Kim Stanley Robinson on how the coronavirus is rewiring our imaginations

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No one sets a scene as quickly and as expertly as Kim Stanley Robinson – I weep every time I read something by him because he does something in three paragraphs I can’t even do in my own head – but “Science-fiction writers don’t know anything more about the future than anyone else”?

Did he read the novel, Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson or just write it? Because it’s bloody well nothing but “humanity will never never able to solve for these problems I have identified, so shut up and stop thinking about that stuff and crawl back down your gravity well”

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There’s that famous story of how Bruce Sterling saw a scorched sky over the gulf of Mexico, and on learning of the burning rainforests that caused it, was inspired to start the Veridian design movement.

I thought of this a couple summers ago when smoke from the columbia gorge fires was making it hard to breathe in Portland, and I would wear an N95 mask to go outside during the worst of it. All the ashes that were falling on car windshields had- just hours before-been bushes and trees and squirrels and stuff, and now it was soot on the window.

People here generally didn’t think that hard about why the sky was broken, choosing to blame a kid with fireworks rather than record temperatures, much as folks today would rather blame the government of China than all the environmental chaos that makes these outbreaks inevitable. Sure, absolutely, there is no direct cause/effect between G5 cell phone networks and Covid 19… but they both spring forth out of the same greed, the same shortsightedness, the same lack of imagination. (G5 does to weather forecasting, what covid does to one’s O2 intake)

If the economy is in trouble because of Covid, it has to be mentioned this economy is already killing the climate. It was never sustainable, and at some level, even the Koch brothers understand it.

It’s not nearly as sexy, but we are going to have to learn to imagine all the things that can go wrong with the same vividness as what we imagine we will enjoy. All the fun we might have on a cruise, offset by all the labor and environmental crimes that happen in order for us to afford it.


It reminds me a bit of the forward to Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. The inspiration to that novel came from him being trapped in Thailand unable to get home during the SARS panic ten years ago.

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honestly, what i’ve gathered from the COVID 19 experience is not only do we not care about the horizon, too many of us don’t even care about tomorrow… or, really, even, today. too many of us don’t care about people alive right now who won’t be, tomorrow… never mind things that may occur years or decades from now.

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