4 Feb 2013

"SHAMAN", or rather "Shaman: A novel of the Ice Age", has a synopsis:

An award-winning and bestselling SF writer, Kim Stanley Robinson is widely acknowledged as one of the most exciting and visionary writers in the field. His latest novel, 2312, imagined how we would be living 300 years from now. Now, with his new novel, he turns from our future to our past - to the paleolithic era, and an extraordinary moment in humanity's development. An emotionally powerful and richly detailed portrayal of life 20,000 years ago, it is a novel that will appeal both to his existing fans and a whole new mainstream readership.

From a short interview in the Sacramento Bee, Stan said:

I'm finishing a novel set in the ice age, about the people who made the paintings in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in southern France, about 32,000 years ago. I do a lot of snow camping in the Sierra, and I put my snow knowledge into it and tried to explain how we became who we are now. It's only science and archaeology that allow us to write historical fiction with any accuracy. So it's kind of science fiction in a way.

Shaman will be released (in hardcover) on September 3, 2013! (at least in the UK)
2312 will be released in paperback on June 25, 2013!

Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, 2312, has been nominated for the year's British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel! We wish it the best.

2312 continues to collect some excellent reviews as time goes by and more people absorb the tons of layers and issues it tackles.

Robinson confronts the stark divide between those who enjoy the privilege of becoming utterly free and those who don't—caught in the meshes of history that won't allow everyone to go their own way. Swan, during a visit on Earth, rails at the people in a bar in Ottawa, "We're on Earth! You have no idea what a privilege that is. You fucking moles! You're home! You can take all the spacer habitats together and they'd still be nothing compared to this world! This is home" (p. 418). Swan actually uses the word "privilege," which by this point in the novel can only strike readers as painfully ironic. The privileged mostly don't live on Earth, but in space habitats. Earth represents misery and squalor and social and ecological devastation that can't be escaped. Swan doesn't understand this difference except in the most abstract terms.

  • A review by Harry Tortilla that attempts to critically assess why the "utopia" described in 2312 is unrealistic, but in my opinion seems to be missing the point.
  • An article on the legal ramifications of space transport using 2312 as a basis.
  • Short reviews by Sci-Fi Stuff, Muse's Books, Hooloovoo

Stan was interviewed for the British Interplanetary Society's e-magazine, Odyssey (Issue 24). Odyssey is available via subscription to the BIS. Still, here's a short bit to hook you:

Which character from the Mars trilogy do you most resemble?
If any, which I doubt, it would surely be one of the more boring secondary characters, like Art. There isn’t anyone in that story based on someone like me, which is something I’ve done in some other books of mine. I’m sure the Mars books are better off because of that.

In a series on Creating the Future, Mendelspod features a great interview with Stan, by Theral Timpson, who also wrote an article to accompany the interview, available in both video and audio, conducted in Stan's home in Davis, CA. Pictured above: Stan at his writing table at his home. What he holds is probably the Acheulian axe from Fifty Degrees Below... and I suppose from Shaman too!

I haven’t read or met many sci-fi writers with whom to compare Robinson, but he, and his writing, strike me as very grounded. [...] He was eager to show us his writing station located outside his front door, where he writes, rain or shine, warm or cold.

This very interesting interview covers: "How do you choose date and time? ; We live in a science fiction world ; Who's creating the future, the scientists and engineers, or the sci-fi writers? ; The philosophical battle between science and capitalism ; How does one go about creating the future on paper? ; Is science becoming too much like a religion? ; Fiction is the steady instrument, science is what evolves ; On which planet or astroid or community from your novels would you most want to live?" and a reading from 2312.

19 Dec 2012

20 Years of Red Mars

Submitted by Kimon

RED MARS was first published in September 1992 (HarperCollins, UK) and received a wider release in February 1993 (Bantam Spectra, USA), thus beginning the release of the MARS trilogy.

2312, a novel reimagining a future like that of that trilogy and extending it further in time, was released nearly exactly 20 years later: May 2012 for the hardcover, and the paperback is coming in Summer 2013!

To celebrate this anniversary, Ludovic Celle has created the montage below! You can find a higher definition version of that image here, or on Ludovic's Da Vinci Mars Design blog.

10 Dec 2012

The Many Cosmos Of Marina

Submitted by Kimon

Marina Abramović, influential Serbian performance artist, was in part the inspiration for the character Swan Er Hong in Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312. Something Abramovic is aware of herself; extract from an interview:

“Do you know Kim Stanley Robinson?” Abramović figures in the storyline of 2312, Robinson’s big new SF novel, which delights her, because she is keen on the idea of space travel, having exhausted herself into out-of-body experiences. “These pieces are great for galactical trips.” She was saying, “There is nowhere to escape except ourselves.”

Now, Muse Magazine has published an art photoshoot with Abramovic with about twenty photos, and Kim Stanley Robinson provided the accompanying text. This piece is a treat for the Robinson fan, mixing references to the world of Galileo's Dream, 2312, Swan's work and, as if there were a Galileo-like entanglement between Swan and her, back to our Abramovic -- or rather her imaginary alter ego in this space-themed photoshoot! The entire text is below, available here, but for the images you have to find the print magazine (the text makes more sense with the images, but the two that are here can give you a feeling).

