Writing in the New Yorker, Tim Kreider addresses the brilliant science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson as a political novelist. It's keyed to Stan's September novel Shaman: A Novel of the Ice Age, which I haven't yet read, but which I'm taking with on my Christmas holiday. Robinson is one of my favorite writers (and people!), and books like 2312, Forty Signs of Rain, the Mars trilogy, and especially Pacific Edge (which I re-read once a year, or any time I feel hopeless about the future) have made an indelible mark on me.
Shaman is ultimately a novel about the importance of stories, filled with Ice Age myths, legends, superstitions and proverbs—some of which, apparently, have survived intact the thirty thousand years into our own time, longer than any other human artifact, sayings more enduring than stone. Our culture is adrift between stories right now—the old ones we lived on for thousands of years aren’t working anymore, and we haven’t come up with new ones to replace them yet. It’s natural for us to see ourselves as being at history’s endpoint, since, so far, we are, but part of science fiction’s job is to remind us that it’s early yet, we’re still a primitive people, the Golden Age may lie ahead. In an era filled with complacent dystopias and escapist apocalypses, Robinson is one of our best, bravest, most moral, and most hopeful storytellers. It’s no coincidence that so many of his novels have as their set pieces long, punishing treks through unforgiving country with diminishing provisions, his characters exhausted and despondent but forcing themselves to slog on. What he’s telling us over and over, like the voice of the Third Wind whispering when all seems lost, is that it’s not too late, don’t get scared, don’t give up, we’re almost there, we can do this, we just have to keep going.
Our Greatest Political Novelist? [Tim Kreider/New Yorker]
(via Making Light)
(Image: Yes, I'm looking at you, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from jophan's photostream)
In the late 1950s, a truck carrying a cement mixer crashed on E300 Road between Talala and Winganon, Oklahoma. Apparently too heavy for anyone to deal with, the mixer sat for decades where it was occasionally graffitied or whimsically decorated. In 2011, artists Heather and Barry Thomas celebrated their wedding anniversary by transforming the drum […]
In this fun episode of Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools podcast, they talk with Lux Sparks-Pescovitz, 14, about his passion for GameBoys, cassettes, DIY sushi, and his new iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit. He’s quite an interesting young man; I’d like to meet his parents someday. Listen here: Cool Tools · 234: Lux Sparks-Pescovitz
When you’re ready to take a break from doomscrolling, stop and send your scream to Iceland. It will be blasted from a real speaker that has been placed in one of the country’s regions. “Scream therapy.” You’ve been through a lot this year and it looks like you need the perfect place to let your […]
“The way to have power is to take it.” — Boss Tweed. We think an 18th-century political power broker probably had a different definition of power in mind when he made that statement, yet the sentiment still applies. We’ve all got devices all but falling out of our pockets and the need for power to […]
If the last 50 years of education have taught us nothing else, it’s that it often requires different tactics to best reach different learners. To pick up a foreign language, some students take best to the old-school high school language lab method, using heavy repetition, verb conjugation and grammar emphasis to embed a new language. […]
For those who want a career in video games, there’s no reason to sit around and wait. EA and Rockstar Games probably aren’t going to seek you out and knock on your door with a job opportunity. But if you’re an indie developer with a good idea and some passion, you can create a really […]