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Kim Stanley Robinson VO

Kim Stanley Robinson VO

Actusf : You have been living in California since your youth, even if you were born in Illinois and lived a while in Switzerland. You devoted a whole trilogy to this state. What makes it different from the rest of the US ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : Geography and history in combination make California different from  all the other states.   The combination of ocean, mountains and  deserts makes for a real barrier between California and the rest of  the world, such that it came very late to both world and US history.   It was so hard to get here before the railroads that people here lived  in a manner a century or two behind the times, until World War Two.   The late arrival of Europeans in great numbers, and the remnant of the  Gold Rush, made for a strange effect, a kind of permanent gold rush  mentality, wherein many of the people who came to California were  nomadic people looking for something better, and with the gigantic  Pacific Ocean stopping  westward motion, they stuck in California  whether their lives got better or not.
Then the Mediterranean climate was so benign, and the agricultural  possibilities so great, that people considered it a kind of paradise;  and the physical landscape is very beautiful.  Finally Hollywood's  immense world impact made California the epicenter of the world's  dream machine, which meant the natural beauty of the place was  combined with an unnatural attraction of people obsessed with movies.   That was unfortunate for most of the residents of the state, but not  something anyone could do anything about.  Over time, as the movie  industry de-localizes, California will go back to being one great  landscape among many.

Actusf : You have a degree in littérature, not science. You have nonetheless researched the planet Mars for many years and worked with many scientists in several fields. How did you manage to présent such a crédible and scientifically accurate universe in your books ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : The science in science fiction is a matter of language, not  mathematics; so it can be made to look solid by a careful use of  language, and by educating oneself to the social functions and styles  of science and scientists.  I am married to a scientist and spend a  lot of time in the company of scientists, and have paid attention to  them.  Then also I have read the magazine Science News faithfully  every week for 30 years, that's a real education, in a general sense;  and I research the particularities of the sciences I need for my  stories.  It's been a reiterative or accumulative process:  because  the Mars novels had a certain scientific solidity, I was invited by  the US National Science Foundation to join their Antarctic artists'  program, and that taught me more.  So the science in my novels is a  combination of research and rhetorical efforts, applied over a long  time.

Actusf : Ecology seems an essential part of your novels. You recently devoted a whole trilogy to global warming. According to you, which ecological fields need to be adressed most urgently ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : Well, it is the nature of ecology to say that everything is connected,  so really all ecological fields are in real need of our full efforts.   Most importantly, we need to decarbonize our technology as soon as  possible, to avoid the worst effects of the coming climate change.   I'm in favor of one more generation of "smart nuclear reactors" to  bridge the gap between our current carbon burning power systems and  something better than nuclear.  I support all the current efforts to  create carbon reductions, and in my own life try to reduce my family's  carbon burn as much as possible.  My jet flights actually ruin that  effort, but I am flying less too.
We need to reduce our impacts on the environment, and restore habitat  for the rest of the animals, who have the same right to leave we do,  and are part of our support system (our food, air, water, etc).  This  effort  involves stopping the rise in human population, which is a  social justice issue; in countries where women have full human rights,  population growth is right around replacement rate or a little below.   So it is patriarchy and injustice that causes the growth in  population, which needs to be recognized and confronted.  It has to be  said, always, that this is not a technical but a political issue;   capitalism is not designed to be sustainable within the closed system  of Earth, and it includes most of the injustices of feudalism.
So "ecology" and "social justice" are two ways of talking about the  same problem, of sustainability or permaculture, which is a word from  agriculture for a truly sustainable civilization.

Actusf : You are an ardent reader of Philip K. Dick,  about whom you wrote a thesis. How was his work inspirationnal to you ? Wo are he other authors who left a mark on you, wether in SF or in général littérature ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : PKD was a Californian science fiction writer, who sympathy for the  ordinary person gave his novels their heart and their political  critique.   I admire him for that as much as for his wild ideas, which  often were inspired allegorical visions.
I started reading science fiction during its New Wave, and the writers  of that time still mean the most to me:  Le Guin, Wolfe, Delany, Lem,  Russ, the Strugatskis.   In general literature, I love to read the  poetry of Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, and William Bronk; also the novels  of many novelists, including the British novelists Joyce Cary, Henry  Green, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Peter Dickinson; also in America,  Twain and Melville, Cecelia Holland, Ken Kesey, Thomas Pynchon, and  many others.   The French writers who have meant the most to me are  Proust and Camus; very conventional choices I know, but they have been  translated well and both had a big impact on me.

Actusf : Do you think thatwhat yo imagined in the Mars trilogy, earthfromation of Mars and colonisation by the human species, could actually happe in a foreseeable future ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : Yes, nothing in the Mars books contradicts physical reality, as far as  I know.  However, it looks now like it might taker longer than I  postulated (although we may be surprised by what future humans can  do), and the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere indicates  it is possible that there is bacteria alive in the Martian soil.  If  that is true, than the human project on Mars may be very changed.   When I wrote my books I was assuming that Mars was a dead planet.  If  it harbors life, our behavior there will be different.

