Friday, June 15, 2012

Excerpts from Robinson's '2312'

Here is a series of excerpts from 2312, a novel by Kim Stanley Robinson:
"the space diaspora occurred as late capitalism writhed in its decision concerning whether to destroy Earth's biosphere or change its rules. Many argued for the destruction of the biosphere, as being the lesser of two evils

one of the most influential forms of economic change had ancient origins in Mondragon, Euskadi, a small Basque town that ran an economic system of nested co-ops organized for mutual support. A growing network of space settlements used Mondragon as a model for adapting beyond their scientific station origins to a larger economic system. Cooperating as if in a diffuse Mondragon, the individual space settlements, widely scattered, associated for mutual support

as feudalism is the residual on Earth, capitalism is the residual on Mars

the existence of the marginal economy, semiautonomous, semiunregulated, resembling anarchy, filled with fraud, double-dealing, and crime, delighted all free marketeers, libertarians, anarchists, and many others, some enjoying the bonobo barter and others the machismo of a wild west and wealth beyond need

confining capitalism to the margin was the great Martian achievement, like defeating the mob or any other protection racket" (pages 124-126)
Indeed. (Your humble blog correspondent here.) As our financial institutions have shown us again and again, they will hold the world economy hostage, extorting wealth beyond need for a select few. I admire Robinson's optimism. I hope that we do move beyond capitalism to something more sane and egalitarian.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

By way of a tribute to the late Ray Bradbury, I can describe his effect on me as a reader. I remember exactly where and when I was when I encountered his collection The Illustrated Man (1951). I was 11-years-old, living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a few months with my family. It was summer: warm, humid, and tropical. The first story I read was "The Veldt" in which young children experience the wilds of the African veldt. It was unforgettable, as were several of the other stories in the collection. It was some of the first science fiction I had ever read.

His story titles were breathtaking: "The Million-Year Picnic," "-- And the Moon be Still as Bright," and "There Will Come Soft Rains."

Within a few years I had read The Martian Chronicles (1950), The October Country (1955), Dandelion Wine (1957), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) . Curiously only the last one is actually a novel, the others are collections, or in the case of The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine, what are pejoratively called fix-up novels, made up of previously published stories that may or may not have been originally intended to fit together. The kinder term is story-suite and Bradbury created two of the best examples of the form. The Martian Chronicles was produced at a time when very few science fiction novels were being published in book form, the flip-side of today's publishing marketplace where the magazines are few and books (and ebooks) proliferate.

These books solidified Bradbury's place in my pantheon of great genre authors. In the 1960s, before the New Wave, there was no mystery who the major science fiction authors were: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein. Of these four men, Bradbury had the most range, across fantasy, science fiction and horror, and across a wider emotional register. His prose had the most poetry.

I've read a few of his books since then. Not too many. His work belongs to a certain time and place for me.

Links in honor of Bradbury's passing:
Locus Online has a collection of Bradbury links in its Blinks section.
Locus Roundtable has a good discussion of Bradbury's work and influence.
LA Review of Books: The Bradbury Era by F. X. Feeney
LA Review of Books: Fairy Tales about the Modern World by Jonathan R. Eller, Neil Gaiman, Robin Anne Reid and William F. Touponce
LA Review of Books: Nightmarish Glimpses of Our Inner Selves by Brian Attebery, John Clute, Rob Latham and Gary K. Wolfe