31 May 2018

Kim Stanley Robinson's next novel, "RED MOON", is set for publication in hardcover by Orbit in October 2018 (October 23 for US, October 25 for UK).

Remember Ta Shu from Antarctica? Refresh your memory because he is back! Remember the quantum AIs from 2312? Prepare to meet their ancestors! You might also want to have a crash course in pinyin.

The official synopsis reads:


American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China's Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding.

It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler.

Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything - on the moon, and on Earth.

RED MOON is a magnificent novel of space exploration and political revolution from New York Times bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson.

And no, this is not the zany George "Freds" Frederickson from Escape From Kathmandu!

The cover was revealed by Orbit in March, and was designed by Lauren Panepinto.

And here is how the novel opens:

Someone had told him not to look while landing on the moon, but he was strapped in his seat right next to a window and could not help himself: he looked. Quickly he saw why he had been told not to—the moon was doubling in size with every beat of his heart, they were headed for it at cosmic speed and would certainly vaporize on impact. A mistake must have been made. He still felt weightless, and the clash of that placid sensation with what he was seeing caused a wave of nausea to wash through him. Surely something was wrong. Right before his eyes the blossoming white sphere splayed out and became a lumpy white plain they were flashing over. His heart pounded in him like a child trying to escape. It was the end. He had seconds to live, he felt unready. His life flashed before his eyes in the classic style, he saw it had been nearly empty of content, he thought But I wanted more!

The elderly Chinese gentleman strapped into the seat next to him leaned onto his shoulder to get a look out the window. “Wow,” the old one said. “We are coming in very fast, it seems.”

The white jumble hurtled toward them. Fred said weakly, “I was told we shouldn’t look.”

“Who would say that?”

Fred couldn’t remember, then he did: “My mom.”

“Moms worry too much,” the old man said.

“Have you done this before?” Fred asked, hoping the old man could provide some insight that would save the appearances.

“Land on the moon? No. First time.”

“Me too.”

Release in five months...

In other news: New York 2140 has been nominated for both Hugo and Locus Awards!

13 Mar 2018

In 2014, Kim Stanley Robinson had participated in an expedition to name a peak in the Sierra Nevada as Mount Thoreau! That feat and feast is now celebrated in "Naming Mt. Thoreau" (Artemesia Press; at Amazon) -- a collection edited by Laurie Glover and with a cover by the great Tom Killion, illustrating this article (he also did the cover to Rexroth in the Sierra).

Naming Mt. Thoreau is a collection of essays that arose from the simple undertaking of ascending a mountain; it is a meditation on friendship and influence, proximity and distance. Composed of a series of essays, poems, and photographs, this volume contains contributions from Michael Blumlein, Dick Bryan, Darryl DeVinney, Hilary Gordon, Tom Killion, Paul Park, David Robertson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Carter Scholz, Gary Snyder, and Christopher Woodcock.

This compilation's authors started out to rename USGS peak 12,691 Mt. Thoreau to honor Henry David Thoreau for his writing that has been so important to generations of Americans seeking to define their relationship to wilderness and nature. Taking their cues from Thoreau, they offer this collective set of texts and images as a call to close attention. Not just to what is present but to what is not, but still is.

Here is also a video of a celebration of Mt. Thoreau at the Davis Arts Center from February 2017 with many contributors to that book.

Halfway around the globe: Stan wrote about his experience of visiting Antarctica again (after that 1995 trip that inspired the novel Antarctica) in an article for the Smithsonian -- "The Daring Journey Across Antarctica That Became a Nightmare" -- which recounts the "Worst Journey in the World", the Cherry-Garrard side-expedition within Scott's failed journey to the South Pole in 1911, the amazing and proverbial feat of survival amid an Antarctic winter night, all done with a scientific purpose. The article features beautiful black and white photos by Shaun O'Boyle. Stan's account ends with his own visit in these historical places, at the makeshift rock "hut" they made at Igloo Spur, Cape Crozier:

The view from the ridge was immense, the sunlight stunning, the wind exhilarating. I tried to imagine keeping your wits about you in a wind like this one, in the dark; it didn’t seem possible. Confused and scattered though I was, I still felt sure we were at a holy place, a monument to some kind of brotherly craziness, a spirit I could feel even in the blazing sunlight. The wind brought it home to me, slapping me repeatedly with what they had done: Five days here in the howling night, in temperatures maybe 60 degrees lower than the bracing zero that was now flying through us. It was hard to believe, but there the stone ring lay before us, shattered but undeniably real.

(Bonus: reader feedback on Emperor penguin eggs!)

