31 Oct 2020

Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel, The Ministry for the Future, has now been published by Orbit Books! As with many KSR novels, it reads both like a commentary and expansion on previous novels of his, it is a wake-up call to action, and it is an experiment in literary form that goes hand in hand with the story it is trying to tell. Written before the pandemic, it feels prescient in its description of what promise to be dismal times -- but a better future is possible. In the book's periodization of history -- another KSR staple -- we are entering in the Trembling Twenties, before the zombie years and the Great Turn.

2020 being what it is, book promotion is done online, which has given plenty of opportunity for readers' direct interaction with Stan.

The featured video below is a Science and Fiction: Envisioning Climate Action: panel discussion of the novel with journalist/activist Naomi Klein, international environmental lawyer Cymie Payne, and environmental humanist Jorge Marcone, moderated by climate scientist Robert Kopp, hosted by the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and the Rutgers Climate Institute at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Three more online events can be rewatched via crowdcast:

You can also listen to a facts-filled podcast interview with Stan at Fiction Science, by Alan Boyle and Dominica Phetteplace.

In print/online interviews, KSR talks about a host of things -- Ministry for the Future truly is a novel that talks about many things! -- climate science and policy, grassroots change vs high-level politics, writing about other countries as a US citizen, seeing hope through hard times, trying to keep writing fresh after so many novels, the mix of writing styles in this novel... Building on his reputation accumulated from all his career, Robinson speaks here as a writer but also as a public intellectual engaging in discourse about our times.

I want to feature first his interview with Jacobin (a 10-year old magazine fostering intellectual debate on socialist ideas), with Derek O'Keefe: "Imagining the End of Capitalism With Kim Stanley Robinson"

we could quickly shift from a capitalism to a post-capitalism that is more sustainable and more socialist, because so many of the obvious solutions are contained in the socialist program. And if we treated the biosphere as part of our extended body that needs to be attended to and taken care of, then things could get better fast, and there are already precursors that demonstrate this possibility.

I don’t think it’s possible to postulate a breakdown, or a revolution, to an entirely different system that would work without mass disruption and perhaps blowback failures, so it’s better to try to imagine a stepwise progression from what we’ve got now to a better system. And by the time we’re done — I mean, “done” is the wrong word — but by the end of the century, we might have a radically different system than the one we’ve got now. And this is kind of necessary if we’re going to survive without disaster. So, since it’s necessary, it might happen. And I’m always looking for the plausible models that already exist and imagining that they get ramped up.


The rest of the interviews are more or less chronological as they happened.

Interview with Nautilus, with Liz Greene: "Kim Stanley Robinson Holds Out Hope"

What I’ve been doing in my climate fiction is try to point out the ramifications that aren’t fully taken on by the culture that are really important to think about. And that’s been a way to sort out which story I want to tell. Climate change is a global story. It will last for centuries. It will affect everyone. So which story do you tell of all those literally billions of stories for billions of people? I’ve been trying to pick the stories that aren’t yet on the radar.


Interview with Clarkesworld Magazine, by Arley Sorg: "Eyewitness to History's Future" -- also goes over his previous career

in figuring out a way to tell that story, I discovered what I think is a distinct genre, which is the eyewitness account, and that was a real find for me. There are collections of these eyewitness accounts, often clustered around some event (like the spring 1945 in Germany), although one is just called Eyewitness to History (it’s not very good compared to the more targeted ones). What I found is that eyewitnesses don’t dramatize their accounts like fiction writers would. They don’t give you dramatized scenes, in other words, but instead they offer summarized accounts, often made years later, so that a lot of compression happens, but key moments remain, and judgments are made, this is very important; the event is seen as important, and put into the context of the eyewitness’ subsequent life, and so on. In effect it’s telling not showing, and I like that very much; the workshop phrase “show don’t tell” is actually a very silly and simplistic instruction, and much bad fiction has come out of writing workshops because of people trying to enact this command. Eyewitness accounts are often vivid in ways a dramatized scene isn’t.


