10 Aug 2009

KSR in Second Life

Submitted by Kimon

Galileo's Dream has now been released in the UK and Australia and potentially all territories that have postal service (I guess that would exclude Antarctica this time of the year). You can even read through the first sixty pages (!) over here. First thoughts?

 

In a blast from the recent past, back in January KSR had been invited in Extropia, a technocratic minded community in the virtual world Second Life, to have a chat.

 

More after the jump.

 

The event was organized by Events in Extropia and occurred on January 17, 2009. KSR appeared as Stan Shackleton, in a coyote avatar. Some highlights of the discussion:

 

On Galileo's Dream:

Sophrosyne Stenvaag: So what drew you to that person, and that time?
Stan Shackleton: Birth of science. Can there be such a thing? Scientific revolution? I made up an alternate scientific revolution in Years of Rice and Salt. Researching that I saw how interesting the real one was, and Galileo was central.

On Olaf Stapledon (to whom I had already referred to as a possible inspiration for Galileo's Dream!):

Extropia DaSilva: Stan, as well as your own books, if you had to name one science fiction novel everyone should read before they die, what would it be?
Stan Shackleton: Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon. Then a list of about a hundred novels. All very good. It’s so big. Every paragraph is a full novel condensed.

On Sax Russell:

Stan Shackleton: Sax is somewhat modeled on my wife. It’s true. I love Sax
IYan Writer: I like the Sax character, too – but is she the Red Mars Sax or the Blue Mars Sax? :)
Kim Anubis: Sax made me look at lichen in a new way :)
Stan Shackleton: She is the Blue Mars Sax I think. Lichen are great!

On Sixty Days And Counting (and Obama beginning his presidency):

Galena Qi: The final book in your trilogy was barely ahead of current events
Stan Shackleton: Yes, my book becomes historical alternative fiction in about six months

On revolution:

Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Stan, do we need that kind of blank slate?
Stan Shackleton: No, we need the long revolution. We have to do it here and out of the current conditions. This is what we are transferring now in our ideas of Obama. We are in this situation, can’t get out of it, have to start in it; but want great things.
Galena Qi: We’ll drag our “monkey mind” along with us everywhere we go. Societies are mutable but human nature doesn’t change.
Stan Shackleton: Yes Galena, but the monkey mind is very utopian! Ideas of justice, adequacy, all there before us in primates. oooooooooop! I’m going to jump now!
[his avatar actually jumps!]

It's original to see KSR appear in a medium like an online virtual world, a concept that has been so much influenced by a literary movement as contrary to his writings, cyberpunk! But the internet is becoming more and more relevant as a powerful world-wide social tool and offers new and amazing opportunites. I still prefer the hi-res of real life though.

The transcript of the entire discussion can be found here. You can find a more readable account of the discussion here and plenty of images of the event here.

31 Jul 2009

Even though Galileo's Dream comes out this week in the UK, I'm not going to talk about it here: in this entry we are already looking ahead to 2010!

Jonathan Strahan, Australian editor, publisher and reviewer of science fiction, will be editing a new collection of Kim Stanley Robinson's short stories and novellas. Tentatively titled "The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson", the single hardcover volume will be published by Night Shade Books in the USA, in March 2010 (date also tentative).

Strahan has long expressed interest in publishing a collection of KSR's short stories: see a 2006 blog entry of his where he made a selection of stories -- including the lengthier novellas The Blind Geometer, Green Mars and A Short, Sharp Shock -- which could fit into a single volume. This selection is certainly a good indication at the contents of the future collection.

KSR himself has also acknowledged that he believes some of his best work is featured in short stories, a format he has stopped writing in, at least momentarily. In interviews he has expressed the desire to see them republished, since older collections (such as Remaking History And Other Stories) have now gone out of print or are hard to find. Surely the publication of the short story The Lucky Strike later this year is a move in that direction as well.

26 Jul 2009

A few days ago, the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, 40 years after July 20, 1969. The International Space Station celebrated with a space walk and wiht a record crew of 13 astronauts and cosmonauts. Coincidentally, a few days prior to that, iconic American news announcer Walter Cronkite passed away.

For the occasion, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote an article on the Washington Post, asking the question of whether it is legitimate to spend money on space when there are enough problems on Earth.

More after the jump.

 

 

Highlights:

The creation of a cosmic diaspora is just one argument for putting humans in space -- a bad one. But now, as human-made climate change has thrust us into the role of stewards of the global biosphere, new reasons, good ones, have emerged. Indeed, keeping our space ambitions relatively local -- within our own solar system -- can help us find solutions for the climate crisis.

[...]

So, what actions, taken today, will help our children, and theirs, and theirs? From that perspective, decarbonizing our technology and creating a sustainable civilization emerge as the overriding goals of our age. If going into space helps achieve those goals, we should go; if going into space is premature, or falls into the category of "a good idea if Earth is healthy," it should be put on the science fiction shelf, where I hope our descendants will be free to choose it if they want it.

For once, I do not necessarily agree with everything he says. Sure, space probes are cheap and of great scientific value. Fair enough, there might be more urgent things here, such as pollution and poverty -- but this was always the case when empires and countries and entrepreneurs sent out explorers around the world. What was the share of GDP that 16th century Spain devoted to exploration of the Americas? Does it compare to NASA's budget?

Also, I'm not convinced of the orbital solar power microwaved back to Earth argument. It is much cheaper, let alone safer, to do it on Earth's surface, despite the reduced radiation.

Read the entire article here. The interview list has been updated.

Also, the MangalaWiki has been updated quite extensively with Mars trilogy articles.

19 Jul 2009

Another book to be published is The Lucky Strike. It will feature KSR's short story The Lucky Strike, which has already been published in short story collections by Tor -- The Planet On The Table and Remaking History And Other Stories -- which may be now difficult to find.

The Lucky Strike will also feature an exclusive and "extensive interview with the author, offering insight into his fiction and philosophies" which sounds enticing. Judging from the length of the story (45 pages in previous editions) and the length of this book (144 pages announced), the interview could be quite extensive indeed.

It will be published by PM Press, an independent firm from California that specializes on radical and committed media.

The Lucky Strike page on KSR.info, for book comments and reviews

The Lucky Strike page on MangalaWiki

19 Jul 2009

Kim Stanley Robinson's next novel is Galileo's Dream and deals with themes dear to KSR: history, science and science fiction. Frankly, it does sound a bit out there, compared to the realism of most of KSR's previous works. It appears to be a mix of a historical novel on science and religion and world-building science fiction on time-travelling (?) Jupiter-dwelling future humans.

The description reminds me of Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men, in which humans from the far future (the eighteenth race of humans, actually) contact a member of our present (the first race) and recount all the future history and evolution of humans throughout billions of years. A mind-blowing novel that is one of a kind, which I really recommend. Since KSR is quoted recommending it in the back cover of its latest edition, it might very well have been somewhat of an inspiration for Galileo's Dream.

Interestingly enough, Johannes Kepler, German astronomer contemporary to Galileo, wrote Somnium ("dream" in Latin): an account of how the Earth could be seen from the moon. Does Galileo's dream parallel Kepler's dream?

It is due to be published very soon in the UK, August 2009. The first reviews have started popping up. Check out this very appetizing reviewer's blog entry -- in latin! This is the UK cover that has been in online announcements, on the right. The Daily Mail quote refers to the Mars novels, let's hope it will be removed for the final printed cover.

It is due to be published in December in the USA.

Galileo's Dream on KSR.info: post your comments and reviews

Galileo's Dream page on MangalaWiki

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