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INTERVIEW: Kim Stanley Robinson on 2312, Mars and Climate Change

Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer best known for his Mars trilogy. His novels delve into ecological and sociological themes regularly. In his latest novel, 2312 (reviewed here), Robinson takes us across the Solar System to investigate the destruction of a habitation on Mercury and its unfolding consequences that ripple through human occupied space (hollowed asteroids working as spaceships-cum-biospheres included) from the neighborhoods of the Sun to Saturn. As always, but most pointedly since the Mars Trilogy, Robinson does a masterful job describing the ecosystems and all the massive work required to build them – and keep working.

One of the most important SF writers of the world, and one of the most interested in investigating the impact of ecological changes in our world and beyond, he was kind enough to take a quick break from his vacation to answer a few questions, not about his books (even though there are many literary questions we wanted to ask), but about ecology and climate, two pivotal subjects not only for worldbuilding, but for surviving, here and in other planets.

Fabio Fernandes: Did you follow the discussions of the Rio+20 conference? What are your impressions on it? (If not particularly Rio+20, what conferences on environment have you followed via the press – or even participated personally?)

Kim Stanley Robinson: My impression is that there is a fading media interest in environment and climate change, that these crucial issues have been normalized in a sense and are now not considered as important to report, even as they become more important to our lives.  They are also not something politicians want to talk about, as the money controlling politics does not want them discussed.

There are big advances being made in materials sciences and design based on ecological principles that suggest we can successfully deal with the huge problems we have created, so the actual project of decarbonizing and dealing with our environmental impacts more generally are ongoing and worth celebrating and intensifying, but we live in a stupidified media and political culture that insists on focusing on trivial matters, and regarding this big question with a mixture of ignorance and apocalyptic thinking.  In parts of the culture this has created a Gotterdamerung mentality that has given up even trying, and indeed wants to increase the destruction as part of its denial of reality, which is profound and at the base of their philosophy.  There are also big financial interests at stake, and when shareholder value is the only value, general destruction (including of shareholder value itself) is the result.  Also, the carbon industry is well-funded and in its own interest will impede any progress on this front.  So it is a very confused moment, with much to celebrate in terms of real progress in the sciences and humanities, but much to worry about in the world of economics and politics.  It sets up a kind of race or struggle between different human groups, and the scientific-ecological group must win, for the sake of future generations.

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REVIEW: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

REVIEW SUMMARY: A deliberate, engrossing read.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the year 2312, humanity has risen to the furthest extents of the solar system in a new, space-faring society, and a series of events force humanity to confront its past, and its future.

PROS: 2312 is a brilliant, epic science fiction novel that spans the width of the solar system in an exceptional future.
CONS: Plot is slightly underwhelming amidst the scale of the story.

Kim Stanley Robinson has long been known for his Mars Trilogy, depicting the massive changes that humanity wages on the red planet, and with 2312 he turns his attention to the Solar System at large. At points brilliant, at others strange, Robinson’s latest novel is a fascinating epic that spans years and billions of miles as two main characters, Swan and Wartham, travel back and forth as they investigate the destruction of a habitation on Mercury and the people behind it.
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