For China Mieville, just being in Perth is almost as mind-bending as the unsettling sci-fi fantasy tales he writes.
"I'm just so bewildered not to be cold," the acclaimed London-based "weird fiction" author Mieville said yesterday.
Mieville, whose Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novels include Perdido Street Station and the detective thriller The City & the City, is in Perth for the first time for the Perth Writers Festival, which opened last night and runs until Sunday.
He's one of many international and Australian authors descending on the University WA campus to unleash their words on a reading public hungry for stories straight from the horses' mouths, so to speak.
Other guests include Kate Grenville, Anna Funder, Andy Griffiths, Chris Masters, Isobelle Carmody and the big one, Margaret Atwood - with whom Mieville is sharing a session.
"It's intimidating," he said of working with Atwood. "But it's something to look forward to as well. It's one of those sessions which has an intriguing but rather nebulous title. But they're often the best ones. Because you can really get your teeth into it and it can go anywhere. It's a bit like herding cats in fog."
Mieville, who spends so much time on university campuses around the world he describes himself as an "intercontinental university tourist" is also doing an individual session and taking part in a series of readings with other writers including James Meek and Michelle de Kretser.
Mieville will take part in a festival edition of ABC TV's popular books show First Tuesday Book Club with Jennifer Byrne and fellow author Shamini Flint.
He said he was "intrigued" by the idea of the program, although he didn't know what to expect.
"The simple fact of talking about books on TV is a good thing," he said.
Mieville, whose latest novel Railsea is a steam-punk Moby Dick with trains instead of ships and giant moles instead of whales, is looking forward to the festival.
"I enjoy festivals very much," he said. "They're addictive. You meet people who are doing the same kind of thing you're doing. And if you write you want to be read, so you're meeting people who are reading your books and who want to talk about them and it's overwhelmingly flattering."