Saturday, 22 December 2012


The amount of discarded electronics, like broken or almost-broken televisions, computers nearly spewing their guts on the sides of streets - you do know where it all goes? Well, some of it goes to UnLunDun.

China Miéville's writings are quite inspirational, and some of his books with a clear steampunkish edge to them as well. However, Un Lun Dun (2007) -- UnLondon - is one weird mix of the other side of London; ever so slightly alternative universe into which the two girl protagonists Zanna and Deeba are transported.

Of interest to the fans of the obsolete are the constructions of moil: Mildly Obsolete in London, but completely useful in the tinkering Un Lun Dun:

"[..] a building made from typewriters and dead televisions", that they pass from an itself obsolete abandoned London double-decker bus. The "Em Oh Aye Ell"s are pieces of discarded stuff, like old computers and radios, abandoned on the streets:

"Sometimes rubbish collectors have taken it, but often as not it ends up here, where people find other uses for it. It seeps into UnLondon. You might see residue: maybe a dried-up puddle on a wall. That's where the moil dripped through. And here, it sprouts like mushrooms on the streets."

And it's the whole system of media/transport; old buses, diesel trains but more importantly not just obsolescence but even the play with existence/non-existence where they are going: the other "abcities", such as Parisn't, No York, Helsunki, Lost Angeles, Sans Francisco, Hong Gone, Romeless - a network of existing non-places.

As for moil, it's not really just "old manky rubbish", like Zanna's judgment goes. It too organises (although, one has to say the smog that escaped London while developing a brain of its own is a thingy in its own class!). Moil is organised to tribes, with their own leaders, pointing to the organisation of rubbish - rubbish just is not rubbish. It has histories, pasts, futures, modes of organisation. Indeed, "Certain substances in UnLondon exist in prologue form in London, and enter a second life-cycle here with new purposes, even as sentient denizens of the abcity", this logic is later explained in slightly more detail.

Hence, you have princesses of discarded typewriters, and jacks of cracked glass, the pope of empty mousetraps -- a whole royalty of obsolescence.

Miéville's moil points to the fact that when things break down, they become something else. Losing purpose does not mean disappearance, like broken media just does not disappear. Umbrellas become unbrellas.

Miéville is so good on this point: the persistent duration of materiality that insists on its transformational quality. Something persists, and yet changes; the other worlds are those transformations, topological, or to account for the spatial qualities, grosstopical too - to use a term he uses in The City & The City, another weird materialist story of space/unspace.

1 comment:

  1. And there's some wonder full Lovecraftian excess description. Sorry Jussi but it's all a bit quadruple and object oriented.