The Many Cosmos Of Marina
Marina Abramović
Photography Guy Aroch Written by Kim Stanley Robinson Special Art Direction Thomas Berloffa

Every artist learns to fly in a different way.

The images here are moments captured from Marina’s next flight. It hasn’t happened yet; these images come from the future, courtesy of Mnemosyne, the MUSE of memory, who remembers equally the past, present, and future.

Marina Abramović, having over the course of a long career transformed performance art from a disorganized collection of gestures into one of the supreme human art forms, thus in the process becoming the queen of twenty-first century high art on Earth, decides to take off through time and space, on a tour of the city-states dotting the solar system in the year 2312. There are new worlds to conquer!

She will fly like Icarus, and so crash and burn: not ignorantly or by accident, but on purpose, because one of Marina’s signature moves as an artist is what engineers would call “the test to destruction” - she jumps into her ideas and pushes them to their utmost limits, far beyond the bounds of safety. If there is a sun to fly into, that’s where Marina will be aiming her spaceship.

Marina is a charismatic. Recall the etymology of that word: to have charisma is to be dealing with a wound. What is the nature of Marina’s wound? As a child she was brought up by atheist communist bureaucrat parents, and Serbian Orthodox patriarch grandparents, in a space once called Yugoslavia. There is no synthesis that will bring together all the antitheses she grew up with; her dialectical exploration of her life and times will go on ceaselessly, without any end or resolution. The stars are her destination. Do you see how the constellations crowding the night sky next to her spell out “ABRAMOVIĆ”? No? That’s because they are spelled out in the Cyrillic alphabet.

See how she flies like Icarus, flapping her wings. A lifetime of rigorous discipline in training her body to be the raw material for
her art, also in plucking images and experiences from her dreams, means she can fly under her own power when she wants to. And she often wants to.

The blue disk on her uniform contains recordings of her performances. Most of the greatest examples of Terran performance art are here, from her violent, bloody, and dangerous confrontations of the 1970s, to her warm, generous, and startling recognitions of the early twenty-first century. In 2312, artists often simply speak of “doing an abramovic” especially if their performances are strange, difficult, or intense.

The red ribbon and medallion she wears over her right breast is called the Rose of the Balkans, now one of her nicknames. In Marina’s youth, she cut the five-pointed red star of Yugoslavia into the skin of her own chest and belly. By her work over the years, by looking people in the eye, she slowly turned that bloody star into a rose.

The Meeting: When Marina looks through her time telescope into the studio on Mercury, she sees a young performance artist, trying her best to animate the dead art of the past. All the craters on Mercury are named after famous artists, writers, composers, poets and painters: Goya overlaps Sophocles, Van Gogh and Cervantes touch at their rims, Chekhov and Michaelangelo are both double craters, Ovid stars the rim of the much larger Pushkin. In such a landscape as this, the young artists are completely confused and intimidated by the burden of the past. This young performer desperately needs help, and Marina can see that.

The Fight: Marina therefore breaks into the time-space continuum of the young Mercurial artist, which tears the fabric of reality, and shocks the youth into a fighting response. Reality spins before her in a whirling snarl, and she perceives the newly arrived Marina as a deadly threat.

To hold off the intruder with chopsticks: it isn’t really going to work. She needs to try something else, she needs to see the situation in a new way. Who is this intruder, why does she look so alluring, so full of possibilities? Put on the kind of protective lenses you would wear to look directly at the sun, and see better who it might be.

The young artists of Mercury are so astonished and overwhelmed to have Marina flying into their world that they cannot help acting like statues when she is around. They are too scared to look at her. Above them, Marina’s route through the cosmos manifests as a torus, a wormhole through space and time. If you go in one side, you come out the other side, after an instant which is also an eternity:and you don’t come back the same.

The Performance: The moment you cast yourself into a performance is a frightening one. A part of you must go away, that’s just the way it is. You give up your ego, your super-ego, your entire sense of self.

Time to be the performance. Doing it in Marina’s style, the performance will include a big element of endurance. In this case, it looks like a month has passed. But is that one month? All months?

It takes a while to get used to it, but for some, performing under the eye of Abramović is a transcendent experience. Under her eye a blessing descends on your heart, which is sometimes visible as a butterfly, as when Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Remedios the Beauty was carried off to heaven in a flock of butterflies. I, the teller of this tale, have experienced this with Marina myself. The butterfly was yellow and black.

The Come Back: Eventually the younger artists are ready to fly with Marina, off toward the sun. They are apprehensive, and so Marina carries kratom leaves, so she can offer the new fliers the soothing scents of the leaves, and later a tea made from them. For this flight they will need helmets: Marina will be holding her breath, which she can do for many hours at a time.

