's cultural needs, and a few bon mots to start the arguments.

i) Zombiefail '09-ism

Named partly in honour (not mockery) of an important debate about race and politics that set fire to livejournal earlier this year, this will be the movement for those tired of the unrelenting imperialism of zombies in horror--and now other--fiction. The writers' position will be that what started as an invigoration (one hesitates to say 'revivification', in this context) of an antique trope has viralled to the point where its ubiquity makes it ambulonecrotophile kitsch. Zombies that once stalked the cultural unconscious like baleful rebukes are now cuddly toys, dead metaphors (ba-boom) at which we can't stay mad. Paradoxically, out of very respect for increasingly degraded zombies, Zombiefail '09-ist writers will either explicitly undermine their banalisation by melancholy mockery of them, or refuse to write about them at all, instead plundering various mythoi for more neglected monsters with which to end the world.

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Comments (18)

Do not get your girls wear a plain white bridesmaid dress on stage in order to avoid distracting.

Posted by: bridesmaiddresses | Thursday April 7, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Add to LitFic Praetorians Yann Martel's new book Beatrice & Virgil: the Holocaust as a metaphor for writer's block -- see James Lasdun's review at the Guardian.

Posted by: jitard | Saturday July 10, 2010 at 8:40 PM

WOW its a nice article.I went to it and really get interested in all the five moments.Thanks for posting.

Posted by: hdmi splitter | Thursday September 17, 2009 at 6:23 AM

oh noes

I'm a LitFic Praetorian!

Posted by: Haddayr | Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 7:52 PM

Integration of zombies into mainstream society:

"It takes a village to raise the dead."

Posted by: S. Crowley | Friday July 3, 2009 at 5:21 PM

Brilliant, especially the "LitFic Praetorians." James Wood can be their standard-bearer.

Posted by: E. Caldwell | Friday July 3, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Hello, China! I did a blog post meself on Noird, recently...but wish I'd coined that term. It's sure to start another uproar.

Posted by: Jeffrey Thomas | Tuesday June 23, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Love the term Norid. But I have to disagree about steampunk dying. If anything there is a resurgence of good steampunk right now. I think it just took time for the skilled writers to get to it. Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone was quite impressive with its characterization of an emotional automaton in a very unfeeling human society. I just started George Mann's The Affinity Bridge, which is exceedingly fun as it mixes a steampunk setting with detective/investigators along with zombies.

Posted by: The Mad Hatter | Tuesday June 23, 2009 at 7:05 AM

Salvagepunk ftw!

Posted by: Isaac Espriu | Thursday June 18, 2009 at 8:28 PM

For SalvagePunk, not just Steptoe and Son but Sanford and Son.

Posted by: mamculuna | Thursday June 18, 2009 at 1:54 PM

I know they made a Noird movie named Dark City as well. Though they didn't realize it was in the Noird genre at the time.

Posted by: caymon | Thursday June 18, 2009 at 10:22 AM

I think they made a Noird movie in the early 90's it starred Fred Ward as a hard boiled 50's detective named Howard Lovecraft.

Posted by: lige | Thursday June 18, 2009 at 9:47 AM


Lethem's Gun with Occasional Music as well as The City and The City and the forthcoming Finch by Jeff Vandermeer just to name a few.

Posted by: drxray | Thursday June 18, 2009 at 9:23 AM

The preferred might be "ambulothanatophile" — what with "ambulothanatophobia" going for zombie phobia...

Also, given wouldn't Lethem's first novel qualify as "Noird"?

Posted by: F_D | Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 5:28 PM

Noird? Nward?

Surely you mean WEIRD-BOILED.

Posted by: Nick Mamatas | Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 4:02 PM

My bad, it's THE *DISASTERS* OF WAR, by Goya.

Posted by: Marcus Ewert | Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Good article, China-
but you left out Brutalist Children's Lit:
Don't worry, I'm hard at work on some canonical texts in this genre as we speak!


Posted by: Marcus Ewert | Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 1:24 PM

"When the Shoggoth walked into my office I knew she was trouble..."

Posted by: Alex | Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 1:21 PM

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