I’m very excited to have Redshirts natively in the UK, and with such an excellent publisher. Gollancz publishes some of my favorite writers, including Richard K. Morgan, Joe Abercrombie, Justina Robson and Patrick Rothfuss; it’s nice to join their club. Hopefully the wait for the book won’t be too long for you over there. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
So first, the good news: My computer bag — and everything in it, including the computer, books and such — has been found. Turns out I didn’t leave it in the cab, I left it on the floor of the baggage claim at Reagan National Airport. Why did I do that? Because apparently I am a complete moron, that’s why. However, airports are really good these days at collecting up unattended bags.
What makes this kind of awesome (aside from, you know, getting all my stuff back) is how the folks at Reagan National tracked me down: They used one of the Redshirts ARCs from the bag. The ARC doesn’t have my contact information on it, but it does have contact information for my former publicist at Tor — so they called her, and she contacted my current publicist, who sent me an e-mail about it. So there you have it: Being an author finally pays off. As a way of thanking the fellow at Reagan National who thought to contact my publicist, I told him to feel free to take one of the ARCs as a token of my appreciation.
My computer bag will soon be winging its way back to me, and to celebrate that fact, and to commemorate the role of the Redshirts ARC in its return, I am now going to give away two Redshirts ARCs. All you have to do is put a note in this comment thread between this very instant and noon Eastern time,
Thursday, May 24, 2012 Wednesday, May 23, 2012. I will then have my daughter and wife randomly select a time between now and then, and the posts closest to those times will win (in case of a tie, the one closest before the time they specify will win). One entry per person, please.
So leave a comment! My computer is coming home! w00t!
Just a reminder that “Journey to Planet JoCo,” my interview series with Jonathan Coulton, is still chugging along nicely at Tor.com. And today, in fact, we’re covering Coulton’s biggest hit to date: “Still Alive,” the theme song to the Valve video game Portal. There’s excellent conversation to be had, plus music and videos. It’s everything you could want in an interview! Or your money back.
If you’re just catching up with the entire interview series, an index page is here, with links to every single installment, refreshed daily at 9am.
Finally, a reminder that in one week exactly, Jonathan Coulton will debut his brand new, never-before-heard song at Tor.com. I’ve heard it. It’s fantastic. I can’t wait for you to hear it too.
Kim Stanley Robinson has created such amazing futures in his Mars books and others that it’s sometimes difficult to believe he doesn’t have a direct line to what comes next — a crystal broadband line, rather than a crystal ball. But as Robinson explains in this Big Idea, today’s present changes the future even for him, and for his latest and in many ways most ambitious novel, 2312.
KIM STANLEY ROBINSON:
My new novel 2312 began with an idea for a romance between a mercurial person and a saturnine person. Matching these two character types would make for quite an odd couple, I thought, and since all couples are odd, it seemed like the story might have wide appeal. That the two people should actually come from Mercury and Saturn is my kind of joke, in other words lame, but I like both those planets, and recent robotic space missions have given us a lot of new information about both of them.
However, having people call Mercury and Saturn their home requires some kind of solar system-spanning civilization. Thus the three-century time scale. This also put the story somewhere beyond the end of my Mars trilogy, and allowed me to return, not to that particular future history, but to that general story space: Humanity In the Solar System In the Next Few Centuries! I love that story space, one of the most exciting in all science fiction, so it was a pleasure to get back to it.
But so much about the future has changed since I last visited it. So much that I never believed possible is looking like it might happen anyway.But always in ways that to me seemed very unlike what all the other stories have been saying. I had a different vision of most of these startling new possibilities, and I found on reflection that I needed or wanted to retell the whole Matter of the Solar System.
That was fine, but also problematic. The big stories are hard to tell; you need special tricks, often lifted directly from Sir Walter Scott. I was forced to use the Kitchen Sink Theory of Novel Construction—again, of course—indeed, more than ever—but it was necessary, because the future is going to be a wild place, a recombinant multiplicity of clashing elements, a real mess. To do justice to realism these days, the kitchen sink is really nowhere near the end of what needs to get tossed into the mix.
So: terraforming (on purpose or not); living in space; genetic modifications in all living things; brain implants; artificial intelligences; gender manipulations; space travel; longevity treatments; big sea level rise on a hot sad old Earth; new forms of economics and governance. Sex, politics, art, revolution; and always, no matter what, human subjectivity. Our streams of consciousness. Because we read fiction to experience telepathy; we want to get inside other minds, and hear how other people think.
So my original two characters still carry this story, they struggle in their strange new world, making their way as best they can. In their travels they see the solar system from the Vulcanoids to Pluto; they body-surf the rings of Saturn, deal with some desperate moments on Mercury’s brightside, and cope with the icy dangers of frozen Venus. The plots they are caught up in are an important part of the history of their time, and just as messy and dangerous as history always is. And the romance’s end has a (spoiler alert!) surprise setting.
Writing 2312 was great fun. I got a lot of gentle but electrifying help from my editor, Tim Holman. His combination of stimulus and aid made a huge difference to the book, in both conception and execution, and I am grateful to him. Thanks Tim! And it’s been a pleasure watching his whole team at Orbit produce and promote the book, I’m happy to be part of such a high-powered team. I’m also grateful to all the people who helped me with various aspects of the book, from Chris McKay and his colleagues at NASA/Ames, to Pamela Mellon and all my other friends at UC San Diego, and all the rest who helped me (see acknowledgments at the back of the book).
I was also inspired by the performance art of Marina Abramovic, the landscape art of Andy Goldsworthy, and the novel technique of John Dos Passos. Goldsworthy and Abramovic have become simply genres in my future world, their names common nouns for what lots of artists do. I think that will happen. And it took the model of Dos Passos’ great USA trilogy to suggest to me the best form that could be used to portray a complicated culture in a novel. John Brunner used Dos Passos’ format for his Stand On Zanzibar quartet, and now I can see why; it’s not only useful, it’s lively. I hope readers will feel that way about 2312, and if so I will be happy, and grateful, because it’s the readers of a book who bring it to life.