asli-k Annotations

Describe at least three of the text’s themes or topics that are of general interest to STS scholars.

Thursday, August 8, 2019 - 6:27am

This text, being an interview with an SF author, quite differs in its flow than a scholarly article. The following are some themes and topics that are of general interest to STS scholars:

  1. Boundaries/Transgressions: The interview is part of a special issue on SF and anthropology in which authors explore ways of thinking with forms of speculative fiction. In this interview, Robinson first discusses his influences in social sciences and humanities (primarily being science studies) and how his readings and background has affected his writing. Furthermore, he thoroughly discusses how SF's relations with science fact and his readership. His work, particularly his novels on planetary transformations has been inspiring people in STEM which,  like many other works of SF, creates 'transgressions' over assumed boundaries; i.e. science fiction/science fact, science fiction/science studies, etc.
  2. Planetary Transformations: Robinson has been writing quite a lot about our planet, climate futures, terraforming other planets, etc. The scientific and popular discourses on the future of our planet and the plausibility of moving beyond Earth being very current, the interviewers and Robinson discuss his writing and his views on certain issues including climate change and how to act on it, terraforming in our neighborhood the solar system, etc. 
  3. Science and Capitalism: In conjunction with the planet being at an impasse with the Anthropocene, Robinson discusses de-stranding science from capitalism, despite the two having emerged together. Some of his novels, for instance his Mars Trilogy, feature world-making experiments with how it would be possible to conduct science in non- or post-capitalist worlds.
  4. Storytelling and Textual Agency: In this interview, Robinson has provided a lot of insight into world-making and creative writing, from how he incorporates bodily experiences into his writing to how his novels "seize" him like dreams. Furthermore, he discusses the potentialities in his work being interpreted differently than what he intended.  
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What three (or more) quotes capture the critical import of the text?

Thursday, August 8, 2019 - 5:06am

"I am definitely in favor of pragmatic, impure forms of experimentation when it comes to survival by way of getting ourselves into a sustainable balance with our planet. And yes, I don’t like people proclaiming too vigorously their purity. That plays into a model of pure/impure that leads to sacred/profane, or simply good/bad, that I don’t think matches the biophysical realities of our position as living creatures on a planet, as a species trying to get along with other species. Most of the various “pure” positions are too self-righteous for me, too non-scientific. So I think a program of “bold and persistent experimentation” as Franklin D. Roosevelt put it once, is a good process for getting along and trying to improve the situation and avoid a mass extinction event, which we are now perilously close to causing. Market fundamentalism is a pure idea that has failed badly but still controls far too much of our work and thinking, for instance. So I often find myself telling stories about this kind of conflict between pure and pragmatic, and about the need for open-minded approaches to our problems." (5–6)

"As a science fiction writer, it’s always seemed to me that a potential weakness of the genre is its abstract quality, the way it can come mostly out of theory and out of previous books, rather than from experience. I felt I could counteract that potential weakness by writing out of my experience as much as I could manage, given that I was always working under a compulsion to put my stories in the future." (9)

"But then we’re in a historical moment where the excesses of capitalism, and also, to a certain extent, the successes of applied science (public health, medicine, engineering), have combined to create an unsustainable relationship between our species and our planet. Capitalism doesn’t care—it has only one directive, which is to maximize profit and shareholder value and thus increase the power of capital and capitalists. It’s a too-simple algorithm, which is now driving us all into a mass extinction event; it’s yet another example of monocausotaxophilia, the love of single causes that explain everything." (12)

"To me it’s best always to call it science fiction, and thus include that whole tradition, with its immense power and also its outlaw status as pop lowlife entertainment. That split into high art and low trash has long since been shattered in the postmodern turn, but insecure people still hold firm to itthere is a desperate middlebrow culture that is still clutching at the highbrow-lowbrow split, you might say, in order to be able to make distinctions easily, and feel accomplished and superior. But science fiction has always transcended that split, and now it’s the realism of our time, the genre that matches our historical moment, in the way that the epic fit classical times, and the stage play Elizabethan England." (18)

"Because the novel is a heteroglossia, a polyvocal exercise in which the novelist choreographs things that everyone is already feeling, the power of any novel is limited—it has to fit the zeitgeist somehow to be read at all, and then it exists as part of a complex feedback loop, and may not so much make change as express it." (21)

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Who authored this text and what is their broader (research, activist, journalistic) program?

Thursday, August 8, 2019 - 4:40am

Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction author with a career spanning over three decades. The prolific author is known for his novels including his Mars Trilogy, New York 2140, Red Moon and more

Asli Kemiksiz is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Osaka University. Casper Bruun Jensen is an STS scholar affiliated with the department of anthropology at Osaka University. 

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