Interview with Sierra Club, by Michael Berry: "Kim Stanley Robinson’s Got Ideas to Stave Off Extinction" -- also a review

"The melange of forms was, for sure, part of the effect of how I thought I could make this book work as a novel that has a global reach, an attempt to take on everything at once, while still having the ministry story in Zurich." ... "For me, it was almost like channeling voices. We’ve got a refugee problem, we’ve got a climate problem, we’ve got a capitalist problem and a finance problem, and they all combine to an ungodly, wicked problem."


Interview with Entertainment Weekly (yes, you read that correctly!), by Christian Holub: "How new novel The Ministry for the Future lays a blueprint for fighting climate change" -- includes comments on the novel and quotes from the above panel with Naomi Klein

You give the central banks the idea that in order to stabilize money, which is their one and only project, then they have to save the world. There’s a certain comedy to that solution: ‘Well, we don’t want interest rates to go up, therefore we have to dodge a mass-extinction event, because that would be bad for interest rates.’ But that's how bankers think.


An excellent interview by novelist Eliot Peper: "Kim Stanley Robinson on inventing plausible utopias" -- Peper also writes 'climate fiction' (KSR recommends his Veil) and their exchange is very informative on how to approach real global-scale problems while keeping the writing interesting.

Twenty-twenty will be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Lots changed, and now we have lots of questions too: When will things “go back to normal”? Will they ever go back to the way they were before? If there are some permanent changes from this year, what will they be? No one can say now. So the moment we’re living through now is a kind of interregnum, the space between two moments with their respective structures of feeling. The in-between can be acutely uncomfortable but also a space of freedom as old habits have ended but new ones not yet been settled. Proust called this the moment of exfoliation, when you shed one skin and grow another. It’s not comfortable, but it is interesting.


Interview with Polygon, by Tasha Robinson: "We asked Kim Stanley Robinson: Can science fiction save us?" -- discusses utopian fiction and science fiction of the 60s and 70s that he likes

I felt a deep kinship and love for Ursula K. Le Guin and Iain Banks, these two great utopian writers. They’ve died, and I do feel a bit lonely for my own generation. But I also see a lot of young writers coming up who call themselves solarpunk, or hopepunk, or the new utopians, and whatnot. They’re forming schools, they’re trying to get enthusiastic about improvising our way to a green future. I think they’re utopian, but perhaps a little bit outdated or scared by the term “utopia,” because it’s so often used as a weapon to mean “unrealistic and never going to happen.” So they make up different names. I’m glad to see these. I don’t think utopian fiction will ever go away. It’s like a necessary blueprint for thinking our way forward. So it seems like it’s a good time for utopian fiction.


Interview with the Chicago Review of Books, by Amy Brady: "A Crucial Collapse in “The Ministry for the Future”". About the saying 'it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism':

I’m not so sure about this. I know it’s fashionable to say so, but I think it’s actually quite easy to imagine capitalism ending — by way of apocalyptic catastrophes, mass chaos and disorder, the collapse of civilization, and the beginning of a war of all against all. Dystopian literature, post-apocalyptic literature, these are all various ways of imagining capitalism’s end.

Of course, that’s not what people mean when they say that. It’s not that alternatives to capitalism are hard to imagine — you can write out a just and sustainable world constitution in half a day.  And you can imagine civilization collapsing in a single bad dream. Now, in the middle of the current pandemic, and a really intense election and hopefully a change of administration, it’s easier than ever to imagine a collapse. What’s hard, I think, is imagining how we could get from our current situation into a better situation. People recognize that capitalism as world system blocks that transition, and given how entrenched it looks, it seems like there’s no realistic way forward, no bridge from our bad place over the next few decades to a better place.

