Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Bonus Kim Stanley Robinson Video: ‘We Are Living in a Science Fiction Novel That We All Collaborate On’

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As promised, here’s a bonus Kim Stanley Robinson video from the Polygraph/FHI event the night before the “Science, Religion, Ideology” talk. (I’m very sorry I couldn’t put up more, but I found this event was actually rather difficult to excerpt, and that much of what is excerptable is echoed in the later talk anyway. It was a great conversation—but a lengthy and somewhat twisting one.)

He talks here about a claim he’s made elsewhere, that science fiction is the realism of our time. A brief transcript of the first part of his reply follows the video.

KSR: I think it’s very true that we are living in a science fiction novel that we all collaborate on, and it’s because everything that science fiction was about through its historical named period, the twentieth century, has kind of come true. And also we live in a world that is so intensely structured by science and technology that we can’t get out of it. If we were to get out of it would still be a science fiction move, the retreat to the farm. So it’s hegemonic, you can’t escape it, we’re in that world created by science and technology.

And also there’s this intense sense of futurity, in that if you opened up your newspaper or laptop tomorrow and it said, “They’ve cloned six South Koreans successfully and they’re all named Kim,” you would believe it, there would be no surprise there. Anything could happen. You could say, well, we just got a signal from Alpha Centauri, there are intelligent aliens there, they sent us the code for pi and the Pythagorean theorem. There’s no reason to disbelieve that, either. So we live in this world of anticipation of strangeness, of change, rapidly accelerating change.

I came through the Atlanta airport today, and you know those speedwalkers that are underneath the various terminals? When I was young there was this famous bestseller, Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler. Future shock: we don’t talk about that anymore because none of you are shocked. And that’s because the shock comes at the moment you step on the walkway and you feel the drag between one acceleration and another. At the moment you’re being accelerated to a new speed there’s a little gravity drag on your body, and that’s the moment of “future shock”—1972 or ‘3—and when you’re walking with the walkway that’s moving at a different speed there’s no shock there. You simply are moving at that speed. So now we’re moving a new historical speed that’s faster than the historical speed was when I was a kid. That moment was marked by this book Future Shock, and it’s an archaic term, obsolete, because there’s nothing in our experience now… I don’t think there’s anything that could happen that would shock us, because we’re moving at such a fast speed now, and because we’re conditioned by science fiction.

GC: What about the other end of the runway?

KSR: When you slow down? Well, that’s another—you feel that too. This is like when your connection to the Internet goes out for three days, or your phone line, or when your cell phone dies—these moments when you’re suddenly not having the sixth sense of the cloud…

7 Responses

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  1. Kimon

    February 8, 2010 at 4:56 am

  2. […] Author Kim Stanley Robinson: “We are all living in a Science Fiction novel that we all collaborate on” […]

  3. I joined Facebook today in order to join groups like this that want to discuss how to create our reality.
    I was looking at the independent voter website that was started by PEN i think, when I was inspired to finally join.

    KSR’s work has been a great inspiration for me. Hopefully, his work can function as way to inspire our imaginations to turn toward the utopian side.

    I want to be able to use what I have learned in my work as therapist and healer to help build connections with others. Certainly, in part, it is the underlying pain we carry that helps keep us apart from others. But it is also the structure of our societies, that is based on isolation and powerlessness, except for the very few, that must be challenged. On the internet, is one place to build connections to call for changes such as fighting Global Warming, Health Care for all, access to education, and a housing market that works rationally.

    Well, what do you think/feel about it?


    March 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm

  4. […] of the excerpt that interests me most is mine, as always, and so are any errors or omissions. The clip itself, including his own transcript and tons of other great stuff, was provided by Gerry Canavan, […]

  5. […] leave a comment » The following interview with Kim Stanley Robinson appears in Polygraph 22: Ecology and Ideology, available now from The interview is also available as a PDF, as is the introduction written by the issue editors. Other contributors to the issue include Slavoj Žižek, Michael Hardt, John Bellamy Foster, Timothy Morton, Joachim Radkau, Imre Szeman, Kathy Rudy, and Ariel Salleh. The full table of contents can be found here; video from Kim Stanley Robinson’s January visit to Duke University can be found here and here. […]

  6. […] fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson thinks we’re living in a science fiction novel that we all collaborate on. He points out that if we […]

  7. […] Stanley Robinson, from a Franklin Humanities Institute/Polygraph event on January 28, 2010 which preceded the “Science, Religion, Ideology” lecture presented […]

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