27 Apr 2012

Countdown to 2312

Submitted by Kimon

In less than a month, Kim Stanley Robinson's next novel 2312 is being released! May 22 in the USA and Australia, May 24 in the UK. Get ready for a wild ride in the solar system!

The first official review of the novel comes from Publishers Weekly:

Robinson (Galileo’s Dream) delivers a challenging, compelling masterpiece of science fiction. In a spectacularly depicted future of interplanetary colonization, humanity has spread across the entire solar system, from miniature biomes in hollowed-out asteroids to a moving city racing the fatal rays of the sun on Mercury. Mercurian artist and biome designer Swan Er Hong is struggling to cope with her grandmother’s death and an unexpected meteor strike when she gets caught up in a scientific conspiracy that touches on both the political and economic schemes of space-based humans, including Saturn’s ring-surfing moon dwellers and the secretive factions controlling slowly terraforming Venus, as well as the quasi-independent quantum computers called qubes. As Swan, the saturnine diplomat Fitz Wahram, and interplanetary investigator Jean Genette delve into the possible connections among a series of mysterious incidents, Robinson’s extraordinary completeness of vision results in a magnificently realized, meticulously detailed future in which social and biological changes keep pace with technological developments. Agent: Ralph Vincinanza, Ralph Vincinanza Agency (author now represented by Christopher Schelling, Selectric Artists). (May)

The review came with an interview with Robinson: "The Future Is Fun". Extract:

What was your starting point for a work that explores so many different areas of future culture and technology?

I usually start with ideas that are simple, then things get complicated as I try to make those ideas work. In this case, I began with the idea of the romance at the center of the novel, between two people from Mercury and Saturn who were (surprise!) mercurial and saturnine in character, and thus a real odd couple. But to make that story work I needed there to be people on Mercury and Saturn, which implied a solar system–spanning civilization, which in turn suggested the time of the story had to be pretty far off in the future. The project of describing this high-tech future civilization became a major component of the novel, but it all began by trying to give the central romance its proper setting. So I guess you could say it’s a process of following the implications of ideas and seeing where they lead.

What didn't make it on the magazine did make it on their blog here. Extract:

SDG: What drew you to the “collage” structure?

KSR: The book was clearly going to have a big information load, and as I was planning it, Jerad Walters of Centipede Press asked me to write introductions for new editions of John Brunner’s novels Stand On Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up, classics from 1968 and 1973. I agreed to do that, and rediscovered the way Brunner had portrayed a complex global culture, which was by adapting the technique invented by John Dos Passos for his great U.S.A. trilogy of the 1930s. So I finally actually read the Dos Passos trilogy, which had been sitting on my shelf for thirty years, and I was amazed at how good it is—truly one of the great American novels. I decided to follow Brunner’s example and adapt the Dos Passos method, which in essence is a weave or collage of different kinds of writing, including songs, newspaper articles, stream-of-consciousness passages, impressionist pocket biographies of famous Americans, and so on. My lists, extracts, planet biographies, and quantum walks are my variations on the Dos Passos technique.

I’ve always liked lists, and I hope that the lists in 2312 will be seen as a new way to handle exposition, in effect squishing it down to something like word association games, or prose poems.

There's another reader review at Mysterious Galaxy and here (some plot spoilers).


Teasing the book, Orbit offers a Kindle sampler for their April-May 2012 releases over on Amazon.com, which includes an excerpt from 2312. The Orbit marketing continues to feature 2312 prominently, with a variant of the 2312 artwork featured as the cover for the sampler (picture above).




Expect an intense Robinson tour for the promotion of 2312 in the coming months!

The first is tomorrow (!) in Robinson's city of residence, Davis, California.

Davis Enterprise: Robinson talks about his latest novel, '2312'
Saturday April 28, 2012, 7pm
Davis Astronomy Club
Explorit Science Center
3141 Fifth St., Davis, CA

Apart from the Rexroth-related events on May 6 and May 15 (see previous article and calendar), there is much more planned.

