Monday, December 3, 2012

Bas-Lag For Beginners: A Visual Guide



 These books should appeal to Harry Potter fans who want something more adult and substantial and for Game Of Thrones fans who want something more whimsical and surreal, or those on the fence about the whole "new weird"/ fantasy/sc-fi thing and maybe don't want to read 8 books each ending with to-be-continued, as an initiation. Each of the three novels in the Bas-Lag series deals ("Perdido Street Station","The Scar", and "Iron Council") with its own characters, its own cities, and its own moments in history, in a world with over a dozen non-human sentient species who resent human tendencies toward "anthrocentricism"(I'm not a beetle headed woman, your a shaved ape headed khepri without breasts and a vagina). Which is a far cry from Toklien writing about "darkies", Frank L. Baum's comments about native americans, and HP. Lovecraft's pathological fears of anyone who wasn't a white male from Rhode Island. These characters hang out in bars, strike for better wages, think of adventuring as an anti-social mercenary hobby, but still find time to get caught up in occasional apocalyptic crisis, against their own police state militias, inter-dimensional spiders who believe the universe a work of art, artificial intelligences that grow out of junkyards, masochistic pirate couples obsessed with island sized whales, hobo-sorcerers summoning ghosts with graffiti, and giant nightmare moths that feed off sentient minds. These novels are the results of a youth spent memorizing Dungeons and Dragons monster manuals, adolescence in the wake of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore's graphic novel revolution, and an adulthood studying Marxism, apartheid, globalization, copyright law, and political activism, while bouncing between cities like Cairo and London. Academic high-fantasy, action-packed post-modernism co-exist here perfectly in an ongoing series that is as much as socialist allegory for historical materialism as it is a love letter to absurdity and all things weird and unbelievable (like being a modern well informed person hope who still has hope in human progress). I've read over a dozen books this year(from Victorian lit, to social realism, to other more outre fantasy and experimental stories and anthologies) but these were easily the best, and read to the news-light of the still blooming impact and detours of  the Arab Spring and the Global Recession, they feel more like prophecy than fantasy. As Tolkien was inspired by World War 2, Wagner, and European mythology, Mieville is inspired by the cultural changes of the 90's and the Millennium, the retro and special effects driven world of pop culture, and world mythology. Mieville seeks to begin where the ideological, racial, sexual, and literary expectations for traditional fantasy end. This however is not an analysis of these books (there are many floating on the Internet like here: http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-05262011-140000/unrestricted/radicalrealms[1][1].pdf ). No friends, this is a visual guide, made up of fan art, and a few (mostly obvious) photographic supplements to the wierd and wonderful world of Bas-Lag. Hopefully these images will inspire some to read the book, clarify and crystallize images from those whose already read, and maybe jump start some interest in getting these images onto the screen. My 3d glasses are waiting. 






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