Now, change of scope: Stan was interviewed by Big Echo and discusses science fiction, politics, Marx, revolution, Braudel, history, race/gender/class, and all that -- a very interesting read indeed! This is part of a series of interviews with SF writers on the occasion of the sesquicentenary of the publication of Marx's The Capital. Some extracts:

I definitely think there are two parts to Marx. In one, where he is analyzing the past, he is a historian and philosopher, and one of the best and most important ever to have lived. In the other, when he either predicts the future, declaring it is determined, or else calls for a particular future by way of choice and action, he is being a science fiction writer. Even a utopian science fiction writer. I say this because I think the future is radially unpredictable, and anyone who begins to talk about the future in any detail is by that very act doing science fiction of one sort or another.  No one is any good at prediction, but there can be interesting science fiction nevertheless. 

So I was very lucky in my teachers, and I read widely, and I was part of the Sixties generation, including the California New Age hippie Buddhist mountaineering element. I am a very characteristic example of my place and time, greatly influenced by my friends and my era. [...] My project is to be a novelist, and to try to write good novels, to be a good artist. That’s it for me, first and last. A very bourgeois romantic hippie Buddhist Californian goal in life, I know. But also, if trying for that means telling revolutionary stories, as so often it seems to me, then I do that. [...] I’ve been trying to model a historical vision that sees science as utopian, and thus opposed to capitalism, rather than complicit with, and even a tool of capitalism.

There is no such thing as a feminist capitalism, there is no such thing as a non-racist capitalism. Every leftist must needs be a feminist and anti-racist, it’s part of the definition of the left [...] As a straight white American male artist, getting older, I have been interested to figure out how I can help make a better world, having lived a life of incredible privilege and luck when compared to most human lives so far. It’s not obvious how to do this, especially since my chosen art form, the novel, has historically been a form about the bourgeoisie and their problems.

we make assumptions about the rate of change that will occur in the future. This is simple enough to be graphed: we often talk about “straight line extrapolation” in which the rate of change persists as it is, then there is accelerating change, and also decelerating change, less often mentioned, as change has been accelerating for a while now. But the logistic curve, a kind of big S in which slow change eventually accelerates and speeds up, but then hits various physical constraints or the like, and slows down again, is a very common phenomenon in nature. I find reasons to believe that the logistic curve will probably describe the rate of change in human history— but when will the curves in this big S graph occur? No one can say.

KSR was also interviewed by The Source Code podcast about Mars colonization and the economics of space exploration!

Along with five other science fiction authors, KSR shared his thoughts on his craft and the art of writing science fiction today in an article for Nature. Extract:

Here’s how I think science fiction works aesthetically. It’s not prediction. It has, rather, a double action, like the lenses of 3D glasses. Through one lens, we make a serious attempt to portray a possible future. Through the other, we see our present metaphorically, in a kind of heroic simile that says, “It is as if our world is like this.” When these two visions merge, the artificial third dimension that pops into being is simply history. We see ourselves and our society and our planet “like giants plunged into the years”, as Marcel Proust put it. So really it’s the fourth dimension that leaps into view: deep time, and our place in it. Some readers can’t make that merger happen, so they don’t like science fiction; it shimmers irreally, it gives them a headache. But relax your eyes, and the results can be startling in their clarity.

KSR was among those that sent their appreciations about the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, appearing in the March issue of Locus. More appreciation for UKL (before her passing) with KSR promoting "The Left Hand of Darkness" as one of his favorites, in an article for Science Friday.

George R. R. Martin's and KSR's panel at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination from last May is now available as a podcast.

More news -- "Red Moon" and beyond -- soon!...

28 Feb 2018

2017 came to an end, and with it the usual retrospectives looking at the year's best publications -- and Kim Stanley Robinson's latest, New York 2140, was in many "best of" lists! Adam Roberts in his best of SF&F of 2017, Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe on their best of350.org climate activist Bill McKibben also mentioned it as an important read for our times.

As of today, New York 2140 is also available in paperback!

Also, as reported by Locus, Kim Stanley Robinson won the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Imagination in Service to Society Award for 2017! He was recognized at a ceremony during the Unleash Imagination – Shape the Future conference in December at George Washington University, Washington DC. The award was presented by Sheldon Brown, visual arts professor at UC San Diego and Clarke Foundation director.

In his visit to Barcelona last March, Stan participated in the exhibition "After the End of the World" by providing the introduction -- this is the video above. The exhibition at CCCB in Barcelona runs 25 October 2017 to 25 April 2018. 

