14 Sep 2013


Submitted by Kimon

SHAMAN is out! Let the third wind carry you to Loon and take a trip to ancient Urdecha!

Above: Hand prints at the Chauvet cave (from EvoAth)

Kim Stanley Robinson's main inspirations for this novel have been the discovery of Ötzi the frozen man in the Alps in 1991, with all his alpine gear, and his own personal experiences of living in open spaces while hiking in the Sierras.

When asked to write about exploration for Slate.com, Robinson wrote about this experience of hiking in the Sierra Nevada of California, through rough off-trail terrain, with whatever partial help maps and GPS can give you: "The Map Is Not the Territory". There's some great landscape writing in there.

Just last week we were crossing from the west shoulder of the Gemini to Upper Turret Lakes, on a broad ridge in the sky, which our topo map showed as smooth. But we could see a drop ahead, blocked by a knob that kept us from seeing how deep the drop was; it could have stopped us, sent us back ever so many miles. And there was a notch up the other side of the drop that looked vertical. Two potential stoppers, and we hurried along that ridge round-eyed, hearts pounding, ignorant of what we would find. It was an ancient feeling, a primate thrill. Exploration was alive.

As with Galileo's Dream, also based on past events, there is going to be loads of material to explore at in the internet and off about the setting and the the lives of the heroes of Shaman!

LiveScience interviewed Robinson on Shaman and its themes, its background, and the amount of real "certified" science that he put in it: "Looking 32,000 Years in the Past".

LiveScience: What kind of research did you do when writing "Shaman?"

Kim Stanley Robinson: Mostly, [I read] the relevant materials. There was also that Werner Herzog movie, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams." I got the DVD of when it became available, because it's that very cave that I'm writing about. I have an archaeologist friend who lives across the street who read the manuscript and friends at [the University of California], Davis connected me up with an anthropologist that works with preliterate cultures in New Guinea highlands. Also, my own snow-camping experiences just [gave me the] direct experience of being out in the snow with camping gear only. That was a big help. It comes down mostly to reading the relevant scientific literature and also other prehistoric novels that existed before mine.

Robinson puts Shaman in continuity with his overall science fiction work:

LS: Does this book have a place in your science fiction work?

K.S.R.: It has been part of the project all along for me — this science fictional project of what is humanity. What are we? What can we expect to become? How do we use technology? Is there a utopian future possible for us? In all of these questions, it becomes really important [to understand] how we evolved to what we are now and what we were when we were living the life that grew us as human beings in the evolutionary sense.

Apart from the interview, LiveScience also did an article on "The Real Science of Kim Stanley Robinson's 'Shaman'" that uses some of the same material but offers some new as well.

Above: The writer in his element, at the top of Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from the Slate article

Goodreads also interviewed Robinson, not just on Shaman but on various of his works, taking questions from Goodread members. It's a great read!

GR: Have you ever attempted something on par with Loon's wander?

Kim Stanley Robinson: No, nothing quite like that. It's a ritual initiation into a shaman's life and meant to be an extreme experience. Don't try Loon's wander at home!

GR: You're already known for alternate history, notably The Years of Rice and Salt. But Shaman goes considerably further back. What inspired you to write about the Paleolithic era?

KSR: It was partly the backpacking. When the body of the Ice Man was discovered emerging from a glacier in 1991, it occurred to me that his clothing and gear much resembled the stuff we took with us into the mountains. His materials were different, but the design and function were much the same. This started me thinking about the Paleolithic and the many thousands of years we lived that kind of life, and it became something I wanted to write about.

This stayed a general desire until I learned about the Chauvet Cave, discovered in 1995, with its beautiful paintings that turned out to be 32,000 years old. At that point I felt I had found my story and characters.

GR: Jared Diamond's recent book, The World Until Yesterday, looks to traditional societies for lessons on how to live. Shaman offers a similar look at an older way of life—much, much older. What do you think we can learn from looking backward?

KSR: We can learn how we became what we still are now; this has to be instructive. Nowadays, with our powerful technologies, it feels as if we have detached from nature and can become anything we want, but in fact we are still the same animals we were 50,000 years ago. And we evolved into the animals we were then, and are now, by living a certain kind of life. The more we understand that, and contemplate what it was we were doing in the Paleolithic that we could regard as fundamentally human (meaning the things we did that made us human in the first place), the better we can judge our current range of potential behaviors: Are they good or just the illusion of good? Do the activities make us healthy and happy? Bringing in the Paleolithic can make these questions shift from what might seem mere matters of opinion to a set of physical facts that can't be denied without bad effects in our lives. So I think the Paleolithic lessons can be really useful and profound.

