21 Apr 2024

Musing about optopias

Submitted by Kimon

First of all, some sad news. Terry Bisson, fellow Bay Area science fiction author and friend of KSR, passed away recently. Coincidentally, KSR had recently chimed in about Bisson in a New Yorker profile. He also wrote an appreciation for Bisson in February's issue of Locus.


The High Sierra

We first start with things around the non-fiction The High Sierra: A Love Story, because we don't talk enough about it!

KSR was interviewed about it by the US Times Post: Sci-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson talks ‘The High Sierra’

There are many places on this planet that are incredibly beautiful and adorable. You don’t have to burn a lot of carbon to have a good time. The basics of Paleolithic contentment remain the same within us and are readily available. The technological sublime is indeed sublime, but like a drug rush – it’s expensive and can be tiring. The ordinary pleasures are better all around. Walking is one of those pleasures – we evolved to walk better! And hiking in the mountains is fun, but so is hiking in the city or pretty much anywhere else.

He spoke to The Tahoe WeeklyA science fiction writer’s love affair with the High Sierra 

He discussed at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (YouTube video)

He spoke to the Pacific Zen Institute's podcast on The High SierraThe Zen Luminaries

The High Sierra also won some awards! Here they are, with short online KSR interventions:

Some book excerpts are available:

On John Muir, along with various other KSR quotes on John Muir:

The flooding of Hetch Hetchy was a knife thrust into the heart of the wilderness movement. [...] But the war is never over. And as I looked down on the scene that misty evening, I saw the water drain away. It will happen someday. There is no rush about this, and given the emergency century we are entering, it isn’t even close to the highest priority. But put it this way: if civilization gets itself in a balance with the planet, a day will come when we will drain that misbegotten death lake and let the valley go back to the way it was. It will be one of the greatest experiments in landscape restoration ever conducted.

A 1988 poem by KSR is included in the book: Night Poem:

Writing by starlight
Can’t see the words
Fill a page
Nothing there

Waterfall distant sound
Tree against stars Milky Way
Juniper Jupiter white rock
Wind dying my heart
At peace a Friday night

Big Dipper sits on the mountain
Friends lie in their tents
I sit against rock
Star bowl spinning overhead
Feel the movement
And soar away

Who knows how many stars there are
All those dim ones filling the black
Until it seems no black is there
And then you see the Milky Way

The sky should be pure white with stars
That’s black dust up there
Blocking the view
Carbon and hydrogen
All of us flung together

In just this way
A blank white page
I write and then
A blank white page
Story of my life!

Some recommendations for The High Sierra at The Atlantic, Visit California, and University of California.


The interviews

Now, on to the usual long list of interviews with Kim Stanley Robinson which are mostly about The Ministry for the Future -- catching up with several that I missed the last time, too, approximately chronologically:

KSR was interviewed for the inaugural issue of Solarpunk Magazine!

Interview at The Great Simplification podcast: Climate, Fiction, and The Future

Interview at the Rising Tide podcast: KSR's Science and Fiction

(Print) interview by Liz Jensen at Writers Rebel (of Extinction Rebellion): Q&A with KSR

We now need public action (government) to be driving all private actions that are relevant to the crucial project; what work gets paid for and done, what consumption patterns are allowed, etc.  This is not ‘green fascism’ any more than the Allied response to Nazi aggression was ‘democratic fascism’; it’s more a case of democratically approved coordinated public action in strong support of the public good.  Legal action is needed for that.   But it’s also an “all hands on deck” situation now, so no one solution will suffice.   We need action across all fronts of society. 

(Video) interview with Grist's Looking Forward, following their book club on Ministry for the Future: "At least zombies aren’t eating my face" (video on Vimeo)

At a certain point, dystopia has run its course of what it can do usefully. So then you need the positive stories. I’ve been writing utopias since about 1987, so that’s adding up to a lot of years of just trying to do the positive because I think we need it more. And it’s harder, technically — it’s less dramatic. But it’s interesting because you get new stories that haven’t been told before.

KSR appearance at the 2023 Learning Planet Festival (YouTube video replay) 

Interview by Madrid's La Casa EncendidaNuevas ecotopías para estos tiempos (YouTube video, dubbed-over in Spanish)

KSR lecture at the University of San Diego's Kroc School Institute for Peace and JusticeKSR Talks Climate Change (YouTube video) (also in the podcast Is The World On Fire?)

