25 Sep 2009

Feedback from Kim Stanley Robinson's book tour in London last week.

First the signing at Forbidden Planet (photo via their photostream):

More after the jump.

And second, the New Scientist meeting in the Yorkshire Grey, of which we get a detailed account from Robert Gordon at Future Conscience. Also present were writers Geoff Ryman and Paul McAuley. There were readings (Robinson read out from the Virginia Woolf letter to Olaf Stapledon he uncovered for the New Scientist article), a Q&A session (surprisingly for the PKD uninitiated, Robinson's favourite P.K.Dick novel would be Now Wait For Last Year and, less surprisingly, favourite SF novel in general Samuel Delany's Dhalgren -- if he had to choose) and general mingling of guests and attendees. Head over to Gordon's article for more details (photo by him).

Meanwhile, Robinson's article in the New Scientist published last week sparked quite a debate as one would have expected from its clear-cut position. Are science fiction novels under-represented or excluded entirely from literary awards such as the UK's Man Booker prize? Is there a literary genre that monopolizes literary awards? Are non-SF/fantasy/horror novels in general a genre in and of themselves that have their own prizes like SF has eg. the Hugo? Are the award jurys accountable or is it the publishers, who provide them with award candidates? Are award jurys and/or publishers snobbing SF, or is SF distancing itself from "mainstream" literature willingly? This is far from being the first time these things are being discussed, and SF as a literature has evolved and sophisticated itself a lot since the 1950s pulp era. Robinson himself has always described himself as a science fiction writer and been described by others as a literary science fiction writer in a milieu where many SF writers deny the branding of their work as science fiction in hopes it would be better regarded and not quickly categorized as non-literature.

The New Scientist article was relayed by The Guardian, which gathered reactions from the accused Man Booker jury members James Naughtie and John Mullan, who argued that it greatly depended on what the publishers chose to submit to the jury but who also described SF as a genre that is now "in a special room in book shops, bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other", which is hardly a non-discriminative comment. Academic and author Adam Roberts -- whose new novel Yellow Blue Tibia should probably be this year's Man Booker prize winner according to Robinson, and whose review of Galileo's Dream was very positive -- also argued in another Guardian article on these exact topics.

In other news, Australia is plagued by a sand storm and as a result the Australians wonder whether they woke up in Mars. Judge by yourself: is this Sydney or Odessa?

(photo by Greg Wood, via Boston.com)

17 Sep 2009

Today, Thursday 17, took place the K.S. Robinson signing at Forbidden Planet in London.

Taking the opportunity of having Robinson on British soil, London-based science magazine New Scientist gives you the opportunity for a pub meet with Robinson himself, tomorrow Friday 18th, 7pm local time! The chosen pub (for it's a pub, this is London after all!) is:

Yorkshire Grey
2 Theobald's Rd
London, London WC1X 8PN
United Kingdom

Details here.

This week's issue of New Scientist (#2726) also has a science fiction special and Robinson is a guest editor.

More after the jump.

The New Scientist's "The fiction of now" features an editorial by Robinson, in which he quotes from a 1937 letter by Virginia Woolf to Olaf Stapledon, praising him for Last and First Men (we already pointed out Robinson's (and mine) fancy of Stapledon), and he goes on to develop his view on today's British science fiction literature, "the best British literature of our time", as being in a new golden age. Building on from Woolf's letter and the lack of SF novels among 'non-genre' award winners, he urges people to be more open to reading science fiction.

Also, for this issue Robinson "challenged eight leading British SF authors to write flash fiction about the world 100 years from now". The flash fiction, each about 300 words long are accessible on the website; the writers are Stephen Baxter, Nicola Griffith, Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Ian McDonald, Justina Robson, Geoff Ryman and Ian Watson.

And if you're up for it, New Scientist launches a Flash Fiction competition on that very theme, with the winner to be published.

14 Sep 2009

Art corner: Ludovic Celle

Submitted by Kimon


KSR's novels are very inspiring for both the intellectual and the adventurer. The Mars novels certainly give a lot of weight to majestic landscapes, virgin vistas and never-before-seen world-building. Who has read the novels and hasn't spent time wondering what would Ann watching a copper-violet sunset over the Tharsis Buldge would look like? One who has is French KSR fan Ludovic Celle, who has dedicated an entire blog to Mars visuals which I urge you to visit (don't be intimidated by the French, the focus here is the visuals): the aptly named Da Vinci Mars Design.