Some reviews for Shaman have come out:

NPR: 'Shaman' Takes Readers Back To The Dawn Of Humankind

Tor: A Moment in Time: Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson

Though rather more modest in its scope and conventional in its concepts than Kim Stanley Robinson’s staggering space operas, Shaman tells an ambitious, absorbing and satisfyingly self-contained tale on its own terms. At once delightful and devastating, it transports us to a moment in time, reverently preserved and impeccably portrayed... and if that moment is off in the other direction than this author tends to take us, then know that he is as adept a guide to the distant past as he has ever been the far-flung future.

Locus, September 2013, by Gary K. Wolfe

Finally, on a completely different topic, Robinson is featured, with many others, in a BBC show on "After the Gold Rush - The Poetry of California", where he talks about the impact of California's landscape on its writers. The podcast is available here.

Watch out the calendar of events (on the left) as it is updated with events, panels, readings, signings, as we celebrate Shaman!

20 Aug 2013

SHAMAN just came out, September 3 2013; but before the host of interviews and readings that that one will involve, some non-Shaman material:

Adam Ford recently interviewed Robinson for 33rd Square (probably during the Humanity+ event last December). This resulted in a fascinating interview where Robinson discusses many of his ideas and worldviews, from science fiction, transhumanism and the role of technology to optimism, Buddhism and self-actualization. It is well worth your time and summarizes many of his interviews in the past few years. The interview is on YouTube in 5 short parts, below is Part 1:

Kim Stanley Robinson is featured on the very KSR-focused cover of the August 2013 issue of Locus Mag. The magazine features a conversation with Stan, "Making Worlds".


From the beginning of my career, I’ve done the Solar System set a few hundred years in the future. So for this new one, I stole from myself: the city of Terminator on Mercury comes from The Memory of Whiteness. But when I tried to describe the rest of the Solar System, it began to get so detailed it was goofy. That was when I thought of Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, and how he had used John Dos Passos’s USA Trilogy methodology. My lists, extracts, and quantum walks all have their equivalent in Dos Passos. Using his method clarified things a lot. With it, I could tell the lovers’ story, and the mystery they’re involved in, and all the rest of it. Instead of using the typical expository lump, which is the famous problem of science fiction writing (and I’m often criticized for being a monster in that regard), I was able to chop the exposition into little bits, make it more something like little prose poems scattered through the text. It’s sort of an internet version of the Encyclopedia Galactica of the 1950s, which I think was one of the things people loved about science fiction, actually: learning about a far-flung civilization by way of direct description. But my impression now is that a lot of new readers don’t remember Stand on Zanzibar, and never read the USA Trilogy, so they think I’ve done something new and peculiar. Some have complained, but I feel those people are a little too narrow-minded about what the novel can be.

2312 was translated in Spanish by long-time KSR and SF publisher Minotauro. Robinson was interviewed by El Cultural, where he talks among other things of Mondragon, on course.
La primera vez que oí hablar de Mondragón y su sistema de cooperativas fue cuando estaba escribiendo mis libros de Marte, es decir, a finales de 1980 y principios de 1990. Mondragón es ampliamente conocido en las comunidades teóricas izquierdistas de todo el mundo, ya que representa un ejemplo vivo de una alternativa al capitalismo estándar. Es famosa en esos círculos, como el estado de Kerala en la India, la ciudad italiana de Bolonia, el experimento de autogestión en Yugoslavia, y algunos otros ensayos de alternativas. Ahora, tengo que confesar un intenso interés por lo que ha ocurrido en Mondragón en medio de la actual crisis del euro desde 2008, y la crisis de desempleo de los jóvenes en España, esta noción creciente en todo el Mediterráneo de que puede haber una “generación perdida”. ¿Cómo se ha desarrollado en Mondragón? ¿Se ha mantenido sólido en la crisis, o no? ¿Hay lecciones allí que el resto de España y del mundo pueden aprender? Espero aprender más de lo que he podido averiguar.
A great find: artist Stanley Von Medvey depicted a scene from 2312 (larger there), probably Swan in one of the savannah terraria! I don't know if this was commissioned for some reason or whether the artist made it for his own enjoyment.
On the Huffington Post, Rabbi Lawrence Troster ponders about climate change activism (Climate Reality Project) and the historical period in 2312 that Robinson termed "The Dithering", 2005-2060, during which political lockdown and behavioural inertia resulted in a lack of action against climate change.
Some more 2312 reviews: Ancient Logic | City of Tongues