UC Davis Environmental Humanities"Ministries for Future" - Donna Haraway and Kim Stanley Robinson (video) (+ Davis Vanguard article on the event)

New Hope Network has some highlights from KSR's appearance at the 2023 Natural Products Expo West for Climate Day: Science fiction offers roadmap for our planet's future

BC Heights has some highlights from KSR's appearance at the Boston College Lowell Humanities SeriesRobinson Outlines Ways To Fight the Runaway Greenhouse Effect

KSR talked again at the Bioneers conference and gives an update: What I’ve Learned since The Ministry for the Future Came Out in 2020 (YouTube video)

KSR was at two events hosted by the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, here are the recordings on YouTube: Coffee & Conversation: Sci-fi and Our Climate Reality and Summer Institute: Space: Our Last Great Commons

KSR was interviewed by Bloomberg along with a TV writer and a podcaster on: How to Write a Climate Thriller Fit for Page or Screen

“Dystopia is too easy,” Robinson says. “It's even a kind of comfort food, where we imagine situations worse than ours, and then rest comfortably that we're not that bad.”

To avoid writing futures so optimistic they beggar belief, Robinson borrows a concept from the sci-fi author Joanna Russ: the “optopia.”

“It's not the utopia — the no place, the perfect place,” Robinson says. “It's the optimum that we can do given the situation that we're handed. If we dodge a climate catastrophe and a mass extinction event in this century, that's a utopian story.”

KSR was interviewed by the Centre for Science Futures' new podcast series in partnership with Nature: "Science as a political and ethical project" (see also Nature for a shorter version, with transcript).

While in the Netherlands, KSR spoke at the John Adams Institute: Kim Stanley Robinson and the Fight for Planet Earth (YouTube video), along with environmental scientist Heleen de Coninck and author Lisa Doeland.

KSR appeared on a short video by PBS Terra on Geoengineering

Hot Globe interviewed KSR: The Future of the Future (partly paywalled)

It isn’t going to be machinery that solves our problems. But on the other hand, it is going to be technology because language is a technology. Justice is a technology, law is a technology. They're software. And so any argument against technology misunderstands human beings. We were technological before we were human. We had fire. We had stone tools. We co-evolved with our technologies. And language is the crucial one. And I would agree with those people who say the crucial technologies right now are political economy and finance.

KSR was interviewed by the Possible podcast, on Ministry but also Aurora, Galileo's Dream and more: KSR on the Future of Civilization (on Spotify) + a transcript on their site

One of the things that has gotten stronger for me as the last 40 years have passed is a conviction that humanity coevolved with Earth. It will never prosper off of Earth. Our trips off of Earth are trips into the death zone, which is what climbers call the elevations above about 26,000 feet, where the body starts to break down [...] this information that now is common—50% of the DNA inside your body is not human DNA. Well, this is news, and it changes everything. Because you can’t take Earth with you when you go off, even to the moon or Mars, much less off into interstellar space, where I have actually written an entire novel suggesting we’re not going to the stars because we coevolved with Earth, and we’re only healthy here. And in my solar-system novels—where you can see some from the mid-eighties and some from the last 10 years—you’ll see a shift in that in the ones in the last 10 years, people always have to go back to Earth for their sabbatical. They have to go back and eat some dirt. They have to get connected with the biosphere of Earth, which is their extended body, in order to be healthy again.

KSR talked to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International AffairsWhy does the world now need to consider solar radiation modification? (YouTube video)

The Economist interviewed KSR and Laurence Tubiana on the the need for fiction about climate change on their podcast Babbage: Climate fiction meets climate fact (on Spotify)

The Science in The Fiction podcast does one writer and one scientst episode: KSR talked about Ministry (on Spotify) and glaciologist Heidi Sevestre talked geoengineering

Sam Matey's The Weekly Anthropocene interviewed KSR: Kim Stanley Robinson, Science Fiction Maestro and Utopian

When I look at the timeline of Ministry for the Future I'm very pleased to report that there are some sentences in it that no longer conform at all to reality as it's going. One chapter begins, “the 2030s were zombie years.” And that is now wrong! [...] it's going so much faster that I think the timeline in Ministry for the Future is completely off.  We're already in the ferment that in my novel I have happening in the 2040s.

The Everyday Anarchism podcast continued its coverage of KSR's works with the Mars trilogy and an interview with KSR: Revolution and Anarchism in The Mars Trilogy

The Futurists podcast talks with KSR on his Mars trilogy, economics, world building, science and climate: Minister for the Future (Part 1 and Part 2

Berkeley Talks podcast...talks with KSR: Sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson on the need for 'angry optimism' (including a transcript)

Having put a climate disaster that kills millions in India, I felt obliged to India. I needed to stay there. I needed it to be the solution and not just an excuse for an American to put the problems on the other side of the world and then we solve them. I needed Indians involved in solving it. They are in huge danger from a wet bulb event, although one of the hottest wet bulb events ever recorded was outside of Chicago. 

So it isn't like we're not in danger, but India's in real danger. I mean more present, more immediate. And I wanted to stick with them. And the book has been well-received in India. I mean, aside from the occasional hate mail from BJP party nationalists, but by and large, the Indians have said to this book, "Oh yes, Farhanji is finally understood. We are the center of the story and we're going to solve the problem here." 