  • May 23: Planetary Society, Los Angeles, California
  • May 24: Mysterious Galaxy, Redondo Beach, California
  • May 25: FiRE conference, Laguna Beach, California
  • May 26: Avid Reader, Davis, California
  • May 29: Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, California
  • May 30-June 2: Spacefest, Tucson, Arizona
  • June 5: Book Passage, Corte Madera, California
  • June 7-11: Tour in the UK (includes June 8: Bath)
  • June 16: Book Cafe, Capitola, California

Details and links will be added as they become available. Make sure you follow the calendar!



Finally, online science fiction magazine Lightspeed published the short story "Our Town" in its April issue, available here (for free). The story is accompanied by a short interview with Robinson! Extract:

In May of 2012, Orbit will publish my novel 2312. By coincidence, this novel has a bit of a relationship to “Our Town,” in that one of its protagonists is an artist, but instead of the expensive and exploitative art form described in “Our Town,” my character Swan Er Hong practices landscape art and body art, in both cases using “found materials” to make art that speaks to her time. These new art forms are based on the current work of the landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy, and the performance artist Marina Abramovic. They are in effect inventing, or vastly expanding, new genres. This is interesting in itself, a great pleasure to watch, and also extremely suggestive for a science fiction writer. So I guess I’ve come back to a question that “Our Town” explored, as well as my novel The Memory of Whiteness: What will new art forms of the future be like?

Their May issue will include an excerpt from 2312.

23 Apr 2012

In The Sierra: Mountain Writings has now been released! A work of love by Kim Stanley Robinson, this is a collection of Sierra-themed poems by Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Robinson, with his introduction and notes. The beautiful cover is by illustrator Tom Killion; the book also includes a 'Rexroth's Sierra' map designed by Robinson and drawn by Killion.

Over the course of his life, Kenneth Rexroth wrote about the Sierra Nevada better than anyone. Progressive in terms of environmental ethics and comparable to the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Aldo Leopard, Annie Dillard, and Gary Snyder, Rexroth's poetry and prose described the way Californians have always experienced and loved the High Sierra. Contained in this marvelous collection are transcendent nature poems, as well as prose selections from his memoir An Autobiographical Novel, newspaper columns, published and unpublished WPA guidebooks, and correspondence. Famed science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson has compiled a gift for lovers of mountains and poetry both. This volume also contains Robinson's introduction and notes, photographs of Rexroth, a map of Rexroth's travels, and an amazing astronomical analysis of Rexroth's poems by the fiction writer Carter Scholz.

The release is by prestigious publishing house New Directions.

Two events have been planned so far related to this new release, of course in California.

Kenneth Rexroth Celebration at Book Passage in Corte Madera

Link 1 | Link 2

May 6, 7 pm

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, California, 94925
United States

A Celebration of Kenneth Rexroth’s Mountain Writings at City Lights Bookstore

Link 1 | Link 2

May 15, 7 pm

City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

15 Apr 2012

Over at Strange Horizons, a round table discussion between seven writers was published in February on the issue of climate change in fiction. Kim Stanley Robinson, notably with his Science in the Capital trilogy, was among them.

Excerpts (also relevant to 2312!):

Thinking about this composite epic we make, it occurred to me that it is thin in the middle. What I mean is that there is lots of near-future SF, and lots of space opera, but in between the near future and the far future is a much emptier zone—from say a century to a millennium after our time. Maybe this is just a difficult period to imagine, or maybe it forces the writer to include history, always a challenge to the novel as a form. Whatever the reason, that's also the time when climate change will be impacting us, so if science fiction writers shy away from that time zone, an unintended result is there is no easy way to write about climate change.

I like all three of these zones. Near future stuff is a way of talking about now as a kind of moving target—it's the best current realism. Space opera reminds us that we live in a big universe, and could become "cosmic engineers" if we were to hold on for the long haul. But maybe we need more of the in-between, which we could call "future history," if science fiction is to be really robust. That mid-zone knits together near and far futures, and helps SF to say interesting things about what humanity should try to do. Climate change might be an aspect of many stories set in that zone, as simply the likeliest future we face.

I am often called a political writer, but since I don't believe in art for art's sake, I can't really complain. Novels should have politics in them, but they should also try to be beautiful, which is not something we usually say about politics. Really the novel is a very big, capacious form, and I put my faith in readers who are generous and open-minded. They do the work of bringing stories to life, so they can say what they want, and all the writer can do is try to learn.