Some recent events:
Robinson was at the WorldCon in San Antonio, Texas, from August 29 to September 2, 2013: "LoneStarCon 3". The Hugos were announced there, but 2312 did not take the win.
Barnes & Noble SHAMAN reading & signing in San Antonio, Texas
Tuesday, September 3, 7 p.m.
Author Event: Kim Stanley Robinson
The New York Times bestselling author will make an appearance at Barnes and Noble San Pedro (321 NW Loop 410 suite #104) for his novel, “Shaman.” Robinson is most known for his Mars-trilogy which has won many awards including the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award.
For more information, visit barnesandnoble.com.
Some upcoming events:
Barnes & Noble SHAMAN reading & signing in Dallas, Texas -- TODAY!
Author Event
Kim Stanley Robinson, the bestselling author of science fiction masterworks such as the Mars trilogy and 2312, will be joining us to discuss and sign his new novel Shaman, a powerful powerful coming of age story set 30,000 yrs ago. Come meet the author!
Wednesday September 04, 2013 7:00 PM
Lincoln Park, 7700 West Northwest Hwy. Ste. 300, Dallas, TX 75225, 214-739-1124
Robinson will be a speaker at the Library of Congress in Washington DC on September 12 2013, on "The Longevity of Human Civilization: WIll We Survive our World-Changing Technologies?"

Will human civilization on Earth be imperiled, or enhanced, by our own world-changing technologies? Will our technological abilities threaten our survival as a species, or even threaten the Earth as a whole, or will we come to live comfortably with these new powers? Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology David Grinspoon convenes scientists, humanists, journalists, and authors to explore these questions from a wide range of perspectives, and to discuss the future of human civilization in an anthropocene world.

Full event
Date: Thursday September 12, 2013 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Place: The John W. Kluge Center, Room 119, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA

Robinson will also be participating at A Science Fiction Symposium at Williams College in Massachussetts on October 24:

Please join us on October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th for a Science Fiction Symposium that will include readings, panels, and lectures by leading writers and thinkers from across the United States. October 24th will include a panel discussion as well as a 4pm Reading.  Participants will include Samuel R. Delany, Kim Stanley Robinson, Elizabeth Kolbert, David Hartwell, Paolo Bacigalupi, William Gibson, Terry Bisson, and John Crowley.  More information will be coming soon.  Sponsored by the English Department, The Margaret Bundy Scott Fund, American Studies, Environmental Studies, Africana Studies and the Oakley Center.

Full event
Date: Thursday October 24 2013, 4pm to 9pm
Place: Griffin Hall, 3 844 Main St, Williamstown, MA 01267, USA

More SHAMAN-related material very soon!

20 Aug 2013

You could say Red Mars's 20th anniversary is being celebrated in Grenoble, France, close to the Alps!

The public library of Grenoble hosts the exhibition "Mars la rouge" ("Red Mars" in French) with many of Ludovic Celle's photomontages around the future colonization of Mars in general, and on the world of Kim Stanley Robinson's book more specifically. The exhibition opened in June and (with a summer break in July) is still open for the world to visit and marvel until September 7th. So take your sailboats, space elevators and hyperloops, and come to Grenoble!

The work of Ludovic, a good personal friend of mine, have been featured on KSR.info before.

The montages -- made on open source software and photos on the public domain (a very conscious choice on behalf of the artist) -- are large and feature marvelous wild landscapes you should be able to see when exploring Mars, with the addition of the beginnings of a human presence, be it a rover dwarfed by the Noctis Labyrinthus canyons, a small tent holding some green inside, the plume of a distant mohole, or the thin line of the space elevator.

The images are accompanied by a short text explaining the artist's inspiration from Robinson's book, but there are many influences melding here: the crude realistic shots of NASA exploration missions and the ISS, the landscapes of Jordan or the United States, the modern efforts at urban agriculture, the process of discovering the very city you live in, and personal journeys. A book exhibit with several of Kim Stanley Robinson's novels along with some quotes from Red Mars complete the expo.

The largest exhibit is definitely the Mars trilogy photomosaic, at 2.50 m wide (about 8 feet) and featuring some 600 pictures, ranging from the technical engineering work to the entirely mundane of building a place to live in. More on the mosaic here.

Local media Cause Toujours also interviewed Ludovic Celle. The video in French has been subtitled in English and can be viewed below (subtitles can be turned on by clicking at the bottom right of the video); Ludovic talks about his inspiration, his work process, his feelings when reading Robinson's books, his other ecology-focused interests that feed and at times can clash with his passion on the subject of space exploration.

More on the expo (with pictures of the expo and of the montages themselves):

Ludovic promises more expos of his work in the future, on urban ecology and agriculture, and, why not, on Green Mars!

13 Jul 2013

Coming Soon: SHAMAN

Submitted by Kimon

"This is how we always start
It's time to be reborn a man
Give yourself to Mother Earth
She will help you if you ask

Kim Stanley Robinson's next novel, "SHAMAN", is coming less than two months from now, on September 3 2013!

Watch Stan himself introduce his novel:

Robinson, a Davis, California, resident and fellow science fiction author Tobias Buckell participated in UC Davis' 44th annual Whole Earth Festival. They were interviewed by Davis Enterprise:

“There are a lot of people who say, ‘If we have to change capitalism, well, OK, we’re doomed, because we can’t change capitalism.’ But we can. It seems to me that science and democracy together are actually capable of changing the laws for the sake of our survival and the sake of our kids and their descendants.”