In this situation, it’s important to remember that fossil fuels advocates and most of the power elite — the one percent, or even the richest ten percent — want this system to look entrenched and impossible to change. That helps them hold onto power and privilege for the rest of their lives, and after that, they don’t really care. This is my guess. So it’s important to resist that impression. In fact, the current order is unsustainable, and what can’t happen won’t happen, so some kind of change is for sure coming. Things could get worse, sure, but it’s also still true that things could get better. And that’s what we need to work on.


Bonus: In a rare appearance, KSR's editor at Orbit Tim Holman shared some thoughts on the new novel at Publishers Weekly!

Excerpts of the novel can be read online:


If you want more of KSR's writing, here are a couple of articles:

In his latest of his series of articles for Bloomberg Green, KSR talks of the concept of "wet bulb temperature" and the increased risk in the future of killer heat waves -- what happens in the opening chapter of the novel: "We Made This Heat, Now We Cool It".

This is what our global civilization has to organize itself to do. We could become a carbon-negative civilization in a couple of decades. Many methods for decarbonization already exist, and what can be done must be done, because the alternative is too dire.


For The Guardian, KSR offers his own suggestions of mostly non-fiction books that help better understand the world, from Earth's carrying capacity and geoengineering to finance and the structure of feeling (and Cory Doctorow and Jonathan Lethem): "'There is no planet B': the best books to help us navigate the next 50 years"


Finally, some reviews of the new novel:


You can discuss and comment on the new novel on the dedicated forums in this site!

Enjoy the new novel, if you are a US citizen exercise your rare opportunity to vote, stay safe, and stay tuned for the next Ministry for the Future-themed list of links!...

29 Sep 2020

Art corner: Mars trilogy

Submitted by Kimon

In the previous article we saw all kinds of things inspired by the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy. In this post we will focus on just illustrations. We have covered in the past artwork by Ludovic Celle (twice) and Carlos NCT. Here are some other artists.

There are of course literally dozens of illustrators that have depicted the colonization of Mars, here I will display the ones that have explicitly mentioned KSR's Mars trilogy as an inspiration -- and it doesn't just stop at landscapes!



Frans Blok

Dutch designer Frans Blok, a big fan of the Mars trilogy for many years, has created a wiremesh 3D model of the First Hundred's ship, the Ares:

Frans even used it to create a mock trailer for a blockbuster movie adaptation of Red Mars! (updated version - older version here)



Travis Smith

Vancouver artist Travis Smith illustrated some scenes from Red Mars and did what few others have attempted: put a face on specific beloved characters! Are they how you imagined them? Here is an interview with him at Gizmodo. Here they are, with Travis' descriptions:

Maya on the Ares - From the chapter, ‘The Voyage Out’, an emotional moment in the Ares’ bubble dome. Here for Maya is reflecting on her goal and everything that she has done to achieve it.

Nadia in Underhill - The early days of construction in ‘The Crucible’. Here Nadia is listening to Louis Armstrong amidst the chaos of construction. Her character is reserved, so I imagined this movement as almost subconscious, her character is experiencing one of the happiest moments of her life.

Boone arriving in Burroughs - From ‘Falling into History’, John Boone visits Burroughs in order to meet UN bureaucrat Helmut Bronski. He is wearing a garment mentioned in the books (not specifically worn by Boone, but implied), a jacket made from a reflective copper-foil looking material that affords some radiation protection.

Closer view of Burroughs. The advertisements are a mixture of transnational and consumer companies. My assumption being that Burroughs is the one place on the planet a person might find a Tim Hortons or Starbucks coffee as it is one of the few settlement approaching the size of a city. The larger portions of the city would be revealed in the next 'shot' as the camera perspective would show something approximating Boone's view of the Valley Mesas beyond.

Chalmers on the Escarpment - Chalmers broods following the murder of his friend and rival Boone in the chapter ‘Guns Under the Table’. He has joined Zyek’s mining co-op, caught in a storm, he is on his own out on the Great Escarpment.



Ville Ericsson

Stockholm artist Ville Ericsson gives us John Boone driving and a vision of a terraformed Mars. Here is an interview with him at MailOnline.