Radio Ecoshock / podcast interviewed KSR about Ministry and The High Sierra: Climate Sci-Fi Gets Too Real

KSR gave a lecture at Stony Brook University for its special series on climate change, and the whole thing is on YouTube.

And finally (for now!), Palma podcast interviewed KSR: What We Imagine, We Make Possible (on Spotify)


The rest 

We continue with some additional material:

The book clubs discussing Ministry for the Future continue with Trinity College Dublin and South Burlington Public Library (Vermont).

Recommendations continue with The Conversation (Five fiction books to inspire climate action), The New York Times (This Is the Way the World Ends; paywall), The National (Earth Day: 12 novels to read with an environmental protection theme), The Seattle Times (Dig into these 4 books for Earth Day), and The Washington Post (10 books that will transform how you see nature, paywall), where Nnedi Okorafor writes:

I read “The Ministry for the Future,” by Kim Stanley Robinson, as I was in the process of moving to Phoenix. The novel starts with a deadly heat wave in India. Issues of water shortages and extreme heat were very much on my mind. I knew of Phoenix’s brutal summers, but was yet to experience one. The stark step-by-step details of this catastrophic event that leaves millions dead was such a terrifying read that it nearly gave me a panic attack. I had nightmares. After reading the first part, I went on to take some very aggressive (and expensive) precautions. “The Ministry for the Future” opened my eyes wider to how the Earth is changing and alarmed me in a way that only great science fiction can.

Reviews and articles inspired by Ministry:


What's next? KSR's next non-fiction book on Antarctica, in the same style as The High Sierra, is due out soon-ish -- he is turning it in to his publisher in July.

It's structured like my book The High Sierra: A Love Story— the same format, in that it will have a variety of modes, including lyric realism as you called it, memoir, history, geology, and this case, glaciology. I'm enjoying this kind of modular miscellany, or just the kitchen sink principle— just throw in everything.  It helps me to do non-fiction.

And KSR will soon be heading to northern Italy, as he will be one of the residents of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center!

(Top image: from the poster of the fiction film How To Blow Up A Pipeline, inspired by Andreas Malm's non-fiction book)



6 Feb 2024

"Article 14 of the Paris Agreement Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change called for a periodic taking stock of all the signatory nations’ carbon emissions, which meant in effect the total global carbon burn for the year in question. The first “global stocktake” was scheduled for 2023, and then every five years after that. That first global stocktake didn’t go well."

Thus begins Chapter 3 of The Ministry for the Future. But it could very well be a headline of the coverage of COP28 in December 2023, in our very real world! 2023 was the hottest year of the Anthropocene, and the heat wave kicking off Ministry makes it a timely and obvious starting point for discussing these issues.

Kim Stanley Robinson has been talking tirelessly about Ministry for the past three years now with no sign of slowing down! In November, he visited several countries in Europe.

Dutch editor VPRO produced this nice short video that can serve as a layman's introduction to KSR and to Ministry (some parts are in Dutch but they are short): "Voorbij de klimaatcrisis met Kim Stanley Robinson"

While in Rotterdam, he was interviewed by the Financial Times (with a lot of detail about the menu!): "If the world fails, business fails"

Robinson tells me he has been invited to meetings about the future with central bankers and defence department officials, as well as associations of hedge fund managers, although he can’t share their names. “They don’t want to shake the confidence of the world by telling [everyone] that they’ve been consulting with a crazy science-fiction writer . . . They thought it might shake the stock markets.”

In Switzerland, Stan gave a talk at ETH Zürich (which has been featured in a few of his works): see a report with photos from that event.

Also in Switzerland, he gave a talk at the World Trade Organization, together with WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: "Harnessing the Power of the International Trade System to Respond to the Climate Crisis" (panel on YouTube)

In Germany, the German translation of Ministry was awarded the Carlowitz Sustainability Award (named after the "father" of sustainable forestry), see also publisher Heyne press release.

Several of Stan's interviews in French media are very interesting -- going beyond just talking about the issues around Ministry but more in general about his influences, his view on literature and science fiction, looking back on his career... Material in English is noted below.

Interview at Blast (alternative media): "Un ministère du futur face à l'urgence climatique" (in English):

Interview at the podcast C'est plus que de la SF ("it's more than science fiction"): "Le Ministère du Futur par Kim Stanley Robinson" (in English)

Interviews for purely French speakers:

And, last but not least, Stan's panel at the Utopiales science fiction conference in Nantes, France (that he had also visited in 2006) (in English):

I will catch up with more Ministry-related and High Sierra-related interviews in the next update.

Meanwhile, here are some reviews for Ministry:

And some sightings of Ministry in book lists and other recommendations:

In addition, Ministry found its way in this interesting art-meets-science project: A Future Manual For Future Models: An Artist’s Guide on How to do Integrated Assessment Modelling Differently

And it inspired a short story challenge at the Spectator.

