I saw China Miéville speak at a forum at Book Expo a few weeks back. Smart, articulate guy. Re His take on Tolkien is one often forgotten: Tolkien built the world --- mountains, forests, seas --- and made up languages, THEN wondered who might live there to speak those tongues.
"The order is reverse: the world comes first, and then, and only then, things happen--stories occur--within it. ... So dominant is this mode now (as millions of women and men draw millions of maps, and write millions of histories, inventing worlds in which, perhaps, eventually, a few will set stories) that it's difficult to see what a conceptual shift it represented."
Plus, get this note by Miéville: "Tolk gives good monster. Shelob, Smaug, the Balrog...in their astounding names, the fearful verve of their descriptions, their various undomesticated malevolence, these creatures are utterly embedded in our world-view. No one can write giant spiders except through Shelob: all dragons are sidekicks now. And so on."
--- Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks