Kim Stanley Robinson

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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 science fiction writer, best known for his Mars trilogy. Robinson's work has been labeled by reviewers as "the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing".[1]

Early life[edit]

Robinson was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but grew up in Southern California.

In 1974, he earned a B.A. in literature from the University of California, San Diego. In 1975, he earned an M.A. in English from Boston University and in 1982, he earned a PhD in English from the University of California, San Diego. His doctoral thesis, The Novels of Philip K. Dick, was published in 1984. A hardcover version was published by UMI Research Press.


Robinson describes himself as a backpacker but not a mountain climber,[2] though mountain climbing appears in several of his fiction works, notably Antarctica, the Mars trilogy, "Green Mars" (a short story found in The Martians), the Science in the Capital series beginning with Forty Signs of Rain, and Escape from Kathmandu.

Robinson was an instructor at the Clarion Workshop in 2009. In 2010, Robinson was guest of honor at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia. In April 2011, Robinson presented at the second annual Rethinking Capitalism conference, held at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among other points made, his talk addressed the cyclical nature of capitalism.[3]

Major themes[edit]

Ecological sustainability[edit]

Virtually all of Robinson's novels have an ecological component; sustainability would have to be counted among 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.

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.[4]

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.[5]

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. 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.


Robinson's novels have won 11 major science fiction awards, and have been nominated on 29 occasions.[6]

Robinson won the Hugo Award for Best Novel with Green Mars (1994);[7] and Blue Mars (1997);[8] the Nebula Award for Best Novel with Red Mars (1993)[9] and 2312 (2012);[10] the Nebula Award for Best Novella with The Blind Geometer (1986); the World Fantasy Award with Black Air (1983);[11] a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with Pacific Edge (1991);[12] and Locus Awards for The Wild Shore (1985), A Short, Sharp Shock (1991), Green Mars (1994), Blue Mars (1997), The Martians (2000), and The Years of Rice and Salt (2003).[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1982, he married Lisa Howland Nowell, an environmental chemist, and 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.



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)


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. ^ In 300 years Kim Stanley Robinson's Science Fiction May Not Be Fiction
  2. ^ On 'Kim Stanley Robinson – Guest of Honour Speech', 2010-09-16, The Australian Literature Review
  3. ^ "Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism | 2011 Conference". Archived from the original on 2011-08-26. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ Some Worknotes and Commentary on the Constitution by Charlotte Dorsa-Brevia, in The Martians pp. 233–239
  5. ^ Smith, Jeremy (2001). "Utopic Fiction and the Mars Novels of Kim Stanley Robinson". Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Top SF/F Authors". Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  7. ^ "1994 Award Winners & Nominees". 1994. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ "1997 Award Winners & Nominees". 1997. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ "1993 Award Winners & Nominees". 1993. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  10. ^ "2012 Nebula Award Winners," Locus Magazine, May 18, 2013.
  11. ^ World Fantasy Convention. "Award Winners and Nominees". Retrieved Feb 4, 2011. 
  12. ^ "1991 Award Winners & Nominees". 1991. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  13. ^ Kelly, Mark R. (2007). "The LOCUS index to SF awards". Locus Publications. Retrieved April 7, 2007. 
  14. ^ Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson cover art and synopsis

External links[edit]