17 Jan 2010

More readings and discussion events with Robinson, still in the USA but this time on the East Coast: at Duke University, at Durham, North Carolina.

A discussion on Science Fiction and Ecology with Stan Robinson
Co-organizer Gerry Canavan says:
"We’re coming back for another semester of Ecology and the Humanities events, sponsored by the Franklin Humanities Institute and organized by the editors of Polygraph 22. The group’s first event of the spring will be a conversation with science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson on “Science Fiction and Ecology.” There will be a short reading for this event, the draft of the interview conducted between Stan and the Polygraph 22 editors; contact me if you’re planning to attend and would like a copy."
Thursday, January 28, 2010, 7-9 pm
John Hope Franklin Center 240, Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Also, Robinson will be speaking on "Science, Religion, Ideology" in the event "Competing Cosmologies, Effecting Worlds: Intersections of Science and Religion" along with another science fiction author, Nisi Shawl, and two academics, Bruce Lincoln and Michael Taussig.
Friday, January 29, 2010, 10am-5pm
(KSR speech & Q&A 10:15am-11:15am)
Breedlove Room, Perkins Library, Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Of course, if you attend any of these events, feel free to drop a comment here!

Stan Robinson wrote a Galileo-related article for Suvudu, a "multi-contributor blog with the mission of providing information, content, and free ebook downloads to fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy".


If the themes of Galileo's Dream interest you then you might want to see "Agora", a 2009 film by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar (Tesis, Abre los Ojos, The Others, Mar Adentro) starring Rachel Weisz. "Agora" (picture above) deals with the life of Hypatia, Greek philosopher and astronomer in Alexandria, at around the end of the 3rd century AD, at the turning point between the Greek/Roman Antiquity and the Christianity-dominated Middle Ages, and tackles themes dear to Robinson as well: science vs religion, or perhaps empathy vs intolerance, politics, history of religions and history of civilisations, astronomy... A truly excellent film that did not get the cinema release it deserved.

Finally, Jo Walton wrote a great piece on Pacific Edge for the (rich) blog of Tor, KSR's publisher for up to that novel (1990). "Water, love, and meetings" looks on utopia and and simply concludes "we’re no closer to utopia—or if we are, then not the one Robinson was after".

"Central to Tom and to what Robinson is doing is his meditation on his eighties Californian childhood, growing up in utopia, in a free country full of opportunity, but a utopia that was grounded in exploitation in the Third World and pollution of the planet. The key sentence, as he vows to work for a better world is: “If the whole world reaches utopia, that dream California will become a precursor and my childhood is redeemed.” That’s imperialist guilt in a nutshell, but in this book with its small scale issues of water in California and softball games we’re constantly being reminded that the rest of the planet is there, in a way that’s quite unusual in anglophone SF."

9 Jan 2010

Happy new year! Galileo's Dream has now been released in the USA (in hardback)! Oddly enough, several major bookstores in the UK (online at least) seem to be out of stock since before Christmas. Was the first print so conservative on sales figures?

As reviews of the novel pop up, be they published or from random bloggers, I will be adding them to the site. Of course if you have a review and want to see it on the site you can send it to me or leave a link or post a comment in the book's page here at KSRi.

Also, Robinson will be making several appearances in Northern California for readings and discussions of his latest novel. So far three events have been organized, you can also find them on the calendar on the left.

A reading with Robinson and Terry Bisson at Moe's Books in Berkeley
on Wednesday January 13, 2010, 7:30pm
2476 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley CA 94704

A discussion of Galileo and astronomy at the Explorit Science Center
on Saturday January 16, 2010, from 7pm
2801 Second Street, Davis, CA
Tel: (530) 756-0191
An event organized by the Davis Astronomy Club

A reading at The Avid Reader in Davis
on Friday January 22, 7:30pm
617 Second Street, Davis, CA 95616
Tel: (530) 758-4040

Pictured: Galileo and his telescope as it is in exhibit at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy.

24 Nov 2009

As hinted by last week's update, Stan already has ideas brewing for further novels, and one of them is to be set in the future, where "human beings have fled Earth in favor of new homes within the solar system". Along with his agent for the last twenty years, Stan Robinson just signed a deal for three books with the publisher Orbit. From Publishers Weekly:

Orbit's Tim Holman inked Kim Stanley Robinson to a world rights, three-book deal, with the first title in the agreement, 2312, slated to drop in 2012. Holman, v-p and publisher of the Hachette sci-fi/fantasy imprint, brokered the deal with agent Ralph Vicinanza. Robinson, who's won various genre awards including the Hugo and the Nebula, is best known for his Mars trilogy, published in the 1990s by Bantam's Spectra imprint. In the new novel, set 300 years in the future, human beings have fled Earth in favor of new homes within the solar system.

Galileo's Dream is not yet out in the USA and we know the title of Robinson's next novel already: 2312. The round number between the novel's title and its projected publishing date hints that its subject matter would of course be relevant to contemporary issues as well. Perhaps the same narrative device for linking different time periods in Galileo's Dream will be used again. What is certain is that a three-book deal does not necessarily mean a trilogy. Still, the news is that apparently Stan moves back to the subject matter of the much-praised Mars trilogy: space colonization!

Says Orbit publisher Tim Holman, on Orbit's site:

"Kim Stanley Robinson is a writer who can make the future credible, no matter how incredible it might seem. 2312 will be set in our solar system three hundred years from now; a solar system in which mankind has left Earth and found new habitats. This will be a novel for anyone curious to see what our future looks like – a grand science-fictional adventure in every sense – and I’m thrilled that Orbit will be publishing it in both the US and the UK."

