25 Jul 2011

Call For Papers for a collection edited by Duke University's Gerry Canavan and UCSD's Kim Stanley Robinson:


CFP for edited collection: Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction
Editors: Gerry Canavan and Kim Stanley Robinson (ecologyandsciencefiction@gmail.com)
Abstracts due August 31, 2011

Final essays due Summer 2012

We are seeking proposals for an edited collection tentatively titled Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction, with completed essays due in Summer 2012. We seek contributions that touch on any aspect of the relationship between ecological science, environmentalism, and SF, with particular attention to such topics as:

* ecological futurity and ecocriticism in SF
* visions of eco-disaster, eco-catastrophe, and eco-apocalypse
* strategies for ecotopia
* “the globe” and global thinking in SF
* science fictional critiques of global capitalism, consumerism, and ecological racism
* social justice as an ecological technology
* narratives of political resistance
* SF as it figures within current public debate about ecological science (climate change, Peak Oil, etc)
* philosophies and fantasies of Nature
* narratives of evolution, extinction, and extermination
* eco-feminist SF
* reproductive futurity
* ecology and Afrofuturism
* ecology, digitality, and techno-optimism
* terraforming and other narratives of space colonization
* aliens, alien worlds, xenobiology, and exo-ecology
* ecological thinking as a strategy for cognitive estrangement
* ecological critiques of particular unscientific or anti-ecological science fictions, or critiques of the history of the genre as a whole

We hope to produce a collection that speaks to the long history of ecological SF, ranging from the climate change that prompts the Martian invasion in War of the Worlds to Oryx and Crake, The Wind-Up Girl, Avatar, and WALL-E (and everything else before, after, and between). We likewise intend “SF” in its broadest possible sense, to include fantasy and horror literature alongside “science fiction” more narrowly construed, and hope to receive submissions that properly reflect SF as a diverse and global genre.

Please direct all queries, questions, and submissions to ecologyandsciencefiction@gmail.com. Abstracts should be around 250-300 words; submissions should also include contact information and a short bio. Please plan for final essays to range between 4000-8000 words.


Speaking of which, I just realized a significant omission! Following Stan Robinson's talk at Duke University in January 2010 (covered in KSR.info here), in September 2010 was published Polygraph #22, which included an extensive interview of Robinson by Gerry Canavan, Lisa Klarr and Ryan Vu: "Science, Justice, Science Fiction: A Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson".

The interview is freely available on Gerry Canavan's blog (also in PDF format)! It covers a lot of ground: politicizing science, science and capitalism, social justice, democracy, Obama (the interview was conducted in the spring of 2009), the left, environmentalists, science fiction and utopia, ... At 17 dense pages, this is one of the most comprehensive and in-depth interviews of Robinson around, recommended reading -- this will will keep you busy for a bit!

How, in your view, can democracy be put to work in service of social and environmental justice and responsible governance?

This must be a whole program with reforms all across the board. Complex and messy, it would (or will) take many years in many jerks and starts. But it would begin with electing representatives who have promised to work on it, and then holding them to it in subsequent elections, for a long time, until a pattern was built and a certain trajectory or path dependency set into place. A very difficult assignment.


24 Jul 2011

Videos from the Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism 2011 conference at UC Santa Cruz, April 7-9 2011 (previously announced on KSR.info here), have surfaced on their website.

First is Kim Stanley Robinson's panel, where he speaks about (post-)capitalism, science fiction, science, history, historiography...

Stan Robinson also appeared on two more panels (presentations followed by discussion and Q&As):

April 7: Keynote Panel: Telling the Story of 2008: Realistic, Utopian and Apocalyptic Narratives of What Could Have Happened
Andrew Barry, School of Geography, University of Oxford
Kim Stanley Robinson, Science fiction author known for his Mars trilogy
Lynn Stout, Corporate and Securities Law, University of California Los Angeles
Graham Ward, Contextual Theology and Ethics, University of Manchester