Then, Ministry book clubs! Here's one in Martha's Vineyard and I'm sure there are others out there. With this book club by Wonkette, there were several articles discussing aspects of it:

  1. A (Climate) Change Is Gonna Come
  2. Hope To Do Some Good, No Matter How F*cked Up You Are
  3. Hot And Cold Running Crises
  4. Climate Dreams And Flying Machines
  5. The Everything Feeling And An Earthquake In The Head
  6. A Future Up In The Air

Finally, as the world continues to wake up to the reality of climate change and mobilize resources to counter it, lots and lots of articles make reference to Ministry in more or less detail. Here is a selection, the list is long and I'm sure there are more out there!

Long story short, Ministry is still being widely discussed. With this infodump out of the way, be on the lookout for a future update with more varied material!

(Illustration: Miguel Bucana for Socialter Magazine)

20 Oct 2023

Catching up with Robinson

Submitted by Kimon

It's been a while, but I'm back with the usual list of links about everything KSR! On the program: MORE discussion of Ministry for the Future and some love for The High Sierra.


KSR wrote an essay on Noema: Paying Ourselves To Decarbonize

The people fighting to burn fossil fuels in this coming decade may be thinking they are doing their best to save their fellow citizens from ruin.

The petro-states will have to be compensated, or they will become desperate and turn into such a force of disruption that efforts to avoid a mass extinction event will fail.

We need to employ a kind of eco-realpolitik that refrains from too much righteous judgment, acknowledging that all nation-states are obliged to keep their citizens free from disruption, unemployment and starvation.


Some KSR quotes in this Grist article: The summer that reality caught up to climate fiction


KSR on Bloomberg CityLab Environment: Author Kim Stanley Robinson Has a Utopian Climate Solution: Cities

California’s housing crisis right now is terrible. Suburbia is the culprit, cities are the solution.

You need a space you can call your own. It needs to be functional. It doesn’t need to be a mini-mansion, as with the idea that a suburban house on a quarter-acre is like an English castle and you are a lord. It’s not just the carbon footprint. It’s the isolation of it into the nuclear family, the lack of collegiality and sociability.


See also Bloomberg Green Climate Politics: How a Utopian Sci-Fi Author Writes Toward a Low-Carbon Future and Bloomberg Zero: A Sci-Fi Writer’s Guide to a Low-Carbon Future (podcast)


KSR interview on Republik.ch: «Ich wollte schon immer erzählen, wie wir trotz Klimakrise eine bessere Welt erschaffen können» [in German; quote translated back into English, about Silicon Valley tech boys:]

We would all like a simple solution to complex problems. But the world is not easy. I have met several of these people. These Silicon Valley types often come from engineering backgrounds and are poorly educated in history, political theory and economics. Almost all men. That alone is suspicious. The combination of patriarchal masculinity, wealth and arrogance makes such people believe that they can solve all the world's problems themselves. But what's actually more interesting than these guys is their idea that everything is technology. But that is only true and correct if you also view culture or laws as technology. Language, for example, is nothing more than software. Ultimately, these are the really powerful technologies.


Some video interviews:

A discussion for Grist's Looking Forward Book Club‘At least zombies aren’t eating my face’ (vimeo)

At a certain point, dystopia has run its course of what it can do usefully. So then you need the positive stories. I’ve been writing utopias since about 1987, so that’s adding up to a lot of years of just trying to do the positive because I think we need it more. And it’s harder, technically — it’s less dramatic. But it’s interesting because you get new stories that haven’t been told before.


Into the Impossible With Brian Keating: on The High Sierra: A Love Story (YouTube) -- also as a podcast

UC San Diego TV: A Conversation with Author Kim Stanley Robinson

About the Authors TV S04:E18 - Kim Stanley Robinson (also on Locus Mag and YouTube twice)

Green Change: Hope Meetup (Facebook video)

Planet: Critical: How Things Could Go Right (YouTube) -- also available as a podcast

A discussion for the SciFri Book Club: The Ministry for the Future: A Global (and Fictional) Response to Climate Change (book club announcement - Q&A livestreamYouTube link) + an excerpt from Ministry (Chapter 3)

A classy video made for KSR's visit in Denmark for Bloom 2022Science Fiction is the Realism of Our Time (YouTube/vimeo)


On to podcast interviews with KSR, of which there are many:


Some news about The High Sierra: A Love Story:


How about some academic works about the novels of KSR?


There's still a lot of discussion going on about The Ministry for the Future:

The Only Sky Humanist Book Club did a series of articles discussing Ministry for the Future:

Some more Ministry reviews:

Articles inspired by or mentioning Ministry:


And finally, some odds and ends:

Be sure to check out the events calendar -- some European and US dates will appear!

Until next time --

(Top photo: by Carsten Snejbjerg, from Republik's article)

19 Dec 2022

The Solstice Update

Submitted by Kimon

The world turns and I'm back with another impressively long list of links on everything KSR!