You can get a Mars trilogy feel from some of his other Mars art: domed cities, climbers up Olympus Mons, and more.



William Bennett

Last but not least -- Wellington NZ artist William Bennett, who did plenty of Red Mars designs a few years ago. And I do mean plenty! This might make this page heavier, but I wanted to display all 33 images here! There's a great level of detail -- you can display each image individually to read some comments. In some cases he has taken inspiration from the books and added some of his own ideas and concepts (such as logos of real-world companies).

The First Hundred training base in Antarctica:

Assembly of the Ares in Earth orbit:

First colonizers' habitats:

Colonists' suits:


Guns (because why not):

Martian rovers:


Trucks and other vehicles:

Space elevator and Clarke base:

Air miner:


Acheron Labs:

Echus Overlook:


Martian consumer products (Philip K Dick would like this):



That's all for now! Suffice to say there's plenty of interest for a visual interpretation of these novels. One can imagine the above being artwork commissioned to be the basis for a feature film or television series adaptation of the novels... Personally, I like the design aspect but I wonder whether an adaptation can make the themes of the novels justice.

We will now switch Earthside to cover the imminent release of KSR's new novel, The Ministry for the Future!

25 Sep 2020

KSR's next, the Earth-bound "The Ministry for the Future", is just around the corner! To make the wait easier, following the previous post on The Years of Rice and Salt, here is a compilation of interesting links related to the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy.

The trilogy is now over twenty years old and its legacy is far and wide. Here is a review putting it in context of other science fiction literature that have looked at Mars, another together with other novels that deal with terraforming, and another together with novels of space colonization. The whole trilogy and Red Mars in particular comes up often in book clubs and book discussions and general book recommendations -- even by actor Tom Hanks! or by explorers that cross the Pacific Ocean! See some reddit discussions about it here, here and here, and join an entire sub-reddit dedicated to the trilogy!

The trilogy has inspired people from all walks of life, scientists and artists both. The following is only a sample...


First, music inspired by.

Viriditas (!) is a progressive rock band from Hampshire whose first album, called "Red Mars" (2018), entirely focuses on that first volume. Lively atmosphere, prog rock guitars, choruses and lyrics that refer directly to events and characters of the book -- like Frank Chalmers' role in killing John Boone! We know that Stan is a fan (remember "The Soundtrack" section in The Martians?). Viriditas' second album is under production and will be called..."Green Mars"!


Next, London-based Mariano Capezzani's fresh 2020 album of electronic music, "Areophany", also entirely inspired by the world of the trilogy! It is an upbeat and inspiring trek of discovery of Mars. His earlier album, "Ares" (2019), also felt very inspired by KSR -- he calls it "the soundtrack for the exploration and colonization of Mars" and here he passionately explains the process of composing it, track by track!


Then there's "Acheron" (2016) by Lausanne-based SHALT -- an EP of clubbing music that was inspired by the Mars trilogy, "taking on the theme of artificial life extension and the issues (class, physiology, ecology, etc.) that crop up with it"! (interview)


How about games?


It was discussed among fans for years and in 2016 it took the world by storm: "Terraforming Mars" by the Swede Jacob Fryxelius, a board game very much inspired by KSR's Mars trilogy! A strategy game where you are collecting resources to terraform the planet, aiming for the levels of oxygen, temperature and water to sustain a biosphere. It is still ranked among the very top among people who know these things and has received five expansions since then (a review here). Following its success, a video game version was released in 2018 (a review here).

But there's more Mars trilogy-like video games!

In 2016, "TerraGenesis" was released; a game for mobile devices, players choose factions and settle planets (real solar system planets included) and set out to terraform them by manipulating real science-based biophysical parameters, with industrial processes or bioengineering (dedicated wiki).

In 2018, "Surviving Mars" was released; players are tasked with working with a space agency, building infrastructure, and managing resources to expand your colony into a full city, à la SimCity, inspired by "positive sci-fi" like KSR's (interview).