Its curator José Luis de Vicente conducted an excellent interview with Stan: "Angry Optimism in a Drowned World". Stan goes over the ideas spanning his entire career, for instance how terraforming Mars in his Mars trilogy was a precursor to discussing the Anthropocene in the 2010s, and what the Anthropocene implies for how we run our socio-political system on this finite Earth, and the role of the arts in imagining all that. Some selected extracts:

The idea would be that not only do you have a multigenerational project of building a new world, but obviously the human civilization occupying it would also be new. And culturally and politically, it would be an achievement that would have no reason to stick with old forms from the history of Earth. It’s a multigenerational project, somewhat like building these cathedrals in Europe where no generation expects to end the job. By the time the job is near completion, the civilization operating it will be different to the one that began the project. [...] “This [Anthropocene] is when humanity began to impact things as much as volcanos or earthquakes.” So it’s a sci-fi story being told in contemporary culture as one way to define what we are doing now.

[Decarbonizing the economy] Humans need to be paid for that work because it’s a rather massive project. [...] the highest rate of return, so that if it’s a 7% return to invest in vacation homes on the coast of Spain, and it’s only a 6% rate of return to build a new clean power plant out in the empty highlands of Spain, the available capital of this planet will send that money and investment and human work into vacation homes on the coast of Spain rather than the power plants. [...] So, If Spain were to do a certain amount for its country, but was sacrificing relative to international capital or to other countries, then it would be losing the battle for competitive advantage in the capitalist system.

You can´t have permanent growth. [...] The Anthropocene is that moment in which capitalist expansion can no longer expand, and you get a crush of the biophysical system – that’s climate change – and then you get a crush of the political economy because, if you’ve got a system that demands permanent growth, capital accumulation and profit and you can’t do it anymore, you get a crisis that can’t be solved by the next expansion.

This is what bothers me in economics; its blind adherence to the capitalist moment even when it is so destructive. Enormous amounts of intellectual energy are going into the pseudo-quantitative legal analysis of an already-existing system that’s destructive. Well, this is not good enough anymore because it’s wrecking the biophysical infrastructure.

I actually am offended at this focus on the human; “Oh, we’ll be in trouble,”: big deal. We deserve to be in trouble, we created the trouble. The extinctions of the other big mammals: the tigers, rhinoceroses, all big mammals that aren’t domestic creatures of our own built in factories, are in terrible trouble. So, the human effort ought to be towards avoiding extinctions of other creatures.

[NY2140] My story is: the optimism that I’m trying to express is that there won’t be an apocalypse, there will be a disaster. But after the disaster comes the next world on.

Maybe optimism is a kind of moral imperative, you have to stay optimistic because otherwise you’re just a wanker that’s taken off into your own private Idaho of “Oh well, things are bad.” It’s so easy to be cynical; it’s so easy to be pessimistic. I like to beat on to people a little bit about this.

This interview is well complemented by the following for Literary Hub: "We Have Come to a Bad Moment, and We Must Change". We find ourselves in a tight situation and must choose our path:

I’m used to thinking about the present as being the first step in a history that will keep on happening.

You can’t really call the next stage of the world economy any name that we’ve ever used before without bringing in all kinds of historical baggage. It should have aspects of socialism because we need to socialize risk. We need to socialize necessities: food, water, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education. All these are things that everybody has a right to

The Paris Agreement was huge. It was a historical moment that will go down in any competent world history, even if it’s written 5,000 years from now. That moment when the United Nation member states said, “We have to put a price on carbon. We have to go beyond capitalism and regulate our entire economy and our technological base in order to keep the planet alive.” There is a worldwide awareness of the situation; this is a great positive. But, against that? Power and money. The superrich need to realize they can’t escape to a mansion island, that their kids are going to be just as screwed as everybody else’s kids. This is the story that has to be told, and this is the battle that we’re in.

there’s the simple utopia-dystopia. [...] These are extremes, but a point halfway between the two doesn’t work. It falls off sharply one direction or the other. There isn’t a middle zone anymore, because if we stumble along like we are now, we’re going to tilt off into dystopia. If we work to fix things we’re going to slide off into a utopia. We have come to a bad moment, and we must change.

LitHub complement: KSR among the writers who talk about "The weirdness of promoting a book in the first year of Trump"

Other than that, however, I ignored the presidency of Donald Trump. He is a blip and an aberration in a process of coming to grips with climate change that has been gathering momentum for about 20 years now.

NY2140 is also covered in audio interviews:

  • a discussion betzeen KSR and Jeff Goodell, journalist/author, his latest being The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World : "Our Liquid Future"
  • for Radio Open Source along with journalists, urbanists and history of science specialists: "Adapting to Disaster"
  • for On The Media at WNYC: "Our Future Cities"

Finally, in lieu of a review, NPR wrote a good piece on the importance of KSR as a writer: "Writing On The Terrifying Beauty Of The Human Future" -- written by an astrophysicist, no less!

