Sunday, March 1, 2015

Writers discuss challenging future trends at Whole Earth Festival

From page A1 | May 09, 2012 |

Kim Stanley Robinson. Enterprise file photo

Two of this country’s most forward-looking writers — whose carefully researched books describing life in the future have won multiple awards — will speak Saturday at the Whole Earth Festival about where current trends might take us in coming centuries.

Kim Stanley Robinson, a longtime Davis resident, and Paolo Bacigalupi, a Colorado author, will speak, take questions and sign copies of their books from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Young Hall on the UC Davis campus. Admission is free.

Robinson will talk about his new novel “2312,” copies of which should be available for sale at the festival, 10 days before the book’s official publication date on May 22.

The premise behind “2312” stems from a discussion between Robinson and his publisher about long-term trends. Think about how much life has changed in the 300 years between 1712 and 2012. Now, try to imagine how much life might change over the next 300 years.

Robinson typically grounds his projected futures in substantial factual research. He recently told Publishers Weekly that “art in our time is strongest when it is aware of science, includes science, is inspired by science, or is about science.”

In “2312,” Robinson describes a future in which humans are living as far afield as Mercury and Saturn, as well as on several asteroids. And life on Earth has become “a gigantic ongoing crisis,” as sea levels have risen by 11 meters.

“Manhattan is like Venice,” Robinson said. “People zip around in canal boats. The bottom floors of buildings are flooded, but things are still functioning.”

Robinson also writes of “a space civilization, with thousands of asteroids that have been hollowed out, and the interior serves as a sort of terrarium that imitates a biome on each.”

He projects enormous social changes as well. With advances in medicine and genetic engineering, people are living a long time, and gender identity becomes kind of a personal choice matter — male, female, both, neither. Some people choose to be 2 or 3 feet tall, other people stand 9 feet tall.

“It seemed to me that if technologies existed for lifetime extension and body modification, people might get into a mindset of wanting to try everything,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s writing style in “2312” is also a departure from his previous books. He tells his story using techniques somewhat similar to those used by John Dos Passos in his “U.S.A. Trilogy” (written during the 1930) — a kaleidoscopic composite incorporating everything from newspaper clippings to biography to prose poems, and a big cast of characters.

This style of storytelling was employed by the late science fiction writer John Brunner in his prize-winning near-future novels “Stand on Zanzibar” (1968) and “The Sheep Look Up” (1972). Now Robinson, who was a friend of Brunner’s, is adapting the approach to describe a future that is a bit further out.

“I had a blast” writing the book, Robinson said. He included some “lists and extracts, and I wrote ‘pocket bios’ of Io (one of Jupiter’s moons), Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) and Mercury, which made objects in the solar system into little characters in the book.”

And oh yes, “2312” includes a love story — involving one character on Mercury whose personality is mercurial, and another living near Saturn’s rings whose personality is (well) saturnine. Readers of Robinson’s other books also will recognize that the story in “2312” is set several decades after the events in Robinson’s landmark Mars trilogy.

Saturday’s event at the Whole Earth Festival will be the first time Robinson has actually met his co-presenter, Bacigalupi, though the two have read each other’s books. Bacigalupi is coming to Davis from his home in western Colorado and is touring in support of his new novel “The Drowned Cities,” which was published May 1.

As compared with Robinson, who has been publishing books since the 1980s, Bacigalupi is a relative newcomer — his first book came out in 2008. Bacigalupi is probably best known for his breakthrough 2009 novel “The Windup Girl,” which was picked as one of the year’s best novels by Time, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and others.

“The Windup Girl” also netted two of science fiction’s top honors — the Hugo Award, given by fans, and the Nebula Award, given by writers — and also has gone through multiple printings.

Set in Thailand, “The Windup Girl” is set in a dystopian future that includes bio-terrorism, genetic engineering, civil war, food plagues and slavery. The title character has been described as “a cybernetic geisha.”

Some critics said the book reminded them of the dark Ridley Scott science fiction film “Blade Runner.” Others compared Bacigalupi to cyberpunk novelist William Gibson, whose dark novel “Neuromancer” made a big splash in the 1980s. Bacigalupi has occasionally been dubbed a “biopunk” by way of comparative differentiation.

Bacigalupi’s 2010 novel for young adults “Ship Breaker” picked up the Printz Award, which honors books written for teens. The book, also a future dystopia, is a story of survival featuring a character who strips copper wiring from abandoned oil tankers.

Bacigalupi was born in Colorado and grew up there. He attended Oberlin College, where he studied Chinese.

Bacigalupi’s take on the future is by and large darker than Robinson’s — several of the young author’s works of fiction deal with ecodisasters — but Robinson sees some common ground.

“There’s a line from Ursula Le Guin through me that extends to Paolo,” Robinson said, “a kind of green environmentalist strand of science fiction. It’s not a dominant strand in the field, but it is important.”

And what more appropriate place for these two writers to meet and speak than the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis?

Notes: Robinson also will sign copies of “2312” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at The Avid Reader, 617 Second St. in Davis.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.



  • Recent Posts

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

  • .


    Sheriff: Mother ‘sole person responsible’ for infant’s death

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Rifle Team has a blast with competitive shooting

    By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Child abduction case in jury’s hands

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

    Pipeline project will soften water in 2016

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    Pig out at Farmers Market’s Pig Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

    Christie to Republicans: No rush to pick 2016 nominee

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Bob Dunning: Colon prep can be hard to swallow

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Scouts help fill STEAC’s pantry

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Weekend storm drops snow, rain, hail in California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Still no parole in toddler case

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    City offers wetlands tour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Parole denied in 1987 killing spree

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explore Asia at Arboretum storytime

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    MU Games closing in late March

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Assault awareness campaign kicks off

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    UCD student with meningococcal disease is recovering

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Young patients bond with special stuffies

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Diversity theater group continues creativity workshops

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Radio talk show moves to Mondays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    UCD student panel to cover anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Yolo Food Bank hosts thank-you breakfast on Pig Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9



    Milt Priggee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

    Rowing: PE as well as life skills

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Police complaint procedures drafted

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Clarifying energy update letter

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Weekly claw pickup necessary

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Mars or ISIS? Similar outcome

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    City may get charged up over energy choices

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B5

    Design innovation centers for the 21st century

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    A new perspective on life

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A7

    Distant water crisis has lessons for Davis

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

    Call for study to settle if anesthesia poses risk to babies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7



    Aggie men get a bounce-back win at Cal Poly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    The mystery continues: lowly Gauchos upset UCD women

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils get a soccer win despite finishing woes

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Winning close games is the key for DHS softballers

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Razo throws well as Aggies get a baseball win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Defending champion Blue Devils have diamond holes to fill

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Republic FC falls to storied New York Cosmos

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B10







    Yolo Federal Credit Union honored for supporting business education

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Online store will celebrate, mock People’s Republic of Davis

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A10 | Gallery





    Comics: Sunday, March 1, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8