Robinson said that he disagreed with scientists resolved that the best tack is adapting to climate change, rather than trying to halt it or reverse course.


“They look at me like I’m an old hippy utopian idiot and say, ‘No matter what you think, we’re at 400 parts per million. Nobody is stopping using carbon at any successful rate. In fact, it’s going faster than ever. We’re just being realistic, and you’re the one being unrealistic.’


“And then I say, ‘No, no, no, you’re the one who is being unrealistic. You’re being pseudo-realistic, because you’re saying the future is certain.’ I’m saying as a science fiction writer, nothing is certain.”

Most importantly, Robinson and Buckell did a joint panel on climate change, as covered by Steven Rose's blog: "Kim Stanley Robinson: Back to the Prehistoric Past for a Greener Future", which serves as a nice introduction to SHAMAN:

Robinson read an excerpt from his novel, Shaman, set in a prehistoric ice age. But this is no pulp-/Hollywood-/ One Million Years B.C.-inspired novel. Robinson takes his science fiction seriously; he writes hard science fiction. Strangely, however, Shaman does not seem to be his typical hard sci fi. In fact, with references to tribal magicians and mystic journeys one would think it’s closer to fantasy. But, after the reading, Robinson used the tribe from his this alternate (pre-) history novel as a model for how modern day humans are capable of planning ahead to save themselves from future ecological disaster such as an arctic meltdown. He explained how we can collectively come to solutions to prevent the disastrous effects of global warming.



During the two authors’ dialog on the subject of climate change and science fiction, one phrase Robinson kept bringing up was “utopian societies”. He referred to the primeval tribal society of Shaman as a model for a more communal future society that can plan ahead to prevent, or at least reduce, ecological disaster such as a global meltdown of the ice caps. Robinson explained how such a society could work in a high tech age: by utilizing clean energy technology and reforming capitalism to make it more socially just (though not necessarily communist). Through this idea, Robinson explained the economic implications and necessary reform for an environmentally responsible society.
In the meantime, Robinson is participating in Clarion's Write-a-thon.
In related news, the literature and science fiction world recently mourned the loss of one of the best writers of the field and personal friend of Robinson, Iain M. Banks. His last novel, The Quarry, was published barely days after his death in June 2013.
Top image: SHAMAN cover artwork by Michal Karcz, also featured prominently in Orbit Books' Autumn Catalogue 2013.
6 Jul 2013

Kim Stanley Robinson visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York in June for a panel discussion, as part of the MoMA PS1’s series of talks "Spec­u­la­tions: The Future is _".

Each did a keynote address. Stan's talk, "What Is the Future For?", greatly summarizes all his latest ideas on science, (post-)capitalism, the utopian process, climate change, the paleolithic way of life, our relation to the physical world... Watch it below!

Watch John Crowley's address and their joint panel together with Q&A, which covers many many topics.

The City Atlas provides a summary of Stan's talk, with a particular focus from the Q&A on cities’ role in par­tic­i­pat­ing in a bet­ter planned, more sus­tain­able future.

I have often framed this prob­lem as sci­ence ver­sus capitalism…For me, sci­ence is the effort to try to reduce suf­fer­ing, the effort to try to make life more com­fort­able for human beings, to under­stand the world bet­ter and to manip­u­late it for var­i­ous human goods…I think of sci­ence as a utopian good that can make things better.

[...] I think cities are impor­tant because they are so densely populated…and I think that a lot of city life is fairly pale­olithic in a strange way because it gets away from the auto­mo­bile. Cities encour­age face-to-face inter­ac­tions with other indi­vid­u­als, so I like it for that. And I think that rooftops need to be used for urban gar­dens and that cities need to be greened, less for the auto and more for peo­ple and pub­lic transit.

Earlier, in May, Stan participated in a talk organized by the newly-opened Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the Helen Edison Lecture Series at UC San Diego: "The Literary Imagination". Fellow writer Jonathan Lethem, A C Clarke Center Director Sheldon Brown and Stan discussed the writing process and each other's writing. This event marked the opening of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

The long discussion includes both writers reading from each other's works, a highlight of the talk and a joy to watch and hear! Lethem read three "Lists" from Robinson's 2312, and Robinson read Lethem's hilarious list "Proximity People" (direct mp3 link).

The discussion also included a very interesting part, separate from the above video, in which both writers discussed a common influence of theirs: Philip K. Dick (direct mp3 link): Dick's social realism, Dick's fantastic elements, Dick's adaptation in films, favorite novels. Robinson famously wrote his PhD thesis on Dick's works, which has been expanded and edited separately as The Novels of Philip K. Dick.


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