More soon, with news on KSR's next novel toward the end of this year, "Red Moon"!

24 Jan 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin passed away yesterday. Her unique voice in the field of fantasy and science fiction and writing in general will be remembered. For the psychological depth of her characters, for the anthropological dimension of her world-building, for her themes of genre and politics and ecology and mutual understanding, for the elegance of her prose, and for so many other things.

Kim Stanley Robinson and Ursula go way back. At times it seemed that they were the only representatives of the utopia-striving ecological strain of speculative fiction. They met last time in 2014 at a panel on "Transformation Without Apocalypse: How to Live Well on an Altered Planet". Stan has mentioned "The Left Hand of Darkness" is one of his favorites. Two of their stories appeared together in 1989 with the two-sided "The Blind Geometer"/"The New Atlantis" publication. Going further back in time, Le Guin was Stan's teacher in some writing workshops when Stan was in his first years of writing for a living, in San Diego, 1977! Those months were determining for Stan's career. Here is how he remembered these in his contribution to the compilation book done for Ursula's 80th birthday in 2010:

She taught two classes, one on the literature of science fiction, the other a writing workshop. I took both of them.

The literature class was a seminar of about fifteen or twenty people. The class met on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we were asked to read one novel per class, with two students making reports on that day’s book, and the rest then discussing it. The novels Ursula assigned were Hard To Be a God by the Strugatski brothers, Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick, Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch, The Invincible by Stanislaw Lem, The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny, The Exile Waiting by Vonda N. McIntyre, and And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees by Michael Bishop. We also discussed at some length Italo Calvino’s novels The Non-Existent Knight, The Cloven Viscount, and The Baron in the Trees, which I think were recent discoveries of Ursula’s, and perhaps her addition to the reports. She led the discussions with a light touch, and an obvious pleasure in the books she had chosen.

In my report I joked that Number Five’s name in The Fifth Head of Cerberus seemed to be “Gene Wolf,” which made Ursula laugh. On the other hand, if one were to say something insulting about one of the books, as only a foolish young man would do, she could skewer one promptly and effectively.


Ursula was very supportive of writing of all kinds, and as the month passed she helped us to cohere as a group of people who cared for one another, which is really the important thing in a workshop. I recall parties with her sitting on the floor. And I have a strong memory of her sitting immediately to my left when the class went to see the new movie Star Wars; we laughed our heads off. As a space-opera spoof it was even better than Buck Rogers in the Twenty-fifth Century.

At some time during the month I gave her a long mess of a novella, which I later sorted out as the third part of Icehenge. She dutifully read this and made what comments she could. That was a generous thing to do, given how much other reading she had; and she encouraged me in the best way possible. Write more, she told me. Finish more stories and see what happens.

There were people in the workshop writing excellent stories out of their own lives, heartfelt things that seemed to me to put science fiction to some ultimate existential questions. Why write science fiction at all, when people could say things so clearly and directly? What was the point? I talked to Ursula about these questions, and afterward pulled out a backpacking story I had started and abandoned two years earlier. Three friends in the high Sierra, one of them recovering from a head injury. The more I understood that the brain damage repair was both a science fiction device and an image for how I felt, the more “Ridge Running” became its own thing, separate from my trip while still relying on what I had done and seen up there.

“I like this one best of all your stories,” Ursula said when the story was workshopped. You should think about doing more like this one.

That was an important moment for me.

Edit: Stan also wrote a piece to commemorate her at Scientific American.

Taken all in all, her work was that of a complete person of letters and an important public intellectual. Until Monday she was one of the greatest living American writers; now she takes her place in American history, and her books will continue to be read by readers grateful for their many gifts.

(Photo: young Ursula, from the upcoming documentary "The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin")

24 Oct 2017

(Top image of New York City with 13 meters sea level rise, a bit less than in New York 2140, by FireTree.net)

Hurricanes, floods, fires, this has become part of a reality many have to face in the year 2017. The vulnerability of human infrastructure to natural events has become an evidence that has been violently brought home to our minds, and suddenly human affairs become part of Earth's environment again. All these issues are familiar to the reader of KSR's works, with extreme climate events being key events in many KSR novels: Blue Mars, Forty Signs of Rain/Green Earth, and most recently in his latest novel New York 2140.

Stockholm University's Resilience Center defines resilience as:

Resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about how humans and nature can use shocks and disturbances like a financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.

