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Kim Stanley Robinson (born March 23, 1952) is an American writer of science fiction. He has published nineteen novels and numerous short stories but is best known for his Mars trilogy. His work has been translated into 24 languages. Many of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural, and political themes running through them and feature scientists as heroes. Robinson has won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. Robinson's work has been labeled by The Atlantic as "the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing."[1] According to an article in The New Yorker, Robinson is "generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers."[2]

Kim Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Robinson at the Phoenix Art Museum in September 2017
Born (1952-03-23) March 23, 1952 (age 65)
Waukegan, Illinois, US
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Genre Science fiction

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Robinson was born in Waukegan, Illinois. He moved to Southern California as a child.[3]

In 1974, he earned a B.A. in literature from the University of California, San Diego.[4] In 1975, he earned an M.A. in English from Boston University.

CareerEdit

In 1978 Robinson moved to Davis, California to take a break from his graduate studies at UC San Diego. During this time he worked as a bookseller for Orpheus Books. He also taught freshman composition and other courses at University of California, Davis.[5]

In 1982 Robinson earned a Ph.D. in English from the UC San Diego.[4] His initial Ph.D. advisor was literary critic and Marxist scholar, Fredric Jameson,[6] who told Robinson to read works by Philip K. Dick. Jameson described Dick to Robinson as "the greatest living American writer."[4] Robinson's doctoral thesis, The Novels of Philip K. Dick, was published in 1984 and a hardcover version was published by UMI Research Press.

In 2008, Time Magazine named Robinson a "Hero of the Environment" for his optimistic focus on the future.[7]

In 2009, Robinson was an instructor at the Clarion Workshop.[8] In 2010, he was the guest of honor at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia.[9] In April 2011, Robinson presented at the second annual Rethinking Capitalism conference, held at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[10] Among other points made, his talk addressed the cyclical nature of capitalism.[11]

Robinson was appointed Muir Environmental Fellow in 2011 by the John Muir College, University of California San Diego.[12]

Major themesEdit

Nature and cultureEdit

Sheldon Brown described Robinson's novels as ways to explore how nature and culture continuously reformulate one another; Three Californias Trilogy as California in the future; Washington DC undergoing the impact of climate change in the Science in the Capitol series; or Mars as a stand-in for Earth in the Mars trilogy to think about re-engineering on a global scale, both social and natural conditions.[13]

Ecological sustainabilityEdit

Virtually all of Robinson's novels have an ecological component; sustainability is one of his primary themes (a strong contender for the primary theme would be the nature of a plausible utopia.) The Orange County trilogy is about the way in which the technological intersects with the natural, highlighting the importance of keeping the two in balance. In the Mars trilogy, one of the principal divisions among the population of Mars is based on dissenting views on terraforming. Colonists debate whether or not the barren Martian landscape has a similar ecological or spiritual value when compared with a living ecosphere like earth's. Forty Signs of Rain has an entirely ecological thrust, taking global warming for its principal subject.

Economic and social justiceEdit

 
Kim Stanley Robinson speaking at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair on the social themes of his work.

Robinson's work often explores alternatives to modern capitalism. In the Mars trilogy, it is argued that capitalism is an outgrowth of feudalism, which could be replaced in the future by a more democratic economic system. Worker ownership and cooperatives figure prominently in Green Mars and Blue Mars as replacements for traditional corporations. The Orange County trilogy explores similar arrangements; Pacific Edge includes the idea of attacking the legal framework behind corporate domination to promote social egalitarianism. Tim Kreider writes in the New Yorker that Robinson may be our greatest political novelist and describes how Robinson uses the Mars trilogy as a template for a credible utopia.[2]

Robinson's work often portrays characters struggling to preserve and enhance the world around them in an environment characterized by individualism and entrepreneurialism, often facing the political and economic authoritarianism of corporate power acting in this environment. Robinson has been described as anti-capitalist, and his work often portrays a form of frontier capitalism that promotes egalitarian ideals that closely resemble socialist systems, but faced with a capitalism that is maintained by entrenched hegemonic corporations. In particular, his Martian Constitution draws upon social democratic ideals explicitly emphasizing a community-participation element in political and economic life.[14]

Robinson's works often portray the worlds of tomorrow in a manner similar to the mythologized American Western frontier, showing a sentimental affection for the freedom and wildness of the frontier. This aesthetic includes a preoccupation with competing models of political and economic organization.

The environmental, economic, and social themes in Robinson's oeuvre stand in marked contrast to the libertarian science fiction prevalent in much of science fiction (Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle being prominent examples), and his work has been called the most successful attempt to reach a mass audience with a left wing and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin's 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.[15]

Scientists as heroesEdit

Robinson's work often features scientists as heroes. They are portrayed in a mundane way compared to most work featuring scientists: rather than being adventurers or action heroes, Robinson's scientists become critically important because of research discoveries, networking and collaboration with other scientists, political lobbying, or becoming public figures. Robinson captures the joy of scientists as they work at something they care about.[7] The Mars trilogy and The Years of Rice and Salt rely heavily on the idea that scientists must take responsibility for ensuring public understanding and responsible use of their discoveries. Robinson's scientists often emerge as the best people to direct public policy on important environmental and technological questions, of which politicians are often ignorant.