More after the jump.


Apart from collecting imagery from every film and documentary on Mars in existence, Ludovic shows a simple and efficient way to produce Mars imagery: by photoshopping (well, GIMPifying) images taken from elsewhere. A red filter over an image from James Cameron's The Abyss takes you to Red Mars (see above).

A silver line over a red sky gives you the space elevator:


There are many artists who have taken a pencil and drawn what Man on Mars would look like. Apart from Don Dixon (the Mars trilogy US cover artist), there's John Harris, Peter Elson, Manchu, Carlos NCT and many others... Like T.E. Williams and his Ares model, Ludovic has gone from drawing to 3D model. Here's a rover:


Here's an imressive view of Hiroko's bamboo city of Zygote:


And finally, some pen-drawn sketches or storyboards for some Mars trilogy scenes:


No more of the blood-red sky of Ghosts of Mars. No more tents freely dangling in the toxic martian wind of Mission to Mars. Until we see the real thing. Any visual adaptation of KSR's Mars novels would need to be very careful with photography and design in order to keep with the realism of his vision.

2 Sep 2009

Den of Geek has a new interview with K S Robinson, over here. Stan discusses Galileo's Dream and gives some thoughts on his writing and what's going on with the announced Red Mars TV series. Highlight:

Is your work an expression of your credo or a place where you try to define your beliefs? In the Mars Trilogy, I sensed (in the characters of Ann and Michel particularly) that some of the characters were trying to resolve questions that remain issues for you personally.

I think this is true for me, and I would hope it is true for all novelists. In the Mars trilogy I felt the appeal of both the Green and Red positions, and this was a big help in the writing of the novel, as I see-sawed back and forth from one position to the other, following the characters' beliefs; I could believe them all while I wrote them, which gave them a certain conviction.

Then the eventual Blue Mars synthesis was a kind of reconciliation in my own feelings as well as the projected situation.

Glad you also mentioned Michel, whose homesickness and nostalgia is I think a pretty common condition, especially among those of us who for various reasons cannot ever get back home. In my case, Orange County California has been destroyed by an overlay of car-centered development that means the place I knew is no longer there. This is not an uncommon experience, especially since as years pass you can't get back no matter what has happened to the home place itself.

The people at Den of Geek are very keen to see a Red Mars TV mini-series and have written some articles on that in the recent past. But more on that from KSR.info shortly!

1 Sep 2009

The Marsdreamers

Submitted by Kimon

The Marsdreamers is a new documentary on the efforts and dreams various people on Earth make about humanity's future journey to the planet Mars, by veteran film-maker Richard Dindo (pictured right). And Kim Stanley Robinson, whose image is now indissociable with Mars, makes an appearance.



More after the jump.



A Swiss, Dindo has been operating from Switzerland and France and making documentaries since the 1970s, with titles such as Wer war Kafka? on the Austro-Hungarian writer, Ernesto Che Guevara, le journal de Bolivie on the popular revolutionary, Arthur Rimbaud, une biographie on the French poet, or on more local subjects such as Grüningers Fall on a Swiss policeman who helped Jews during World War Two or L'Exécution d'Ernst S., traître à la patrie on Switzerland's relation with the Nazis during World War Two.

The Marsdreamers (poster on the right) was mainly shot in the USA, showing scientists, engineers and architects presenting their view on Mars colonization, but it also focuses on common people with big dreams, people for whom that faraway place holds a special place in their lives, the whole presented not without a bit of humor and irony. The likes of science fiction writers Gentry Lee (Rama II with Arthur C. Clarke, also a NASA engineer), Gregory Benford (Timescape, also astronomy professor) and, well, Stan.

The 83-minute documentary was presented recently at the 62nd film festival at Locarno, Switzerland (August 5-15). The French or German speakers among you can read the following reviews:
- les francophones ici
- die deutschen Sprecher hier

The documentary should now make its way to a limited release, or potentially a television broadcast before a video release. The film's press release can be read here.


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