She will be living through the young artists’ performances, and they will encouraged by her presence. As they perform, for the rest of their lives, they will always remember her as they saw her most, wearing the glasses she always wears when she is teaching the young, when she wants to see them at their best.

Under this geeky, four-eyed, professorial gaze (Marina as Marion the Librarian, Marina as The Teacher Who Really Looks At You), the young artists blossom and fly! Try it yourself and you’ll see: for life itself is a performance. What will these young artists of Mercury’s performances be like, when they happen? Will Marina really come back to Earth, or is she gone for good? If she does come back, will she be the same Marina who left us so many centuries before? Will we be able to see her without wearing protection for our eyes? Will the room fill with butterflies? If we do see her, will we all then be on Mercury together?

Stay tuned.


4 Dec 2012

Developing themes touched upon in his Science In The Capital trilogy and 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote an article for the onearth online magazine, "Earth: Under Repair Forever", dealing with...terraforming of Terra! i.e. geoengineering.

For the rest of history, we will be required to work at repairing the damage we've already done to the biosphere. Geoengineering, then, has become our ongoing responsibility to life on this planet, including all human generations to come. All of which leads to the question: can we actually design and accomplish any geoengineering projects that would mitigate or reverse climate change? Putting aside issues of political capability, are any of these projects physically possible?

Stan was even more strong on his choice of words when he visited the Mount Shasta Library recently. One of Stan's short stories is called "Muir on Shasta" (it appears in "Remaking History" and "The Best Of Kim Stanley Robinson"). He spoke on various subjects:

In response to a question on GMOs, Robinson said that an extended family member had developed a new strain of rice. “Global warming has meant the monsoons are much greater than before,” Robinson said. “The rice can survive under water for two months instead of two weeks. I think that’s good.” Robinson acknowledged that when scientists from the companies that produce foods with GMOs say it is safe, they are greeted with suspicion. “When you are mad at science, you are really mad at capitalism,” Robinson said. “The danger is when it becomes private for profit, like a Monsanto. The world should be a public utility. We should have public source genetic engineering.”

UK literary magazine Structo also featured Stan with an interview in its #8. Released in July 2012, it is now available online to read here. The interview, focusing on 2312 but not exclusively, is very enjoyable!

Stan was also extensively featured on literature journal Puerto del Sol, v.47 #2, an issue dedicated to "Utopias!" featuring original poetry and prose, reviews and a roundtable Q&A. The issue can be ordered from the magazine's website, however the KSR-related material is also available as pdfs:

A roundtable Q&A with authors Jacqueline Dutton, Daniel Heath Justice, Kim Stanley Robinson and Lorenzo Veracini.

If I understand the term, settler colonialism describes my own situation as a person of European ancestry living in California, and so I suppose it has an impact on me implicitly, as I, like so many others, have to consider what it means “to become native to this place,” as Wes Jackson named the project. In my case, the central valley of California is now my home. It’s important to remember how it was here before the Europeans arrived—”the Serengeti of North America” as it has been called—and what it is now, a space of industrial agriculture, with a manipulated water system and greatly altered ecosystems.

And an in-depth review of 2312 by Joe Epstein:

The hospitable world seems endless to our intuition—why else would so many dismiss climate change flatly?—yet our home is only a gossamer sheet on Earth’s surface, and even there only under specific conditions, and virtually the entire rest of the universe is unlivable without improbable technological feats. On a cosmic scale, our civilization is as fragile as the biofilm in a shower drain. Robinson manages, with Terminator, to convey awe at the fact that anything should exist in the first place, and the pleasure of exploration for its own sake.

In addition to his thorough stage setting, Robinson continues to celebrate—more than most sci-fi authors—the actual humanity of his characters.

One doesn’t have to work very hard to see the present in 2312, with half the world impoverished, the disparity between those with personal aircraft and those who dig their toilets unyielding, and so many denying we can ruin things for ourselves, even as libraries of evidence mount to the contrary.

Ultimately, 2312 is an update, a continuation, and a condensation of Robinson’s themes: the importance of sustainability and stewardship; the sheer difficulty of any space activity, an incredible challenge still not sufficient to dissuade human ingenuity; and the joy of mindful experience at all, of being a person who can feel, think, wonder, and love. Consider how often Robinson’s characters, almost all inhabitants of futuristic science fiction, adjourn for coffee and pastries, or head to cook, dine, and clean at a communal kitchen, or relax by hiking, examining flowers, spotting birds. Robinson centers aggressive, progressive sci-fi stories, covering incomprehensible distances, on humans doing human things. In this way, Robinson is among the most humane of writers.

Speaking of reviews, Bookbag on 2312.

The thoughts above on the fragile nature of our ecosystem and its small size compared to the enormity of the universe is referenced in an article in Nature as well, where Stan discusses the ever-growing list of exoplanets that have been discovered:

The stars exist beyond human time, beyond human reach. We live in the little pearl of warmth surrounding our star; outside it lies a vastness beyond comprehension. The solar system is our one and only home.”

(Pictured above: illustration for Structo #8)


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