Note: When Galileo's Dream was announced end of 2006, the August 2009 release date was set and respected (the title of the novel, however, did change), so the 2012 publishing date and the book description for the above is quite reliable.

Photo from the Cassini mission, depicting Saturn, Titan and other moons (via APOD).

13 Nov 2009

This week, the UK newspaper The Guardian published a new interview with Stan Robinson, by Alison Flood. The interview was appearantly conducted this summer, when Robinson crossed the Atlantic to attend the commemorations for the 400th anniversary of Galileo's unveiling of his telescope in Venice (2009 was declared the year of astronomy by the International Astronomical Union).

Among other things, Robinson talks about time and our perception of it, a recurring theme in his works, of his conception of Galileo's Dream, and the love he developed for the historical character of Galileo.

The germ of it began when he was researching his alternate history, The Years of Rice and Salt [...] and needed to come up with an alternative scientific revolution. Studying our own, he found Galileo "right in the middle of it". "I put that aside but thought 'there's an interesting story'," says Robinson. "He seemed like such a confident guy, you might even say a brash guy – you could put him in any situation." [A] "tremendous human story". The result, all science fiction aside, is a wonderfully warm, accurate portrayal of the man. "I didn't want to mess with that. His life is too interesting to disturb."

Galileo's Dream is the first time Robinson uses time travel and aliens in his works, but that does not mean he departs from his trademark realism:

"Essentially I sort of believe Stanislaw Lem. If we did run into an alien intelligence we'd be reduced to doing what Galileo suggests [in the novel] – drawing Pythagoras's theorem and seeing if they're in the same physical cosmos as us. And that's about all you could say to an alien," says Robinson. "So these aliens which proliferate in science fiction – well, I don't think that's the way it's going to be."

Stanislaw Lem's novel Solaris is well-known for his description of a being that is undoubtedly conscious but also unfathomably other, alien, different -- far from the typical humanoid aliens abundant in SF literature and films (photo on the right from the film adaptation of Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky).

In line with his idea that technological evolution is going so fast that we are living in a science fiction novel of our own making, Robinson says of "the crisis for this tiny genre" of science fiction literature:

"Depending what we do in next 20 years, it's very hard to be plausible, to say this is what's going to happen. At that point you can't write science fiction, [so] the genre is in a little bit of a crisis, and all the young people are reading fantasy." Robinson himself, however, presses on undaunted. He's considering future novels set around Saturn or Mercury; he's looking into a book about Herman Melville, who "after his career as a novelist crashed had another career as a customs inspector"; he's keen to put what he learnt from Galileo – the work ethic, "the tenacity of the man", into practice.

The next Robinson novel to focus on Herman Melville? Or one with a setting of a Memory Of Whiteness-type colonized solar system?

5 Nov 2009

The readings and Q&A sessions Stan Robinson conducted in October in various Californian cities for the launch of The Lucky Strike are now finished.

Some of them were recorded:

First, the Agony Column had an extensive coverage of the October 17th event organized by SF in SF, complete with readings, panel discussion and interviews. Present were also Eric Simons, who also did a reading of his novel on following the footsteps of Charles Darwin (literally), and Terry Bisson, who hosted the reading and discussion panel that followed. Stan's reading was actually a selection of passages from the Lucky Strike that give you a feeling of what it's about.

In the excellent words or Rick Kleffel: "And with this reading from his novella, you get the best of both worlds. Robinson abridged his story while reading at SF in SF, off-the-cuff, so to speak, reading selections here and there that boil down the story and give a perfect verbal version of the much longer written version. What’s so nice is that when you listen to the reading, you can get the emotional and intellectual shock of Robinson's story. You'll feel the literal blast that he describes as he reads. But because Robinson has read a self-abridged version of his longer story, you can still go out, but the book and read the story to get the fully fleshed-out as well as the live reading audio experience. This is a very clever move on his part, and not just because he sells you a book. No, it's much better than that. As a listener and a reader, you'll get to experience the same set events from two equally powerful perspectives; the reading experience will enhance the audio and vice versa, but in a different manner. It's a fascinating experiment for the writer and the reader."

The reading of The Lucky Strike was followed by a reading of A Sensitive Dependance On Initial Conditions, which is also part of the recent Lucky Strike publication by PM Press (I have/had not read it until now and I found it nothing short of amazing).

Suitably enough, the two authors' novels, one on Darwin and one on Galileo, fuelled the discussion that followed. The process of history, travelling (including a question on Escape From Kathmandu!) and writing. Robinson didn't miss the opportunity to express his disbelief at the technological Singularity, something he sees as a bad recurring science fiction idea that as of lately has replaced the preceding fad, nanotechnology, in the minds of certain SF writers.

Links: the reading; the panel; the interview.

Second, the reading at Stan's "favorite bookstore on this planet": Moe's Books, on October 22nd. The recording includes Terry Bisson's reading from his parodic "The Left Left Behind", a reading of "The Lucky Strike" similar to the above, and a reading of another of Robinson's shorts, "Prometheus Unbound, At Last"!

Also, Shareable has posted an excerpt of the interview Terry Bisson conducted with Stan for the Lucky Strike publication.

Thanks to Ramsey from PM Press for the feedback (and, well, for making the books a reality in the first place!).

If you attended these or another of the readings and have feedback or interesting tidbits to share, feel free to comment below.


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