Kim Stanley Robinson's latest column in Bloomberg Green is on: "Kim Stanley Robinson Makes the Case for Counting Your Carbon":

Because not much is left in the budget, individual choices are worth thinking about and then changing.

[..] There’s even danger that raising the question of how we live risks shifting the burden of change away from governments and corporations. That’s why the fossil fuel industry was the first to promote the individual “carbon footprint,” rather than face the poisonousness of its own product.

It’s also true that individual action can do only so much to decrease the carbon burn of civilization, given its current infrastructure. An individual’s most powerful form of action remains politically supporting laws to curb emissions. It’s usually not very hard to figure out which politicians will do this. These are the real levers of effective action for individuals in our time: mobilization, solidarity, political mass action.

[...] So pay attention; feel your body; think it over. Be mindful of your carbon burn, and make what you burn really count. Don’t waste it. We’ve been cocooned in fossil fuels for too long, and busting out of that sheath of crap back into the wide world will be a liberation.



KSR was interviewed by James Bradley for the collection Tomorrow's Parties, edited by Jonathan Strahan, with "Twelve visions of living in a climate-changed world" consisting of short stories, artwork, and the KSR interview. The interview itself is available:

So “2312” was written in 2010. In that novel, I provided a timeline of sorts, looking backward from 2312, that was notional and intended to shock, also to fill the many decades it takes to make three centuries, and in a way that got my story in place the way I wanted it. In other words, it was a literary device, not a prediction. But it’s interesting now to look back and see me describing “the Dithering” as lasting so long. These are all affect states, not chronological predictions; I think it’s very important to emphasize science fiction’s double action, as both prophecy and metaphor for our present. As prophecy, SF is always wrong; as metaphor, it is always right, being an expression of the feeling of the time of writing.

So following that, “The Ministry for the Future” was written in 2019, before the pandemic. It expresses both fears and hopes specific to 2019 — and now, because of the shock of the pandemic, it can serve as an image of “how it felt before.” It’s already a historical artifact. That’s fine, and I think it might be possible that the book can be read better now than it could have been in January 2020 when I finished it.

Now I don’t think there will be a period of “zombie years,” and certainly not the 2030s. The pandemic as a shock has sped up civilization’s awareness of the existential dangers of climate change. Now, post COVID, a fictional future history might speak of the “Trembling Twenties” as it’s described in “The Ministry for the Future,” but it also seems it will be a period of galvanized, spasmodic, intense struggle for control over history, starting right now. With that new feeling, the 2030s seem very far off and impossible to predict at all.


KSR was, once more, interviewed by Jacobin: "We Need Democratic Socialism"


That being the case, maybe now we can say this: we need to pressure our political representatives to do the right things for us and the biosphere. Mass demonstrations, either entirely peaceful or with a violent edge, seem to me appropriate now. The failure of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better act is not an indictment of that administration, but of the US electorate and political class; we should have elected a real working majority. Missing by one vote does not invalidate the goal or even the method; we need more votes in the Senate to get a true working majority. Then that majority has to legislate and pass the legislation. That’s one obvious tactic. I also think that breaking machinery in ways that don’t hurt humans may be appropriate.

[...] So, what I wanted to imagine in my novel is not any particular political formulation, but rather a messy and yet effective swerve away from a mass extinction event, which means, as a first step, away from neoliberal capitalism. One step at a time:  I think we need first a refusal of austerity and neoliberalism, by way of Keynesian stimulus; then social democracy; then democratic socialism; and then on from there.


KSR appeared on the VERGE 22 event and spoke on a panel together with Delton Chen.

NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money podcast interviewed KSR and discussed the carbon coin idea

KSR appeared on the Factually! podcast with Adam Conover to talk about The Science Fiction of Climate Change.

KSR was interviewed by the Green Central Banking website: "Stabilising money requires stabilising the biosphere":

What was your rationale for putting central banks at the heart of a near-future novel about climate change?

A couple of factors. One, the job of rapid decarbonisation of our civilisation, and all the other things we need to do to dodge the mass extinction event we have begun, is really immense. It will therefore take a huge amount of money, representing human time and effort.

Also, a lot of this work isn’t necessarily profitable. Individuals are not clamouring to buy what is in effect a giant sewage system for the world, even if they like the idea of the result. Put these two factors together and we’re in big trouble, which we are. The central banks, being the creators and guarantors of money itself, need to be involved if we are to succeed.


KSR spoke to North State Public Radio's Blue Dot podcast about The High Sierra.

KSR appeared on the The Laura Flanders Show (video).

KSR was interviewed by the Between the Covers podcast special on "Crafting with Ursula [K. LeGuin]".


The Gold Coast

Alta Journal's California Book Club organized discussions around KSR's 1980s novel The Gold Coast.

Essays and analyses:

Also included: an excerpt from The Gold Coast; and "Why I Write: An Acceptable Degree of Coherent Narrative", a KSR piece directly adapted from his short story A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions.

