Kim Stanley Robinson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the late American actress, see Kim Stanley.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson 2005.JPG
Robinson at the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, August 2005
Born (1952-03-23) March 23, 1952 (age 63)
Waukegan, Illinois, US
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Genre Science fiction

Kim Stanley Robinson (born March 23, 1952) is an American writer of speculative science-fiction. He has published nineteen novels and numerous short stories but is best known for his award-winning Mars trilogy. Many of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural and political themes running through them and often 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]

Early life[edit]

Robinson was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but 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.


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 Fredric Jameson, 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.[6]

In 2009, Robinson was an instructor at the Clarion Workshop in 2009.[7] In 2010, he was the guest of honor at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia.[8] In April 2011, Robinson presented at the second annual Rethinking Capitalism conference, held at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[9] Among other points made, his talk addressed the cyclical nature of capitalism.[10]

Major themes[edit]

Nature and Culture[edit]

Sheldon Brown described Robinson's novels as ways to explore how nature and our culture continuously reformulate one another: The Southern California 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.[11]

Ecological sustainability[edit]

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; it is heavily debated whether or not the seemingly barren Martian landscape has a similar ecological or spiritual value to 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 justice[edit]

Author speaking at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair.
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 a replacement 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 within this environment. Robinson has been described as anti-capitalist, and his work often portrays a form of frontier capitalism that promotes equalitarian ideals that closely resemble socialist systems, and faced with a capitalism that is staunched 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.[12]

Robinson's works often portray the worlds of tomorrow as in a similar way 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 libertarian and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin's 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.[13]

Scientists as citizens[edit]

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.[6]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, on which politicians are often ignorant.


Year Award Title
1984 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella "Black Air"[14]
1984 Science Fiction Chronicle Readers Poll-novella "Black Air"[14]
1985 Locus Award for Best First Novel The Wild Shore[14]
1988 Nebula Award for Best Novella "The Blind Geometer"[14]
1988 Asimov's Reader Poll Novella "Mother Goddess of the World"[14]
1991 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Pacific Edge[14]
1991 Locus Award for Best Novella "A Short, Sharp Shock"[14]
1992 Science Fiction Chronicle Readers Poll Short Fiction "Vinland the Dream"[14]
1993 BSFA Award for Best Novel Red Mars[14]
1994 Hugo Award for Best Novel Green Mars[14]
1994 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Green Mars[14]
1994 Nebula Award for Best Novel Red Mars[14]
1997 Hugo Award for Best Novel Blue Mars[14]
1997 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Blue Mars[14]
1997 Ignotus Award-foreign novel Red Mars[14]
1998 Ignotus Award-foreign novel Green Mars[14]
1998 Prix Ozone SF novel, foreign Blue Mars[14]
1999 Seiun Awards foreign novel Red Mars[14]
2000 Locus Awards Best Collection The Martians[14]
2003 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel The Years of Rice and Salt[14]
2013 Nebula Award for Best Novel 2312[14]

Personal life[edit]

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. He now lives in Davis, California.

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]



Three Californias[edit]

  1. The Wild Shore (1984)
  2. The Gold Coast (1988)
  3. Pacific Edge (1990)

The Mars trilogy[edit]

Main article: Mars trilogy
  1. Red Mars (1993) - Colonization
  2. Green Mars (1994) - Terraforming
  3. Blue Mars (1996) - Long-term results
  4. The Martians (1999) - Short stories

Science in the Capital series[edit]

  1. Forty Signs of Rain (2004)
  2. Fifty Degrees Below (2005)
  3. Sixty Days and Counting (2007)

Collected and condensed omnibus edition released as Green Earth (2015)[15]


Short story collections[edit]

Short stories[edit]


  • Robinson's doctoral thesis examined The Novels of Philip K. Dick (1984). A hardcover version was published by UMI Research Press.
  • Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias (1994) Edited and wrote introduction of the anthology.
  • Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction (Wesleyan University Press) with Marquette University professor Gerry Canavan. Co-edited collection of scholarly essays on the relationship between ecological science, environmentalist politics, and science fiction.
  • State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? published by WorldWatch Institute (2013). Wrote chapter "is it too late?"


  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. Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Morton, Oliver (September 24, 2008). "Heroes of the Environment 2008". Time Magazine. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  7. ^ Doctorow, Cory (December 8, 2008). "Clarion science fiction/fantasy workshop instructors announced". Boingboing. Boinboing. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  8. ^ Howell, John (May 18, 2009). "68th World Science Fiction Convention Australia 2010: Kim Stanley Robinson Guest". SFW. SFW. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism | 2011 Conference". Archived from the original on August 26, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Some Worknotes and Commentary on the Constitution by Charlotte Dorsa-Brevia, in The Martians pp. 233–239
  13. ^ Smith, Jeremy (2001). "Utopic Fiction and the Mars Novels of Kim Stanley Robinson". Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson cover art and synopsis

External links[edit]