Indian SF author Vandana Singh also provided some positive thoughts on the Science in the Capital books.


2012 will also mark the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Red Mars! A NASA astrobiologist offers his thoughts on these pressurized lava tubes that were used as settlements so memorably in Green Mars (Dorsa Brevia), in "Ask an Astrobiologist":


There are certainly many lava tubes on both the Moon and Mars. More are being discovered all the time with high-resolution photos we are taking from orbit. Lava tubes form when a lava flow begins to congeal and forms a roof of rock over the flow. When the hot lava eventually subsides and drains, a tube is left behind. I have watched lava tubes form in Hawaii, and once I accidentally walked across a tube with a roof only a few inches thick and a major river of lava still flowing inside (not an adventure I would recommend to anyone). The only problem is that lava tubes tend to form many "sky-lights" where sections of the roof collapse. Looking down from above, we see lava tubes only when there are such openings. Thus we really don’t know how many tubes there are or how easy it would be to seal them. I think that Robinson's idea remains a good one, however. His Mars Trilogy is practically required reading for astrobiologists.



Still on Mars, the fictional mathematician and physician that revolutionized the field in the twenty-second century in the Mars trilogy (Blue Mars), Bao Suyo, is mentioned in "A Wealth of Numbers: An Anthology of 500 Years of Popular Mathematics Writing", an anthology that was just published by Princeton University Press! A full seven pages of Blue Mars are reproduced within.



In other news, the 1986 short story "Our Town" is going to be released on April 24 in the online SF&F magazine Lightspeed, for its April 2012 issue.

More soon!

21 Mar 2012

Last October, the "Eye of the Storm: Re-imagining Ethics for Changing Times" project gathered in a "Thinking Community" event, close to Oregon State University.

Our premise is that old, human-centered moral systems have allowed us to damage the Earth, to our own peril and the peril of countless ecosystems and species. This cannot continue. We must find new ways to understand our moral responsibilities to one another, to the Earth, and to the future. Can these perilous times prompt us to discover and create a new set of ideas about how we ought to live?

The gathering was sponsored by Oregon Humanities, Oregon State University’s Environmental Humanities Initiative and the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word.

Among the many participants was Kim Stanley Robinson.

Along with the gathering, the Blue River Quorum was also convened.

We were philosophers, scientists, writers, poets, students, and professors of various bents. Over four intense days we thought collaboratively and open-mindedly, we learned from one another, and we worked hard to create something together none of us could create alone.
(Blue River Quorum member Michael P. Nelson, in Minding Nature, Vol. 4, No. 3)

The Quorum resulted in the Blue River Declaration: Ethics for a Changing Planet, a manifesto on the individual, the community, and the interconnectedness with the rest of the Earth.

It is available as a pdf document or a printer-friendly 3-panel brochure. Well worth reading, pondering and spreading around!

The necessity of achieving a concordance between ecological and moral principles, and the new ethic born of this necessity, calls into question far more than we might think.  It calls us to question our current capitalist economic systems, our educational systems, our food production systems, our systems of land use and ownership. It calls us to re-examine what it means to be happy, and what it means to be smart.  This will not be easy.  But new futures are continuously being imagined and tested, resulting in new social and ecological possibilities. This questioning will release the power and beauty of the human imagination to create more collaborative economies, more mindful ways of living, more deeply felt arts, and more inclusive processes that acknowledge the ways of life of all beings. In this sheltering home, we can begin to restore both the natural world and the human spirit.

A video of the gathering is available from OSU, and among many nice things it includes (from about 32min in) a reading of a draft of the Declaration by all the members of the Quorum (pictured above):

J. Baird Callicott, Madeline Cantwell, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Kristie Dotson, Charles Goodrich, Patricia Hasbach, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Katie McShane, Kathleen Dean Moore, Nalini Nadkarni, Michael P. Nelson, Harmony Paulsen, Devon G. Pena, Libby Roderick, Kim Stanley Robinson, Fred Swanson, Bron Taylor, Allen Thompson, Kyle Powys Whyte, Priscilla Solis Ybarra, Gretel Van Wieren, and Jan Zwicky.

More pictures of the event are available here and here.


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