The book club was capped by a conversation between KSR, Cory Doctorow and host John Freeman. A recap of the event is available, video on YouTube, as well as a full transcript.

It turned into one of the most autobiographical novels that I ever wrote. And that's usually dangerous ground for me. I wouldn't recommend it. But this particular novel being the entirety of my 20s as written from my 30s, I was pleased with it that when I was done for one thing, the plot is a kind of a train wreck where the readers can see the train wreck coming, but none of the characters can.

[...] So there you have dystopia with ordinary people. 

[...] Yeah, Jim McPherson, Kim Robinson, I went to McPherson High School. It's not particularly disguised that this is a novel about my earlier self and Jim is not a very good poet that was easy to imagine and becomes a kind of historian and doing prose poems, which is also something that maybe was speaking almost to my future self in the way that I was trying to do the rest of it. But Jim's recovery of Orange County's history, which is completely obscured and at first looks minor league indeed is really one of the things that pulls him out of the strange and shallow and kind of screwed up world that he's in at the time. All that, along with his trip to the Sierras with his friend Tashi, all that happened, I can say that.


Ministry for the Future

Three chapters from MftF were included in "No More Fairy Tales: stories to save our planet", "an anthology of 24 top climate solutions wrapped up in engaging stories" that was also distributed to the thousands of delegates and attendees of COP27. This is an initiative of The Green Stories Project, in association with Herculean Climate Solutions. (Note: these were chapters 42 on the carboni coin; 22 and 93 on slowing down glaciers melting.)


Ministry for the Future reviews:

Parade included MftF in its list of the 222 best books of all time (!).

It was also in the Indie SciFi/Fantasy Bestseller List (US-wide independent bookstores).


People who recommended MftF:

Articles related to or that make reference to MftF:


The High Sierra

There's also news related to The High Sierra:


Everything else

KSR was included in Vox's The Future Perfect: 50 scientists, thinkers, scholars, writers, and activists building a more perfect future.

Richard Powers was awarded the 2022 Fitzgerald Award. Kim Stanley Robinson participated in a “Tribute to Richard Powers”, discussed with Powers in a “Conversation about the Art of Fiction” and introduced him to the award. The tribute recording is available online. File770 reported from the event.

KSR spoke at the opening of the exhibition "Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination" at the London Science Museum. New York 2140 is featured in the exhibition.

KSR recommends:

  • KSR wrote the Introduction to a new edition of George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides", by Mariner Books.
  • Claire Nelson’s "SMART Futures for a Flourishing World", A Paradigm Shift for Achieving Global Sustainability. KSR's endoresement: "This visionary synthesis of our current global situation uses the tools of science fiction, prophecy, and policy analysis in combination to make a compelling description of where we are and where we could get to, in terms of making a good future for humanity."
  • Gaia Vince’s "Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World". KSR's endorsement: "This book is a rather astounding addition to a growing body of thought that suggests the twenty-first century is going to include, and even require, lots of human migration--and that handled correctly, this could be part of a good adaptation to the climate and biosphere crisis we are now entering. What Vince gives us here is some cognitive mapping to understand the situation and see a way forward."

Mathias Thaler, from the University of Edinburgh, published "No Other Planet: Utopian Visions for a Climate-Changed World", particularly focusing on works by N. K. Jemisin, Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood.

Finally, I'm no longer on Twitter, but there's a new @KSRQuoteBot with "Daily quotes from the modern sci-fi author!"

Happy winter solstice!

(Photo: Powers and Robinson at the Fitzgerald Literary Festival)

19 Sep 2022


Now that summer heat is dying down, it's time for the big infodump on what the prolific KSR has been doing of late. This is going to be a big one!

First off, some interviews with KSR, out promoting his latest book The High Sierra, but also the ever-timely The Ministry for the Future.

Bryan AlexanderAcademia, climate change, and the future

If a real revolution leading to a real post-capitalism comes into being by way of the public insisting on it, by demonstrations and votes, then how would that be bad? It wouldn’t be bad. So to hope for it is not naive or stupid.


The New York TimesA Sci-Fi Writer Returns to Earth: ‘The Real Story Is the One Facing Us’

“I decided that it was time to go directly at the topic of climate change,” Robinson said. “The real story is the one facing us in the next 30 years. It’s the most interesting story, but also the stakes are highest.”

The Sierra Club (of course!): Minister for the Sierra

“When I was younger, I didn’t notice interactions with wild animals as being transformative and important,” he admitted. “Now when I see wild animals up there, it’s like sticking my finger in a wall socket.”  

The Orange County RegisterThe Book Pages: Kim Stanley Robinson shares the books he loves — and a story that improved with age

I like the cover of my novel “New York 2140” very much. Otherwise, to tell the truth, I don’t much notice covers.