KSR might have based the trilogy on science from the 1970s and 1980s  but the science in it still holds very well. Here is an article looking at the science of Red Mars, particularly its geological and planetary formation aspects.

However, since the 1990s there have been several developments: scientific findings from the robotic probes and a harder look at what it would take to sustain a colony on Mars, practically, logistically, psychologically. The discovery of toxic chemicals on the Martian topsoil (perchlorates) in particular has limited prospects of easily producing food on-site; together with solar and stellar radiation, they would even kill bacteria, as per this Scientific Reports article (popular science article about it here).

Then there's the issue of there not being sufficient CO2 on Mars to increase temperature and pressure sufficiently -- similar to Chris McKay calculations in the 1990s, this Nature Astronomy article calculates how much is available and how much would be needed and comes short, "stranding" any colony under a dome at best instead of out in the open (popular science article about it here, and video here).

Instead, studies now focus on how to make the best use of the materials locally present. For instance, this study published in Nature Astronomy looked at using layers of silica aerogel to create a shielding from radiation, increase temperature and allow for plant growth; first using imported material, then producing it on-site (popular science article about it here and here).

Mars habitability can even make the subject of a research project for university students -- see for example this group from Valencia, Spain, that developed Mars-adapted organisms and organisms relevant for terraforming, using synthetic biology and genetic engineering!

This Gizmodo article summarizes the main issues that scale down earlier dreams of a strong, blossoming independent Martian colony: psychological impacts, health issues from gravity effects to radiation effects to the unknowns of gestation in such an environment, soil toxicity, low temperatures and energy self-sufficiency, the large industrial effort needed to start terraforming... Many now conclude that, for the foreseeable future, we are a single-planet species and that "there is no planet B" to place bets on (see: Aurora).

Despite this news, the colonization of the red planet still fascinates humankind. Thinking about mode of governance or about the way to run its economy, studies and opinion pieces abound.

There was a recent exhibition at London's Design Museum, "Moving to Mars", that tried to imagine many aspects of future inhabitation of Mars -- with technologies and practices that could be relevant for living on Earth as well, such as food production close to habitable spaces, circular economy and 3D printing (interview, visit article).

In 2021, there will be another Mars exhibition, in Barcelona's CCCB, "Mars: The Red Mirror", looking at the imaginary around Mars from a multitude of disciplines -- and should also feature KSR himself!


From art to science back to art.

In photographer Allison Davies' "Outerland", "a solitary interplanetary wanderer is lost in the spectacular vistas of alien worlds" -- very reminiscent of Ann Clayborne exploring Mars.


Miss those discussions between Maya and Sax about the colours of the Martian sunsets? Here's space illustrator Ron Miller's vision on what the weather on Mars might look like, with discussions of wind, dust and dry ice...

Science writer Robert Walker imagines different outcomes of Mars colonization. Continuing on the Red/Green/Blue theme, he proposes a multitude of Mars colours based on the presence of dry ice, photosynthetic life, etc.

On to videos:

Aron Bothman's "The Red Witch" is a great little short film mixing stop-motion animation and CG and some hand-drawn animation. It follows "A geologist on Mars fights alone to uncover the planet's secrets before the green of terraforming covers it forever" and yes, that's exactly Ann Clayborne!

The video clip to Jamie xx's song "Gosh" looks like a very photorealistic rendering of the Mars trilogy! It was made by Erik Wernquist, whose previous video on the exploration of the solar system, "Wanderers", was covered on this site previously -- it was also inspired by the likes of KSR and appealed to the sense of awe and hope of this human adventure!

National Geographic's docudrama series "Mars" has no third season planned, but you can see their earlier documentary on the terraforming of Mars, "Mars: Making the New Earth", on YouTube.

Finally, something lighter: a 17th-18th century-style map of Mars, with the locations of the robot probe landings! "Here there be robots: A medieval map of Mars", by designer Eleanor Lutz.