Climate change and global warmingEdit

In 2017, in the novel New York 2140 Robinson explored the themes of climate change and global warming, setting the novel in the year 2140 when the New York City he imagines is beset by a 50-foot sea level rise which half-submerges the city. [16]

AwardsEdit

Year Award Work honored for
1984 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella "Black Air"[17]
1984 Science Fiction Chronicle Readers Poll-novella "Black Air"[17]
1985 Locus Award for Best First Novel The Wild Shore[17]
1988 Nebula Award for Best Novella "The Blind Geometer"[17]
1988 Asimov's Reader Poll Novella "Mother Goddess of the World"[17]
1991 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Pacific Edge[17]
1991 Locus Award for Best Novella "A Short, Sharp Shock"[17]
1992 Science Fiction Chronicle Readers Poll Short Fiction "Vinland the Dream"[17]
1993 BSFA Award for Best Novel Red Mars[17]
1994 Hugo Award for Best Novel Green Mars[17]
1994 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Green Mars[17]
1994 Nebula Award for Best Novel Red Mars[17]
1997 Hugo Award for Best Novel Blue Mars[17]
1997 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Blue Mars[17]
1997 Ignotus Award-foreign novel Red Mars[17]
1998 Ignotus Award-foreign novel Green Mars[17]
1998 Prix Ozone SF novel, foreign Blue Mars[17]
1999 Seiun Awards foreign novel Red Mars[17]
2000 Locus Awards Best Collection The Martians[17]
2003 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel The Years of Rice and Salt[17]
2013 Nebula Award for Best Novel 2312[17]
2016 Robert A. Heinlein Award Entire body of works [18]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1982, Robinson married Lisa Howland Nowell, an environmental chemist. They have two sons. Robinson has lived in Washington, D.C., California, and during some of the 1980s, in Switzerland. At times, Robinson was a stay-at-home dad.[6] He now lives in Davis, California in a cohousing community.[6]

Robinson has described himself as an avid backpacker with the Sierra Nevada serving as his home range and a big influence on how he sees the world.[5]

WorksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Beauchamp, Scott (April 1, 2013). "In 300 Years, Kim Stanley Robinson's Science Fiction May Not Be Fiction". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-09-08. 
  2. ^ a b Kreider, Tim (December 13, 2013). "Our Greatest Political Novelist?". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  3. ^ Adams, John Joseph (June 6, 2012). "Sci-Fi Scribes on Ray Bradbury: 'Storyteller, Showman and Alchemist'". Wired. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Potts, Stephen (July 11, 2000). "UCSD Guestbook: Kim Stanley Robinson". UCTV. University of California Television. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Hudsen, Jeff (October 18, 2004). "Davis a perfect fit for a sci-fi novelist". The Davis Enterprise. Archived from the original on November 22, 2004. Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Bioneers (2015-11-12), Kim Stanley Robinson - Rethinking Our Relationship to the Biosphere | Bioneers, retrieved 2016-08-27 
  7. ^ a b Morton, Oliver (September 24, 2008). "Heroes of the Environment 2008". Time Magazine. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  8. ^ Doctorow, Cory (December 8, 2008). "Clarion science fiction/fantasy workshop instructors announced". Boingboing. Boinboing. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  9. ^ Howell, John (May 18, 2009). "68th World Science Fiction Convention Australia 2010: Kim Stanley Robinson Guest". SFW. SFW. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  10. ^ Pittman, Jennifer (April 2, 2011). "Rethinking Capitalism conference at UCSC to examine the cost of sustaining a fragile system". Santa Cruz Sentinel News. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism | 2011 Conference". Archived from the original on August 26, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ Iannuzzi, Giulia. "Science, Engagement, Estrangement:Remarks on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Californian Ecotopia" (PDF). EUT. EUT - Edizioni Università di Trieste. 
  13. ^ Brown, Sheldon (July 1, 2013). "The Literary Imagination with Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson". UCTV. 5:00: University of California Television. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  14. ^ Some Worknotes and Commentary on the Constitution by Charlotte Dorsa-Brevia, in The Martians pp. 233–239
  15. ^ Smith, Jeremy (2001). "Utopic Fiction and the Mars Novels of Kim Stanley Robinson". Raintaxi. Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  16. ^ Canavan, Gerry (2017). "Utopia in the Time of Trump". Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB). Retrieved March 11, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Science Fiction Awards Database". sfadb. Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Robinson Wins 2016 Heinlein Award". Locus Online. January 7, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 

External linksEdit