Thursday, August 23, 2012

Defining Robinson’s ‘2312,’ Part 4

In which I continue to define some terms that Kim Stanley Robinson uses in his new novel, 2312.

Note: A reader sent me a message about these definitions suggesting that Robinson invented many of these terms. Actually, he invented very few (“smalls” and “wombman” being examples of invention). Some are existing terms that Robinson has tweaked with new meanings, such as accelerando, which is a musical term. Most are pre-existing terms that demonstrate an inquisitive mind on a broad spectrum of subjects.

dhalgren sun, p.183: a reference to the giant sun in the novel Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, originally published in 1975, a controversial novel that has sold over a million copies. A friend of the blog, Monkeyblake, wrote a meditation on the novel (follow here).

The Copenhagen interpretation, p. 198: an early interpretation of quantum mechanics, which holds that the act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to immediately and randomly assume only one of the possible values. This is known as wave-function collapse. The Copenhagen concepts were devised by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others in the 1920s.

The Zanzibar Cat, p. 198: the title story of a collection of short fiction by Joanna Russ, originally published in 1983.

Arabia Deserta, p. 198: the travel journals of Charles Montagu Doughty, first published in 1888. The title refers to the desert interior of the Arabian peninsula.

The Whorl, p. 199: The name of the large, hollow generation starship which provides the setting for The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe, a novel that was originally published in four volumes, beginning with Nightside the Long Sun (1993).

ursuline cultures, p. 205: cultures that deemphasize gender. The reference is to author Ursula K. Le Guin.

Another note: As your humble blog correspondent, I’m compelled to point out that Robinson is referencing four of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers: Delany, Russ, Wolfe and Le Guin, all of whom presumably were influential on Robinson’s work.

Related links on this blog:
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 1
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 2
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 3


  1. One person's literary reference is another person's inside joke.
    Your humble respondent hopes that these writers will come to be more widely recognized outside their genre following. Though many are disdainful, not everything here is a joke.

  2. Robinson's literary sf allusions work in more than one way -- for example, the mission of the Ursuline order, founded in the 1500s, was/is to provide rigorous education to women.

  3. The Ursuline order fits nicely. Thanks for that. I wasn't aware of it.

  4. Thanks for doing this. I've also been spotifying the music mentioned in the book.It's another fun layer.