Watch this space in the coming days for more art inspired by the Mars trilogy!

27 Aug 2020

In this odd Covid summer, what else can one do -- apart from waiting for KSR's next, The Ministry for the Future, that is? You might be interested by this compilation of links and artwork related to a story where things got worse due to a virus before things got better: The Years of Rice and Salt.

Did you know that TYORAS is one of the works of literature that is or has been aboard the International Space Station? I don't know though if an astronaut brought it there temporarily or if some paperback copy is still orbiting above your head every 90 minutes.

Comic artist Everett Patterson set out to make one illustration per book of the novel -- here are the six that he actually published!

1. Awake to Emptiness

2. The Haj in the Heart

3. Ocean Continents

4. The Alchemist

5. Warp and Weft (missing!)

6. Widow Kang

7. The Age of Great Progress

For some more TYORAS-inspired art, here are some square paintings by Emily Poole.

For those into video games: a scenario based on TYORAS for Civilization 3 -- with the Mamluks, Hodenosaunee, Travancore and more!

"Alkebu-lan, 1260 AH": here is "a map of an Africa that was or could have been if history would have played out a bit differently" by artist Nicolaj Jesper Cyon -- a work of art with meticulous research that very much fits the world of TYORAS.

How about some music? This UK-based post-rock band chose the name for themselves: Years of Rice and Salt! (no longer existing?) Different style -- Minneapolis-based metal band Former Worlds was inspired by TYORAS' concept of a jati tribe being reincarnated (and by some novels of Ursula LeGuin!) for their first full album "Iterations of Time"!

And of course, you can head over to Matt and Hilary's KSR podcast that is advancing in its coverage of TYORAS, book by book -- currently on book 8 of 10!

Finally, the TYORAS timeline page on this site has been updated with some fan-made maps!

Bonus: since we are on illustrations, here is a montage that strongly reminded me of Galileo's Dream, mixing Florence and the Jovian system: An Italian Jewel, by Sebastien Hue.

Fresher KSR news coming soon!

14 Jun 2020

Kim Stanley Robinson's next novel, The Ministry for the Future, is coming on October 6th 2020. Hachette/Orbit published the synopsis:

Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story.

From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come.

Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.

It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.

The cover was revealed in a KSR interview with Newsweek. HQ image here; cover design by Lauren Panepinto. A silhouette inside the structure of an airship, a tunnel at the end of which the sky is beautiful, hope and struggle: "light at the end of the tunnel—the possibility of getting into a new open field of possibilities".

KSR talked about the new novel more in depth in an interview with Tor.com.

In some ways I guess you could say that The Ministry for the Future is describing a new few decades that if enacted by the world community, would possibly dodge the bad parts of the futures I wrote about in New York 2140 and 2312. In all three books some people are trying to do things to get people into a better balance with Earth’s biosphere, but the earlier we start doing that in a big way, the less remediation and catching up we’ll have to do.

So the new book has the most intense focus on what we could do right now, and it plays off the creation of the Paris Agreement, which was a major event in world history.

KSR teases the topics to be covered in the new novel in his new monthly column in Bloomberg Green (of all places!). And the solutions are specific, concrete, immediately applicable. First, on the role of central banks in mobilizing resources for climate change adaptation and mitigation: Making the Fed’s Money Printer Go Brrrr for the Planet:

We have to save the biosphere from catastrophic heating. We also have a market that won’t invest enough in this project. So governments need to do it, by way of creating new money specifically targeted to pay for rapid decarbonization. You can think of this proposal as “carbon quantitative easing,” in tribute to the quantitative easing undertaken by central banks in the teeth of the 2008 recession.

