Wednesday, September 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Novelist Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest book is an Ice Age tale

RobinsonW

Author Kim Stanley Robinson of Davis will talk about and sign copies of his new book, "Shaman," at two upcoming events. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A10 | October 29, 2013 |

Meet the author

Who: Kim Stanley Robinson, reading from “Shaman” and signing copies of the book

When and where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Avid Reader, 617 Second St.; and, with young author Andy Stewart, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St.

Kim Stanley Robinson, a longtime Davis resident whose future-oriented books have picked up multiple awards, embarks on something of a new direction in his latest novel. The book is titled “Shaman,” and it’s set in humanity’s distant past — the Ice Age, to be specific.

The idea has been simmering in Robinson’s mind for “20 to 25 years, since they found Ötzi in 1991″ — a well-preserved “natural mummy” of a man who lived about 3300 B.C., revealed by a retreating glacier in the Alps between Austria and Italy. “He had been crossing a glacier when he died,” Robinson said. “He had been arrowed in the back. And all of his kit was frozen with him” — a cloak of woven grass, leather leggings and shoes, a copper ax and more.

Robinson recalls being fascinated as the details of Ötzi’s life began to emerge as researchers studied the find. As an experienced backpacker and snow camper who has made numerous trips in the high mountains of California, he recognized that in some ways, Ötzi’s gear bore some resemblance to the things contemporary hikers carry. He started to imagine what Ötzi’s life might have been like.

“I wanted to write about that,” he recalls. “But I didn’t have a method, or an editor” interested in the project at that time.

Even so, Robinson began learning more about what life might have been like in the Ice Age.

“When the Chauvet Cave was discovered in France in 1994, it contained many cave paintings,” depicting at least 13 different species. Robinson was interested in the 2010 3D documentary film made by Werner Herzo, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which is the closest look that most people will get. (The cave is closed to the public to preserve the paintings, since too much human breath could trigger their deterioration.)

“I decided that I wanted to tell the story of the people who painted that cave,” Robinson said in a recent interview.

The project involved “years of research. I’ve got three shelves filled with books I’ve gathered.” And the author sought out archeologists and cultural anthropologists he’s come to know along the way. He also visited caves in California’s Sierra Nevada, as well as sites where tribesmen made arrowheads and spear points out of obsidian; petroglyph sites in the Owens Valley; and Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in the Santa Ynez Mountains, near Santa Barbara.

“And I realized that they all had the same shaman culture; clearly, it was worldwide. One can infer it was a religion before people left Africa. The reason shamanism is everywhere is we took it with us,” Robinson said.

As his research continued, Robinson concluded that the painters of the Chauvet Cave “had full language. We can tell (from physical remains) that they had the full vocal apparatus by about 50,000 years ago — that’s what physical anthropologists say. So I was confident that they had language. It was an oral culture, they didn’t have books.”

And as Robinson thought more about this, “quotation marks began to look weird to me.” He didn’t like using italics to indicate dialog, either. “So I went with the em-dash, and asked my editor if he liked it or not. He said ‘Ah, good idea.’ ” On the printed page, “it looks like something translated from their language, not a precise translation, but something that gets the spirit.”

The book, released about two months ago, has been earning good reviews. Robinson is particularly pleased with the remarks of NPR’s reviewer Alan Cheuse, who said, “Robinson keeps the stylization of the language to a minimum in this novel, without stooping too low, so that the novel can break free of the page and linger in the mind, which is what happened to me, something that’s really never happened before.

“For several nights, while in the reading of this novel, I dreamed I lived in it. The book just took me over and there I was, running in the same pack as (the character) Loon, wandering along streams and rivers, through forests and over hills in an old state of mind.”

The idea that he’d gotten the reviewer to dream about the Ice Age world is particularly pleasing to Robinson, an indication that his effort to create that world has succeeded, at least for some readers.

“Shaman” is quite different from Robinson’s previous novel, “2312,” a future-oriented tale that was set 200 years ahead of 2012 (the year in which “2312″ was published). “2312″ received the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel — an honor bestowed by science fiction writers on one of their own. It’s the second time Robinson has received the award, the other coming for “Red Mars” in 1993.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8055. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffHudsonDE

 

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    New water rates take effect in November

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    A pot o’ gold for Rainbow City revival

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Marsh trial guilt phase enters home stretch

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Weakened Odile heads toward U.S.; tourists evacuated

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Three women stuck in Putah Creek while paddleboarding

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A2

     
    Bob Dunning: News about our modest college town

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Crews battle wildfire’s explosive growth

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    AAUW hosts conversation with Gilardi

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Master Gardeners will answer questions Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Storyteller will draw on music, dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Show off your electric vehicles on Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Learn about youth leadership program on Sept. 28

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sign up now for free Community Yard Sale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Saylor meets constituents at Peet’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Free introductory yoga, chanting workshop offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Rotary seeks project requests

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sign up soon for a new year of Writing Buddies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Register to vote by Oct. 20

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Senior Center to host jewelry sale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    .

    Forum

    Time to go get help

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Bicycle bells needed for safety

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Are we going to wait until someone here dies?

    By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6

     
    Firefighters went above, beyond

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Grocery bags are biohazards

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Can’t we work collaboratively?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Please vaccinate your children

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Mental-health treatment lacking

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Braly’s column lightens the heart

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    UCD women take third at elite golf event

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Aggie men stay in 10th to finish St. Mary’s Invite

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Formidable UCD defense melts Hornets

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils go the distance to triumph at Chico

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Diamondbacks slam Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Baseball roundup: Peavy, Posey lead Giants past Arizona

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Sounders win U.S. Open Cup in overtime

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B2

     
    AYSO roundup: Ultra Violet illuminates a victory

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Alliance roundup: Soccer success comes on the road and at home

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Legacy roundup: Gunners get a win over Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    Name Droppers: Bamforth leads international brewing institute

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Name Droppers: UC Davis announces eight new fellows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Just desserts? A sweet treat is worth the effort

    By Julie Cross | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Arts

    Apply now for Davis Community Idol

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Classic ‘Hello, Dolly!’ wows at Woodland Opera House

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Davis students prepare dishes for Empty Bowls fundraiser

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Nine Davis artists chosen to show in KVIE Art Auction

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Sacred Harp singers will gather

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A8