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".
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
"Vinland the Dream" (in Remaking History, later in Vinland the Dream) Originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, November, 1991. (nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story) (frequently anthologized)
"How Science Saved the World" - Nature, January 6, 2000. Also published under the title: "Review: Science in the Third Millennium", which appeared in Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium, 2003, ed. Marleen S. Barr, ISBN 0-8195-6652-7. This is a facetious review of two fictional books.
Robinson's doctoral thesis examined The Novels of Philip K. Dick (1984). A hardcover version was published by UMI Research Press. He also edited and wrote the introduction of the anthology Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias (1994). In 2014, he co-edited a collection of scholarly essays on the relationship between ecological science, environmentalist politics, and science fiction titled Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction (Wesleyan University Press) with Marquette University professor Gerry Canavan.