And second, on the jobs market and opportunities that come with making the world a more liveable place: The Climate Case for a Jobs Guarantee:

Never make the mistake of thinking “efficient” is synonymous with “good.” All kinds of bad things can be achieved efficiently. Efficiency just means the most results with the least waste, so whether it’s good or not depends entirely on the desired goal. If the goal is prosperous people living in balance with a healthy biosphere, then a Job Guarantee, targeted at rapid decarbonization, habitat restoration, regenerative agriculture, and similarly necessary work, might be the most efficient course. If anyone doubts this, one has to ask first, are they doubting the method’s efficiency or the primacy of the goal itself?

Any resemblance to policy packages for a just transition to a low-carbon world, to many variants of the so-called Green New Deal, are not fortuitous. On the occasion of a public assembly in New York City last November organized by Columbia University's Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, KSR wrote a piece on the Green New Deal -- the House Resolution itself, sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, and the idea, or ideas, of a Green New Deal as a tool to steer our efforts as a civilization towards justice and sustainability.

The writers of H. Res. 109 are to be congratulated. It’s notable that [...] they have decided to make human justice and equity major parts of the climate change mitigation project. [...] the seemingly permanent systemic injustice of American society, and the increasing inequality of the last few decades, are acknowledged and also tightly bound to both the explanation of the climate problem and the prescriptions for solutions.

[...] It’s thus possible to imagine a ‘successful’ but nevertheless dystopian response to climate change, in which democracy and people more generally are not trusted to be adequate to the emergency, and authoritarian or totalitarian governments must then attack the problem of technology transfer using ordinary people as shock troops to be sacrificed for a higher cause. [...] Against this bad scenario, the writers of H. Res. 109 have taken great pains to emphasize that any truly successful coping with the climate emergency will have to regard everyone involved as equally important.

Meanwhile! A few things have been going on that have made reality look even more like a science fiction novel! Kim Stanley Robinson wrote an essay for The New Yorker, "The Coronavirus is Rewriting our Imaginations", on how this coronavirus epidemic is changing our relationship to the future and how such a pause to rethink things and act in coordination is welcome.

For the past few decades, we’ve been called upon to act, and have been acting in a way that will be scrutinized by our descendants. Now we feel it.

We’re now confronting a miniature version of the tragedy of the time horizon. We’ve decided to sacrifice over these months so that, in the future, people won’t suffer as much as they would otherwise. In this case, the time horizon is so short that we are the future people. It’s harder to come to grips with the fact that we’re living in a long-term crisis that will not end in our lifetimes. But it’s meaningful to notice that, all together, we are capable of learning to extend our care further along the time horizon.

My younger son works in a grocery store and is now one of the front-line workers who keep civilization running. My son is now my hero: this is a good feeling. I think the same of all the people still working now for the sake of the rest of us. If we all keep thinking this way, the new structure of feeling will be better than the one that’s dominated for the past forty years.

It was a seminal essay that was widely quoted around (just a sample: Arianna Huffington, Financial Times, the deputy Prime Minister of Malta, Resilience.org...). It resonated with many people thinking that this can be more than a momentary tragedy, that this can be an opportunity for accelerating change in a direction that is also good for society as a whole and the environment.

And so with a significant share of the world population in various stages of quarantine, it was time for introspection and for reconsideration of our relationship with nature and our conception of future possibilities. Accordingly, several KSR novels found their way in articles on quarantine reading lists! The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly (!) included New York 2140, GQ included Red Mars, Vulture included The Years of Rice and Salt.

Some more items:

Locus Magazine has a report from a memorial in January for Michael Blumlein, fellow SF author and personal friend of Stan's, who died last October, where Stan read some Gary Snyder.

A local TV report from the Boston SF convention, Boskone 57, where Stan released his special collection of fiction and essays, Stan's Kitchen: A Robinson Reader (with an introduction by Michael Blumlein). Here he talks about the SF community (geoblocked; non-US visitors might be able to see it following this link).

An interview with Energy & Environment News (paywall).

The Coode Street podcast interviewed Stan once more, and he shared his thoughts on some recent readings of his, like Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light trilogy on Thomas Cromwell.

More news will be coming as we approach the release of The Ministry for the Future!


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