Dick Bryan, Political Economy, University of Sydney

April 8: ROUND TABLE 1: Eschatology, Visualization and Scenario Planning
Andrew Barry, School of Geography, University of Oxford
Karin Knorr Cetina, Sociology, University of Constance, Germany
Daniel Friedman, Economics, UC Santa Cruz
Dai Jinhua, Comparative Literature and Culture, Beijing University, Resident Fellow Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley
Andrew Mathews, Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz
Darel Paul, Political Science, Williams College
Paolo Quattrone, Accounting, IE Business School
Kim Stanley Robinson, Science fiction author known for his Mars trilogy
Shyam Sunder, Accounting, Economics and Finance, Yale University
Graham Ward, Contextual Theology and Ethics, University of Manchester

Both panels covered much more than their announced topics: different forms of capitalism across states, new accounting methods, international regulation and law, post-secular societies, sociobiology, marxism, the role of the state, capitalism in China, ...

There's a lot to learn and think about here, and not only in these panels above. The reader of Robinson's works might find other panels interesting as well, such as this one by Lynn Stout, presenting results from research on psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology and conscience -- things that Frank Vanderwal (from the Science in the Capital trilogy) would enjoy a lot!

14 Jul 2011

More news for July! Most are somewhat stale news, as real life is taking its toll.

The Best Of Kim Stanley Robinson (Night Shade Books, 2010) has been out for a while now, and is available as hardback, paperback or e-book.

It's been getting some reviews, notably this one by Strange Horizons contributor Niall Harrison.

Few other writers can capture so vividly the sense of being-in-the-world.

[On "Remaking History" and "A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions"] In Galileo's Dream, when the maestro is whisked away to the year 3,000 and given a history lesson, this is pretty much what he's shown: a great river of histories, many streams braided together to carve a limited channel through possibility space. Whether or not this is a sustainable model for understanding history, it strikes me that it's a fascinating way of understanding science fiction's versions of history—indeed, as John Clute argued in setting out the concept of "First SF", the existence of an early default narrative for the genre, it was the compelling understanding of the field as late as the early 1990s. Since then, we are meant to understand that there is no consensus history of the future in the way that the Moon-Mars-Stars progression provided a backdrop for the Golden Age. And yet the version of our future that Galileo is shown passes through a wrecked world, a rebuilding with an increased understanding of environmental stewardship, a slow exploration of the solar system. It's impressive, when you stop to look at it, how much contemporary SF falls somewhere on this timeline—Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl (2009) at its nearest end, Paul McAuley's The Quiet War (2008) at the other, Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution quartet (1995-1999) covering the whole spread. As a template narrative, its only real contemporary competition is the Singularity.

By the way, Strange Horizons previously had a fun little debate starting from a quote from an interview with Robinson. The subject was infodumps in science fiction novels... well, actually, infodumps in Robinson's novels!

Strange Horizons (Paul Kincaid) also reviewed 80! Memories and Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin, on which Robinson contributed.

The cover art for The Best Of was actually not made for the book specifically. Its title is actually "Goodnight Tale" and it was made in 2009 by Joe Jesus. It is available on his deviantART site for download in high quality!

The short story "The Lunatics", recently reprinted in the collection "Brave New Worlds" (Night Shade Books, 2011), is available online for free from Tor.com, as part of their "Dystopia Week".

Good news for our French friends: the translated Science in the Capital trilogy now has new paperback editions! French is the language Robinson has been the most translated into (as far as I know).

Bonnes nouvelles pour nos amis français: Les livres 40 / 50 / 60, ou la trilogie de la Science dans la Capitale, sont désormais édités en livres de poche par Pocket, bien plus commodes (et économiques!) que ces larges volumes de la première édition!

Alyssa Rosenberg from ThinkProgress has been writing for and animating a Book Club discussion on Red Mars since last month, and there has been some good discussion in there. There have been 5 parts so far, with the upcoming sixth that will wrap the book up:

Thanks to Google alerts, it's sometimes fun to track down all mentions of Kim Stanley Robinson in articles that are published on the internet. For example:

  • MIT's Technology Review has published a list of "The Best Hard Science Fiction Books of all Time", or rather "Ten titles that inspired Technology Review to publish its own collection of sci-fi stories". Between Jules Verne and Vernor Vinge can be found Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy:

This tale of the colonization of Mars begins in 2026 and ends two hundred years later, with the terraforming of Mars largely completed and humanity making its first steps into interstellar space. Packed with detailed descriptions of the colonist's everyday lives, and a close attention to the geography of Mars, it's as close as any of us will get to walking on the red planet. (If, sometime after reading this, you become an actual explorer of Mars, feel free to look me up and berate me for my lack of faith in you. It'll be something to tell the other people at the old folks home.)