Fatherly (Cory Doctorow): Growing Up Fast On Planet Earth

I came home and I realized that it’s best to spend more time outdoors than we do. There’s a lot of people who know it’s fun to be outdoors because they’re carpenters and they’re outdoors all the time, and they like it. Farmers too. But writers, not so much. So a garden, working outdoors and then being an activist for environmentalist causes, greening everything in my life and my political aspirations of looking for what would be best for the biosphere.


Book Forum: Mountain Song

I start with a situation, usually. Say I want to write about terraforming Mars—then I need a terraformer, a person opposed to terraforming, a political radical, a Machiavel, a builder, a psychologist, etc. The French structuralists spoke of characters as actants, as the action-doers who make the plot happen. A single character could cover a couple of actants at once, or an actant could be split between a few characters. This I’ve found useful in clarifying things to myself as I get started. Therefore, characters are, at first, kind of just positions, or needed operators of the plot. But this is just the start.

Another useful conceptual tool is protagonicity. Does a novel have high protagonicity or low protagonicity—meaning the story is maybe spread out among a lot of different characters, who might be considered minor characters, except there aren’t any major characters. The story I intend to tell determines or suggests how I might go about deciding this. 

High County NewsSeeing Mars on Earth

I was surprised how many of my texts have some analogue to the High Sierra. Right from the start, I can see when Hjalmar Nederland is wandering around Mars in Icehenge, it was a Sierra wander. And that kept happening. It was true in my Mars Trilogy. To terraform Mars is really cheating. Mars is basalt rather than granite. It’s poisonous rather than healthy. So, turning Mars into the High Sierras required something like a 2,000-page novel to make it even slightly plausible. I like it when my novels find their way to get in a big walk 

Sactown MagazineQ&A with Sci-Fi Author Kim Stanley Robinson

Once you got up there above the treeline in the Sierra, you were in a different space that was cognitive and emotional and spiritual as much as it was physical. And I think that has to do with the whole sense that humans are only visitors there, nobody lives there year-round. There’s something different about it. It really did take the whole book to try to capture what we were talking about with this single phrase, you know, “up into the God zone.” What the heck did that mean? We were young hippies, all very Buddhist, so it was simplistic hippie stuff, almost a joke, but a joke about a real feeling.


The Times of IndiaClimate change is now the big story in world history

I felt an obligation to stick with India, after deciding to put that first awful scene there, because it is in such a dangerous spot. I couldn’t just show the disaster and then walk away. Much of the novel is based in Zurich, Switzerland, the home base for my fictional Ministry for the Future, but the minister’s chief executive officer is an Indian (with a Nepali mother), and he and the minister and the story itself keep returning to India, to see what is going on there. This allowed me to show that positive developments in India, in agricultural practices and in governance, are world-class and could lead the rest of the world in positive ways.

Entertainment WeeklyWhy prolific sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson's latest book is about real-life mountains

I had been wanting to write about the Sierras for decades, and The Ministry for the Future felt like the end of a sequence of novels, so that it was kind of a case of "now's the time." I was really ready for it.

Literary HubWords of Hope, and a Defense of John Muir: Kim Stanley Robinson on His Love of the Sierra Nevadas

I think this book is an anomaly in my career, a one-off. I’d prefer to return to novels and stay behind my characters and my stories, to get out of their way. But also, it’s as you’ve noted; I am a Californian writer, and have written about the state a lot, and of course The High Sierra is a major contribution to that part of my work.

Extinction Rebellion: Q&A with KSR

So on the one hand, I wanted to warn readers that bad things are going to happen; on the other hand, I wanted to describe humanity reacting to the climate crisis in an uncoordinated way that nevertheless dodges the mass extinction event we have started, and comes to a better moment in future history, where even more progress could be made.  So ultimately this was a kind of low-bar utopian novel, which presents a good future happening despite the lack of any strong plan imposed from above, or below or from the sides.  Instead it results from lots of people trying lots of different things. 

Los Angeles TimesSci-fi master Kim Stanley Robinson on the Sierra and why humans might just ‘squeak by’


There are many places on this planet that are intensely beautiful and lovable. You don’t need to burn a lot of carbon to have a good time. The basics of paleolithic contentment remain the same in us and are available at any time.

The New Institute: Capitalism is the Main Problem

I think my Ministry for the Future says what i have to say about this issue, as a writer and novelist. I’ll let it stand for what I have to say for a few years and see how it goes. It’s making an impact— I don’t want to get in its way by adding bits or sequels or distractions of any kind. As a writer, I’ll pursue a few other projects and see what happens. 

Farsight: "Mars is irrelevant to us now. we should of course concentrate on maintaining the habitability of the Earth"

My Mars trilogy is a good novel but not a plan for this moment. If we were to create a sustainable civilisation here on Earth, with all Earth’s creatures prospering, then and only then would Mars become even the slightest bit interesting to us. It would be a kind of reward for our success

Politico: Climate Catastrophe Is Coming. But It’s Not the End of the Story.