Actusf : What is the goal of the Mars Society to which you belong ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : I am no longer active in the Mars Society. Their project is to  support the human exploration of Mars, in every way possible. Many Society members would like to see Mars fully occupied by humans, and the planet turned into somewhat of a second Earth.

Actusf : James Cameron, also a member of the Mars Society bought the TV rights of your trilogy to make a serial. Do you know when this project will be completed ? Wouldn't a feature film be more in order for these novels ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : There's a big reorganization going on at NASA that will impact the  space program, but the result right now isn't known.  I like the  robotic exploration programs, and wish we had a lot more of them.   Eventually I think the human inhabitation of Mars and the Moon will  come.  The current sense that the Earth is in trouble and needs our  full attention is correct; however, a good space program would be part  of a healthy Earth program.

Actusf : What do you think of the rcent US décision to interrupt the monn program ? Is it possible to develop spatial exploration only by sending robots in the outer space ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : There's a big reorganization going on at NASA that will impact the  space program, but the result right now isn't known.  I like the  robotic exploration programs, and wish we had a lot more of them.   Eventually I think the human inhabitation of Mars and the Moon will  come.  The current sense that the Earth is in trouble and needs our  full attention is correct; however, a good space program would be part  of a healthy Earth program.

Actusf :
How do you react to the discovery of large quantities onf frozen water on the moon in early 2010 after the first water discovery in 2009 ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : It's good to know there's enough water on the Moon to support a  sizeable human settlement there.  Lots of good, useful, and exciting  work is available on the Moon for humans to do.

Actusf :  You love rock climbing, it is obvious in some of your books. What do you like in this discipline, what is your approach to it ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : I am not a rock climber; this is a misapprehension created by my  stories and by mistakes made by the press that I have not been able to  correct.  I love the mountains, but my activity up there is to be a  backpacker.  At most you could say I am a scrambler, in that my  friends and I do hike frequently in the trailless sections of  California's Sierra Nevada, and that means a lot of careful walking,  and scrambling up or down steeper slopes.  We also ascend mountains  that have walking or scrambling routes; most peaks in the Sierra have  such easier routes.  But I never do technical climbing, and in our  scrambling, we try to stay off slopes that are more than about 45  degrees.  So, I think what I do is more like the French term  "randonee" (?).   We hike fairly long distances in the Sierra Nevada  mountains, using passes without trails, and usually very far from  other people.   It's not like what people do in the Alps, although it  resembles perhaps the summer version of the "Haute Route" between  Chamonix and Zermatt; except there are no huts along the way, and very  few trails or people.  Having done a couple years of exploring in the  Alps, I am aware that people tend to travel in the Alps and the Sierra  Nevada very differently; this is something I'd like to write about  someday.

Actusf :  You wrote several trilogies. Why did you choose this fromat rather than singlebooks to express yourself ?
Kim Stanley Robinson :  I have three sets of books called trilogies, but they are different.   The "Three Californias" trilogy is a kind of triptych, in which the  three novels come from three different futures, all located in  southern California, with a single character who has magically lived  in all three realities; but otherwise these are three different  novels, connected thematically.  Then the Mars books, and the climate  books, are both simply long novels, so long that they needed to be in  multiple volumes.  That they are in three volumes rather than four, is  a matter of publishing habit.  So, you could say that I have written  about a dozen novels, but two of them are extremely long, multi-volume  novels.  Those two were long because the subject matter was  complicated and included a lot of material to be covered.

Actusf : Some of your characters live for a very long time, several centuries, and then they have trouble with memories. Memories and identity seem to be your favorite thèmes.
Kim Stanley Robinson : Yes, I am very interested in these issues, memory especially.  Long  ago it occurred to me that if we extend human lifetimes by the result  of biological and medical science, we may overwhelm the memory's  ability to hold all the extra years.  This has always struck me as an  interesting problem, and in our own lives we have many problems with  our own memories, so the problem is more than theoretical.

Actusf : Wich science-fiction or anticipation movies left the biger impression on you ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : I am not much of a movie person, so my choices here are rather  simplistic, but for me the science fiction movies I really liked  include:  2001 A Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, Silent Running, Logan's  Run, and Brazil.

Actusf : Could you présent your last book not yet published in French, « Galileo's Dream, to our readers ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : Yes, but first, I am happy to report that Galileo's Dream will be  published in French by my fine French publishers, Presse de la  Cité,    It is a novel about Galileo's life, which also includes his  voyages to Jupiter in the 31st century.  So it is a time travel novel,  and the complications resulting from that are too numerous to explain,  but Galileo's story in our time remains faithful to the facts of the  matter, just barely.   So it is a novel about science and religion,  and about the birth of science in human history, and the impact of  science on history.

Actusf : What are your plans for the future ?
Kim Stanley Robinson : I am writing a novel in which humanity is occupying the solar system  and terraforming many of the planets and moons, as part of the project  of dealing with climate change on Earth; so they are terraforming  Earth too.

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