  • This article from the University of Exeter discusses "The novel in a time of climate change": "Researchers at the University of Exeter are leading the way in the literary analysis of climate change as a cultural phenomenon", with academic publications accompanying that. Who knew the European Commission's European Social Fund would fund projects like 'From Climate to Landscape: Imagining the Future'? Robinson's Science in the Capital trilogy is discussed.


Rest assured, there is more coming!

10 Jul 2011

Odds & Ends of July

Submitted by Kimon

Kim Stanley Robinson was named a Muir Environmental Fellow from the John Muir College of UC San Diego on April 21, along with sustainability professor Lisa Shaffer and ocean scientist Paul Dayton. The Muir College names selected individuals whose work has contributed significantly to the cause of sustainability and environmental preservation. The first Fellows were selected in 2011, in connection with the 50th anniversary of UC San Diego.

Dayton, Shaffer, Robinson, and John Muir College Provost Susan Smith


On the UCSD panel discussion on "World Building and Contemporary Art" on April 22 (announced previously here), Robinson talked about the Singularity. An article on this appeared on science20.com, but it seems to have been taken out. I'm reproducing it here:


The Singularity? It's Just A Metaphor

I heard an interesting panel discussion over at UCSD today. One of the panelists was Kim Stanley Robinson. If you're a sci-fi fan like me, you might recognize the name; he wrote the Mars trilogy, "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars", about a fictional human colonization of the Red Planet. Anyway, I saw Robinson's name on the panelist list, and it piqued my curiosity, so I went along. Good thing, too, because my curiosity was amply rewarded with what turned out to be a very interesting discussion.

Robinson pointed out that young readers prefer fantasy to sci-fi -- and have for some years, starting back in the late 1990s. Why? Well, by his way of thinking, it's partly because fantasy is escapist. Most fantasy novels are set in mythic feudal worlds where heroes and villains wield magical powers and modern-day technology is conspicuously absent. In other words, it's entirely divorced from our present reality. It looks to the past, whereas sci-fi looks to the future. And starting back in the 1990s, Robinson says, we have become ever more pessimistic about the future.

Back in the 1950s, we were optimistic about where our world was headed, and (most) science fiction faithfully reflected that optimism, describing a society where the "engineer's fantasy" of flying cars and smart homes had become reality. (Think The Jetsons.) Starting in the 1980s, however, sci-fi renounced this sunny vision in favor of a more dystopian take on our prospects. (Think cyberpunk). Now, Robinson says, if you say you believe we can survive the next century, some people label you a utopian. Think of that! it's utopian to say we can make it, we can survive.


On April 19, on the Australian radio ABC, Robinson appeared in "The Book Show" and talked about his favourite recent sci-fi novels for the 'Off the Shelf' segment:
- Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod
- Life by Gwyneth Jones
- Air by Geoff Ryman
- Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Robertson
- Red Plenty by Francis Spufford



Speaking of reviews of other science fiction novels, Robinson participated in a Guardian article with various genre writers offering their views on past favourites: Robinson chose Ursula K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Lots of other good reviews on that article too.

The above article was made on the occasion of the opening of the British Library's exhibition on the history of science fiction, 'Out of this World', where apparently Robinson's works are also featured. The exhibition runs from May 20 to September 25 2011.



Robinson was featured in Rick Kleffel's Agony Column interviews site along with fellow writer Rudy Rucker. Apparently the interview ("Seeing the Future with Kim Stanley Robinson and Rudy Rucker") was done as a 'live' session, from Santa Cruz on June 4, however only a preview from May 31 is online.

Kim Stanley Robinson also made various appearances in California as of late:
- At the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis on "The Invention of Permaculture", on May 7
- With Terry Bisson on "The Politics of Science Fiction and the Left" at Sacramento, on May 9
- At the John Muir Institute of the Environment (UC Davis) for the Education for Sustainable Living Program, on May 25: "Imagining Post-Capitalism"
...but not much surfaced on this on the internets.