...and this fits New York 2140 to a tee!

First, a shout out to Orbit that presently manage the KSR Facebook page (like!) -- and also to the fan-essentially-self-managed KSR Facebook group that's been running since 2009 (join!).

Here comes the usual list of links of everything KSR since the last update in June:

KSR presented his latest novel New York 2140 at the heart of the action, in the iconic Strand bookstore, located in Broadway, Manhattan. See the video of the May event for Science Friday Book Club with host Ira Flatow here.

KSR discusses the bedrock of science and economics in New York 2140, his writing process for the novel, and of course, the Anthropocene in this great audio interview for Generation Anthropocene.

While in Barcelona in March this year, KSR spoke to the Spanish Jot Down magazine. The discussion ranged from his career and the Mars trilogy to progressive taxation, the EPA under Trump and the basque Mondragon system he often mentions, to mysticism, space exploration and art. A really complete interview! (Spanish version here) Some excerpts:

After World War II there was quite extreme progressive taxation, even in the US under Eisenhower, a Republican president. After you made four hundred thousand dollars a year, that in our days will be like four million dollars a year, the tax rate was 91%. So essentially they capped the wealth, and you could not be a multibillionaire like we’ve got today, because everything you made after a certain amount went to support government programs. And you can advocate these kind of things without being a complete communist or a completely utopian person like a martian. You can talk about policies that used to be enacted and could be enacted again, there’s legal and precedent base.


Within the already existing capitalist order you have alternative orders that are legal, they don’t need to be revolutionary, you don’t need to get into the chaos of Barcelona 1936 where anarchists and communists were fighting against each other over how to make a completely new society… Instead you have something like Mondragon where in the already existing society there is a change coming from inside.


A lot of scientists are fairly naive and underdeveloped about what is their project. They don’t have much in the way of theory. Science needs to think of itself more as a humanism and more as an utopian politics that’s already enacting itself in the real world. This is what my books are trying to suggest. I’m doing what I can by telling stories about what science is, how science works and what scientists should do in terms of being political actors.


Wilderness is a nice idea, but once you alter the atmosphere and the oceans there is no wilderness anymore, all the planet is a mongrel planet, and what you want to do then is to avoid extinctions. That takes working landscapes, like farms that also support some wildlife, or zoos, or landscape enclosures. I’ve read about these parts of Europe that are being almost abandoned, like central Spain, central Poland, the center of the US, Montana or North Dakota… Where is not easy or economical to do agriculture, people leave for the cities, and so big places of the countryside are empty now of humans. This is extremely interesting, because we need that. It’s not wilderness, but ex-human land where humans built towns or roads and abandoned them. We might have a world that includes some semi-wilderness, or empty land that is still human land or even lightly agricultural… Everything except for purity, I don’t really worry about purity anymore.

The May discussion between KSR and George RR Martin at UC San Diego to support the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop can be seen in its entirety here.

The April discussion at Rutgers University, where KSR presented New York 2140 and participated in a panel with Rutgers faculty on climate science, urban planning, urban agriculture and the environmental humanities can be found here.

A short written and a short audio interviews ahead of KSR's presentation at Arizona State University on "The Comedy of Coping: Alarm and Resolve in Climate Fiction" in September. Mark Stapp, director of ASU’s Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice shared his expert perspective on aspects of New York 2140's future real estate: for him, Franklin Garr's financial instrument, the Intertidal Property Pricing Index, "doesn’t seem far-fetched at all".

While in New York City, KSR stopped by Radio Motherboard's (Vice) studios for a podcast on NY2140, climate change, capitalism, Trump, nuclear weapons, technology, automation, and more.

This Is Zero Hour dedicated an episode to planetary revolution and immigration, and spoke to KSR and Megan Essaheb (complete podcast here, KSR video excerpt here)

New York 2140 is among the novels the New York Times looked at and asked their authors about in an article focused on climate-themed fiction, along with Paolo Bacigalupi, E.M. Forster, Jeff VanderMeer, Maja Lunde and others.

If you haven't had the opportunity to attend one of many "SF in SF" events, here is a recording of the last one with KSR, along with Cecelia Holland and Terry Bisson!

From last year's Balticon comes this discussion with Fast Forward, where KSR discusses 2312 and Aurora and his recent Robert A. Heinlein Award.

Some video excerpts of KSR's presentation at the Long Now Foundation in May 2016: how to use banks in the revolution, and looking back on his Mars trilogy.

A short video on KSR's reading habits and his library, and another one where he talks about audiobooks, in particular Shaman.

And, finally, speaking of readings:


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