I chose India because it’s the biggest democracy. It’s one of every eight people on Earth or even more. It’s a mess like any other democracy, but it has the potential to be a leader. Once I put the disaster there in Chapter 1, I made a promise to myself, to my mental India, that I would stick with India. It wouldn’t just be the place that the disaster happened and then everybody else solved the problem.

Interview in Neue Zuercher Zeitung (in German): Ist Science-Fiction der Realismus unserer Zeit

Die Leute waren unheimlich hungrig auf diese Geschichte. Eine Geschichte darüber, wie die nächsten dreissig Jahre gut ausgehen könnten: ohne Superhelden, ohne technologisches Wunder. «Ministerium für die Zukunft» füllte eine Nische. Das Buch scheint mir gelungen zu sein.


Also, a couple of videos:

KSR's Keynote at Future in Review 2022 (with David Brin)

Discussion "From science fiction to climate action" at Hertford College, Oxford


Now for some podcast interviews:

Storytelling AnimalsKim Stanley Robinson on Wildlife, the Martian Constitution, and Loving the High Sierra (podcast)

Azeem Azhar's Exponential View: Imagining Climate Futures with Kim Stanley Robinson

Tin House Between the Covers Podcast: Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias

Everyday Anarchism: KSR on The High Sierra

The Ezra Klein Show (The New York Times): A Weird, Wonderful Conversation With Kim Stanley Robinson

Pricing Nature: Kim Stanley Robinson, Kate Raworth, and Delton Chen Discuss "Carbon Currency"

Rick Kleffel's Agony Column podcast on The High Sierra

Planet A - Talks on climate change: Kim Stanley Robinson – On Climate Fiction and “The Ministry for the Future”

Blue Dot: Kim Stanley Robinson and the High Sierra



Plus, you can find more KSR writings in two recent publications:

Tomorrow's Parties: Life in the Anthropocene, edited by Jonathan Strahan, includes an interview with KSR by James Bradley: "It's Science Over Capitalism: Kim Stanley Robinson and the Imperative of Hope" (MIT Press, Penguin Random House).

In Noema magazine issue III: Rupture, Fall 2022.

Kim Stanley Robinson contends that, in the vein of eco-realpolitik, the rest of the world needs to compensate petro-states for their lost income as they transition to a green economy — or they never will.



So, the multi-media multi-mode book of Kim Stanley Robinson The High Sierra is available for nature lovers to enjoy.

You can listen to KSR reading from the audiobook version - specifically the chapter Moments of Being (6): A Sierra Day: Under the Tarp. And read an excrept at Literary Hub.

The High Sierra was in various recommendations lists and summer read articles: Redlands Daily FactsYale Climate ConnectionsThe Christian Science MonitorAdventure JournalThe San Francisco ChronicleThe Bend SourceMen's Journal. Also in best sellers lists (in California): Alta Online, Daily News week 31week 32.

Book reviews:



Meanwhile! The Ministry for the Future is continuing to make waves, which, given the abnormal summer the northern hemisphere has had, is not that surprising.

Book reviews:

As usual by now, plenty of articles are making reference to it or are using one aspect of it to build an opinion piece around current events. Here are the ones that I have found: The Economist on wet-bulb temperatures, Jayati Ghosh (Project Syndicate) on heat waves and Indian workers; Pete Golis (The Press Democrat) on California's heat and water stress; David Wallace-Wells (The New York Times) on extreme heat waves, Stuff on New Zealand climate policy, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on cities and extreme heat, Reuters on climate finance, Fareed Zakaria (The Washington Post) on climate policy options, New Jersey on heat waves and climate change reporting, Yale Climate Connections on imagining positive climate outcomes, The Guardian on climate and diet, Daily Kos on Goetterdaemmerung capitalism, The Fore on the carbon coin idea, The Story on climate fiction, The New Statesman on the importance of Utopian thinking

Further recommendations of Ministry specifically and mini-reviews: Outlook IndiaSiouxland Public Media KWITPatheosConservation.orgElectronic Design, Rare BooksInstitut Montainge (French).

More Ministry mentions at Storytelling Animals book club, RizolveThe Berkeley Daily Planet, Allison Stephenson Haus, Korean Quarterly, Slate podcast, Robert Reich, LawfareEuropean Council on Foreign RelationsIllinois book club, The Carbon Almanac, Calgary Climate Hub book club.

Ministry still finds itself in the American Booksellers Association bestsellers list.

More translations of Ministry are out: in Italian, by Fanucci, and in Romanian, by Nemira/Armada.


It looks like in 2023 thare will be a Slovenian theatre production, Bodočnost, that is inspired by Ministry!

After this exhaustive list, it's time for a break. More shortly.

(Top image: Sierra Nevada from NASA's Worldview)


Subscribe to KimStanleyRobinson.info RSS