Wow, ces graphismes !
|The "Remade", from Perdido Street Station, are convicts that have been physically altered or bioengineered with any number of animal and/or mechanical parts grafted on. How did this idea come about and is it a look at punishment versus rehabilitation in a penal system? |
China Mieville : I like grotesquerie. Part of, indeed for me a very if not the major, appeal of writing the fantastic has always been the creation of monsters, as many and as varied as possible. And with the Remade, with a category of person defined by their variability, I gave myself leeway to produce as many different physical monstrous forms as I could possibly come up with without having to endlessly rationalise them as new species. It wasn't just licence, it was encouragement, to indulge as baroque a teratogenesis as I could. And combined with that it raised (in what I hope isn't/wasn't too camply overt a manner) issues of crime, punishment, state power, the body, what has been called biopolitics, and so on. To that extent it is absolutely, as you imply, about the politics, culture and economics - and performance - of punishment, especially by the state.
Personally though I wouldn't tend to stress the terms of punishment *versus* rehabilitation, because those very terms of debate, which purport to represent the 'opposing wings' of possible opinion, restrict the conceptual terrain. Both of them, whether from a hawkish or a putatively dovish perspective, maintain the notion of crime as malignant social pathology, with the debate being over how best to address that Bad Behaviour™. Obviously lots of crime is terrible, and our task should be to understand where it came from, take care of those hurt by it and do whatever necessary to stop it happening again. But a worthy discussion of the penal system has to point out that of course i) our world is structured by countless unspeakable, violent, maleficent acts perpetrated every day by those in positions of power, from imperial wars to corporates'/the rich's tax evasion - or to give it its other name, stealing from hospitals - that are ignored, if technically 'illegal' in the first place, and are very often even culturally celebrated; and ii) colossal amounts of crime at the other end of things are not social pathologies at all - the infamous 'looting' after Katrina, otherwise known as 'attempting not to starve', would be an extreme case in point, but plenty of illegalities that occur are wholly predictable acts of survival, everyday efforts to get by, reasonable desires to experience a bit of pleasure, in many cases deliberately made illegal to justify oppressive structures of martial law (hello, 'War On Drugs'), and that deserve neither punishment nor rehabilitation, but instead illustrate the urgent necessity to change a society where such activities are so brutally pathologised.