Kim Stanley Robinson Sees Humans Colonizing the Solar System in his New Book, 2312
With his new sci-fi novel 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson delves 300 years into the future.Photo: SFXFuture Publishing
In 1948, George Orwell looked ahead to 1984 and imagined a grim totalitarian world. In 1968, Arthur C. Clarke looked ahead to 2001 and imagined transcendent alien contact. Now, Kim Stanley Robinson is looking ahead to the year 2312.
“I decided I wanted to go out a long way — at least for me,” says Robinson in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
Projecting 300 years into the future is no easy task. But it’s made a bit easier by the fact that Robinson, who is best known for his novel Red Mars and its sequels about terraforming Mars, has spent a lifetime thinking about the future. 2312 combines many of the concepts the writer has developed throughout his career, such as the idea of a city that constantly circles the planet Mercury, remaining in the temperate zone between night and day (an idea that originally appeared in his first novel, The Memory of Whiteness).
Most stories about space exploration imagine starships zipping between alien worlds, but 2312 is set firmly in our solar system. Yet the novel shows that a single solar system can provoke plenty of wonder and provide ample territory for intrigue. In this future, rising sea levels have turned New York into a city of canals, asteroids are hollowed out to create giant nature preserves, and malicious schemes are calculated with the aid of quantum computers. Citizens live hundreds of years, are augmented with cybernetic technology, and casually swap genders.
It’s hard to say how much of this might come true. For example, Robinson points out that even the world’s top researchers can’t say how much ocean levels might rise. But nothing in the book violates known science.
Read our complete interview with Kim Stanley Robinson below, in which he describes how the Mondragon Accord might replace capitalism, recalls running into Jimmy Carter in Nepal, and expresses skepticism about the technological singularity. Or listen to the interview in Episode 62 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (link above), which also features a discussion between hosts John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley and guest geek Tobias Buckell about ecological themes in fantasy and science fiction.
Wired: Your new novel is called 2312. What’s it about?
Robinson: Well, we’re in the year 2012, and I decided I wanted to go out a long way — at least for me. The two things I postulated that I think make it workable as a realistic kind of fantasia are space elevators on Earth and self-replicating machinery, and these are two supposedly possible engineering feats that are discussed in the literature, so they’re not physically impossible. They might be hard engineering feats, but it seems like they could be done, and there are even companies working on at least the space elevator. Self-replicating factories are somewhat of a stretch at this point, but not obviously impossible.(more...)