Finally, like last year, Robinson is participating in this year's Clarion UCSD's Write-a-thon, from June 26 to August 6. With the writing of 2312 presently completed (more on that later), I wonder what he is writing there!...


More odds & ends coming soon...


26 Apr 2011

Kim Stanley Robinson's love for the Sierra Nevada is well known and permeates his work, as evidenced, among others, in the poems in The Martians or a trip to the Sierras in Sixty Days And Counting. He is now very excited to be editing the work of another lover of the Sierras, Kenneth Rexroth, one of Robinson's favourite poets.

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was an American poet whose biography is too rich and varied -- to a newcomer like me -- to be summarized in two-three lines for the purposes of this article. His poetry involved themes of love, sexuality, ecology, sociology, mysticism, he was involved in anarchism, communism, buddhism, taoism, dadaism, wobblies and all kinds of radical and free thinkers groups, he is considered as a founding figure of the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s, he influenced the Beat generation, he translated lots of poems into English and notably Japanese haikus, he mixed his poetry with jazz, he was a pacifist and conscientious objector of World War II, nearly published a guidebook for camping in the mountains... Lots of resources are available here, or even here and biographies here.

Rexroth's poetry was published by landmark poetry publishing house New Directions, founded by James Laughlin, with whom Rexroth camped and skied in the Sierras for many years.

Kim Stanley Robinson is now gathering all of Rexroth's Sierra-related poems, which were up to now scattered over dozens of publications over four decades of Rexroth's life. Robinson is providing an introduction and notes to this collection, "Rexroth in the Sierra", to be published by New Directions in fall 2011 or spring 2012.

(Photo: cover of Poetry and Jazz at the Blackhawk, a 1958 LP recording of Rexroth reading his poetry over jazz)


Here follows a Kenneth Rexroth poem on the Sierras and on Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants and anarchists who were executed in Boston on August 23, 1927, accused of a murder they did not commit (taken from the Bureau of Public Secrets):




August 22, 1937

For a month now, wandering over the Sierras,
A poem had been gathering in my mind,
Details of significance and rhythm,
The way poems do, but still lacking a focus.
Last night I remembered the date and it all
Began to grow together and take on purpose.
We sat up late while Deneb moved over the zenith
And I told Marie all about Boston, how it looked
That last terrible week, how hundreds stood weeping
Impotent in the streets that last midnight.
I told her how those hours changed the lives of thousands,
How America was forever a different place
Afterwards for many.
In the morning
We swam in the cold transparent lake, the blue
Damsel flies on all the reeds like millions
Of narrow metallic flowers, and I thought
Of you behind the grille in Dedham, Vanzetti,
Saying, “Who would ever have thought we would make this history?”
Crossing the brilliant mile-square meadow
Illuminated with asters and cyclamen,
The pollen of the lodgepole pines drifting
With the shifting wind over it and the blue
And sulphur butterflies drifting with the wind,
I saw you in the sour prison light, saying,
“Goodbye comrade.”
In the basin under the crest
Where the pines end and the Sierra primrose begins,
A party of lawyers was shooting at a whiskey bottle.
The bottle stayed on its rock, nobody could hit it.
Looking back over the peaks and canyons from the last lake,
The pattern of human beings seemed simpler
Than the diagonals of water and stone.
Climbing the chute, up the melting snow and broken rock,
I remembered what you said about Sacco,
How it slipped your mind and you demanded it be read into the record.
Traversing below the ragged arête,
One cheek pressed against the rock
The wind slapping the other,
I saw you both marching in an army
You with the red and black flag, Sacco with the rattlesnake banner.
I kicked steps up the last snow bank and came
To the indescribably blue and fragrant
Polemonium and the dead sky and the sterile
Crystalline granite and final monolith of the summit.
These are the things that will last a long time, Vanzetti,
I am glad that once on your day I have stood among them.
Some day mountains will be named after you and Sacco.
They will be here and your name with them,
“When these days are but a dim remembering of the time
When man was wolf to man.”
I think men will be remembering you a long time
Standing on the mountains
Many men, a long time, comrade.


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