Winner of multiple awards including Hugo and Nebula, Kim Stanley Robinson is an American Science Fiction writer, popularly known for his award-winning Mars trilogy. Based on ecological and sociological themes, his novels appear to be the direct result of his scientific fascinations that he explored during his years of research on the planet Mars. For his major achievements as a Sci-fi writer, in 2010, Robinson was called to be the guest of honor at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia.
With nominations on twenty-nine occasions, Robinson’s novels have won eleven major Science Fiction awards. He won the Hugo Award for Best Novel with Green Mars (1994); and Blue Mars (1997); the Nebula Award for Best Novel with Red Mars (1993); a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with Pacific Edge (1991); and Locus Awards for The Wild Shore (1985), A Short, Sharp Shock (1991), Green Mars (1994), Blue Mars (1997), The Martians (2000), and The Years of Rice and Salt (2003).
In his latest novel, 2312, 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 from the neighborhoods of the Sun to Saturn.
We recently got an opportunity to expose some questions to KSR on his latest novel 2312, including a few personal queries of public-interest. Here go the excerpts from the interview:
Give a brief review of 2312 for the readers who are yet to read the book.
2312 is set around that year, throughout the solar system. It tells the story of two people, one from Mercury, one from Saturn, who travel together to Earth and throughout the solar system to solve the mystery of the destruction of the only city on Mercury, which runs on tracks in the zone of the dawn. Artificial intelligences on the loose seem to be responsible, but what are they, and how can they be stopped?
What is the central theme of the book?
That human beings are on the edge of really big changes, both for better and for worse, all happening at the same time. When you think of how much has changed in the last 300 years, and then multiply that by however many times, and cast that forward into the next 300 years, it should be rather startling to contemplate. That’s what 2312 is about.
What kind of ideology 2312 would spark off to a reader who never have read a Science Fiction before?
It would help if they had read John Dos Passos’ great novel trilogy USA, published in the 1930s, because I used the form of the Dos Passos masterpiece, which has four different kinds of story-telling stranded together, to structure my novel, in the hope it would work like it did for Dos Passos to convey an entire culture. With Dos Passos in mind, the things that would be shocking in 2312 for a first-time science fiction reader would at least have a framework for understanding them better. No matter what, reading it as one’s first science fiction novel would definitely be jumping into the deep end of the pool. But I wrote it for anyone to understand, so I hope that will work, and encourage first-timers to try it and see what they think.
2312 is widely considered as an environmentally-oriented Sci-Fi novel. How did you manage to create that genre?
There is an environmentalist strand in science fiction that runs from Bradbury and Simak and Pangborn through the new wave and the work of Ursula Le Guin, so I am just a part of that tradition. It’s very easy to focus science fiction on the environment because so often science fiction is concerned with the relationships between people and planets, and that’s precisely what environmentalism is about. So there is a great congruence there.
How far do you think the book can influence the thought of those less entail with the Earth’s ecological health?
That’s a good question which can’t be answered, but my hope is that the book would make people think about the Earth and humanity’s future on Earth in a new way, from a new perspective. So I think it can influence people who read it, yes.
Tell us about the lead characters in the book. Who do you think is closest to you?
None of these characters are ones I feel particularly close to, although I felt I had a good understanding of the two principals, Swan and Wahram. Their characters are mercurial and saturnine, in keeping with their home towns, and while I could imagine them in the sense of hearing them talk to themselves, I’m not much like either—or I’m like both but have abstracted them out of my confusions.
How did you come up with the idea of writing about the situation 3 centuries ahead?
I wanted to write about a romance between a mercurial from Mercury and a saturnine from Saturn, and so I needed to go three centuries out to make it likely that people would be living in those places.
2312 seems to share a lot of themes and ideas with your Hugo and Nebula awards-winning Mars trilogy. To what extent they are being related?
They are similar in that they both tell a story about people inhabiting the solar system, and by the end of Blue Mars the story has gone out a couple of centuries. 2312 takes it a further century, but the history that led to this year 2312 is not the history in the Mars trilogy, especially for what happens on Mars. Still they are similar enough that 2312 can be seen as a kind of thematic or spiritual sequel to the Mars trilogy.
What is the basic difference between the Kim Stanley Robinson who compiled the Mars Trilogy and the KSR who wrote 2312?
Twenty years or so! As a writer, I think that has made me less patient, and more interested in trying different structures and narrators.
Even though our solar system is one the farthest area of interest among all sorts of readers, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbors have been captured in much science fiction. What do you think makes our solar system to exert such a pull on a Sci-fi writer’s imagination, especially yours?
I think it’s due to the fact that the solar system is real, and now visible to us in a way completely impossible just fifty years ago, and it’s all within our reach, more or less; easier for robots than people, but not impossible for us to visit and inhabit these places. This gift of new landscapes is precious to any writer who likes thinking about landscapes.
Your works are always seemed to be intent on eliciting some sort of politically supported issues. What do you want to say on your being thought of as a ‘political’ SF writer?
It’s okay, all writing is political, and the best fiction cannot be the best without its political element. The test of course is to be sure that it is something more than politics somehow. But the novel is a good art form for folding in all kinds of realities.
Who is/are your major influences as a Sci-Fi writer?
Science fiction’s new wave writers, especially Le Guin, Wolfe, Delany, Russ. Then also novelists Cecelia Holland and Joyce Cary, and Peter Dickinson and Patrick O’Brian, and Garcia Marquez and Virginia Woolf, also poets Gary Snyder and W.S. Merwin. Many many novelists also, I like all novels and try to learn things from them.
Is there anything you want to ask or urge to the nascent Science Fiction Writers?
No, they will have their own agendas, and that’s fine. Actually given the way science fiction has been nearly overwhelmed by fantasy in the last decade or so, I would only want to encourage any beginning science fiction writers and cheer them on.
Any message for the Sci-Fi enthusiasts?
Thanks! Keep reading!
Finally, inform us about the alleged movie adaptation of your award-winning novel Red Mars.
My film agent and friend Vince Gerardis continues to work with an exciting team on adapting Red Mars for a television series format. We’ll learn more as that goes forward, and I hope for the best.
Now we would like to thank Mr. Robinson for taking some precious moments out of his busy schedule to being caught up with us.