The Times profile begins with a paragraph that exemplifies the paper’s handling of genre fiction:
If your idea of a science fiction writer is a scrawny guy with computer-glow pallor who’s a little too interested in whether warp speed is a realistic rate of travel, China Miéville is not that person.
To be fair, that is most people’s image of a science fiction writer. But it’s arguable that Miéville’s novel The City & The City is not actually science fiction as most would define it, if they bothered to think about a definition. To be fair, the Times claims:
For the record, Mr. Miéville, 37, calls himself a science fiction writer — or, for those steeped in genre subdivisions, a purveyor of “weird” or “new weird” fiction. But he stands out from the crowd for the quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing.
Is it just me, or is “quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing” sort of like saying that he stands out because he’s “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy“? While the profile is a good one, and I’m glad to see Miéville getting mainstream attention, the Times still lacks continuity in its genre reviews. Since David Itzkoff abandoned his hipster snark filled “Across the Universe” column, the Times book section has only had one review by Jeff VanderMeer. It has otherwise returned to a general stable of people who mostly hold the genre and its authors in some form of mild contempt and can be surprised by something like China Miéville having a nicely toned body.
That said, the mainstream attention Miéville is gathering, combined with his notable personal charisma, could well propel him to a level of recognition enjoyed by writers like Neil Gaiman. Miéville’s writing is even more quirky and highbrow than Gaiman, and he lacks the fan base created by Gaiman’s start in comics. Despite that, among the genre crowd, he is known as a “rock star”.
I bemoan the NY Times focusing on his physique, but I’ve known plenty of fans, writers, editors and critics who get twitterpated about Miéville’s good looks. So perhaps the Times was on to something. Will genre rock-stars of the future have to look the part as well as write it?