Friday, September 16, 2011

Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias


Image via e-bay

As I drove through Camp Pendleton I was struck by how empty the land there remained, and then when I hit the border of Orange County, San Clemente suddenly surrounded me, and I saw that different histories do different things to the land. It occurred to me that if I set three science fiction novels in Orange County, I could show how the land was different as a result. Three obvious future history forms were the utopian, the dystopian, and the after-the-fall (I had just read Earth Abides, A Canticle For Leibowitz, etc.). Then it occurred to me that one character could live in all three futures, and have three completely different lives, visible to the reader but not to the character.
The Gold Coast remains one of my all-time favorite novels. The Mars Trilogy is probably the superior accomplishment as a whole, and The Years of Rice and Salt may, in truth, be his greatest novel to date; but, partly because I read all but The Wild Shore as the California books were coming out, and actually got to meet and chat, briefly, with Mr. Robinson at Ziesing's bookstore in Willimantic, CT, and later at ReaderCon in Lowell, MA, the early novels were deeply influential during (what I'll charitably call) my formative years.

Via Gerry Canavan
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