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Bill Deverell:As David and I and our friends whom we work with to gather together the ideas that have led to the last day and a halfs events. As we chatted about things, it became pretty clear that the Science Fiction landscape and the environmental imagination of Northern California is expressed through fiction and non-fiction were very important themes, certain themes generative of perhaps their entire own conferences. So we didn't want to leave those out. I think we found, through the help of Dana Gioia here as well as others, I think we found a way to amalgamate them in quite an interesting way with this panel in exploring the kind of overlap between a certain environmental perspective, maybe inflected by fantasy and Science Fiction or even the reverse through the working careers of our two scholars and writers on the panel. But to help us excavate that, weve asked Dana Gioia to add to yesterdays poetry reading with this quite different pursuit now to moderate this discussion between Kim Stanley Robinson himself and Ursula Heise. So Ill turn it over with thanks to Dana. Dana Gioia:Thank you Bill. Good afternoon. I was delighted listening to all the panels yesterday, and not surprised that the word Science Fiction, the term Science Fiction was not mentioned once in the entire literary and imaginative, cultural, artistic history of California because it is still in this kind of situation where its one of the great cultural achievements of California Literature, California Arts, that it really hasnt quite been assimilated yet into the official histories, the academic histories of the state. We have two people today, who I think will help us understand about the importance of Science Fiction not merely as one of the iconic expressions of California culture, but also as one of the mechanisms as it were for Californias imagination to wrap around a sense of itself and a sense of its future. Our first panelist is Ursula Heise, a professor of English at UCLA as well as a member of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability there, but she arrived at UCLA only last year after eight years teaching at Stanford. She's the author of three critical books, two in English and one in German. Intimidatingly, she speaks eight languages, in one form or another as a native of Germany, and she's also been the co-editor with David Damrosch at one volume of Longmans massive Anthology of World Literature as well as the author of dozens of scholarly articles and reviews. Her 2008 book from oxford, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global analyzes in a very inclusive and complex way. The manners in which writers, thinkers, organizations, even governments have envisioned or conceptualize environmental or cultural issues from a global perspective or the attempt to achieve a global perspective. Next to her is Kim Stanley Robinson, who is a novelist and a writer who lives in Davis California. He was born in Waukegan, Illinois, like, you know, the other great California writer, Ray Bradbury, so there must be something in the local water out there. And he, like Ray, had the precocious wisdom to move to California as a boy. He studied in in UC San Diego and Boston University and eventually earned a PhD from UC San Diego with a dissertation on Philip K. Dick, which he published in 1984. Was that the first book ever published on Dick at that point as a critical analysis? Kim Robinson:One of the first few. Dana Gioia:Yeah, and his most recent book is Shaman, which appeared only a few weeks ago, and it may be unique as the only Paleolithic buildings roman. Its a wonderful book. I'm about halfway through it right now. Over the past 30 years, he's one of the best-selling sci-fi authors in the world. He has won two Hugos, three Nebulas and six Locus awards. I think basically if there's an award in Science Fiction that Kim stand has not won, its probably not worth winning. But he's with us today not because of his popularity or his productivity, but because he's one of the most serious and imaginative environmental thinkers now active. So today we have the pleasure of listening to a conversation between two leading Californian literary and environmental thinkers, you know. One, a novelist, the other, a critique, a creator, an analyzer, a synthesizer, a philosopherwe can get two ways of perceiving and expressing the reality that is California, and from the prism of California, the globe. Stan, I'm going to ask you a question that you and I were talking about last night because I wanted to begin the conversation, which I know is going to become global and eventually cosmic locally. You are a California writer. Youve lived actually at both ends, Southern and Northern California. And yousome was our historian thinker about the history of Science Fiction or speculative fiction in this state. What was the bay area like as a literary center especially for sci-fi writers around 1950 when the whole genre was in the process of being reinvented by Californians. Kim Robinson:Well, in the post-war period, a lot of Americans moved out to California. Its sort of a famous story that having seen California in the wintertime, many soldiers going across the Pacific Theatre resolved to move out here when the war was over and they did so. So then the freeway system is being put into place and it was a gigantic explosion of population and infrastructure in California. So in that sense, it was already a sort of Science Fictional project because it had both utopian aspects, which really have their backgrounds in the way that our previous speaker, Kevin Starr spoke about in his history of California that people came to California with the idea that they were going to make a fresh start, they were going to make a utopian society, and the landscape was extraordinarily a beautiful and fertile and the water problems were immediately obvious. So there was that social aspect and then there was just the terraforming, the infrastructure, the rapid changing from agriculture to urban and suburban and the necessity of putting in the freeways, the condominium complexes and the water systems. So in a decade or two, California was completely transformed. Well, this is already a Science Fiction story in action and a lot ofScience Fiction at that time was based in New York City like a lot of publishing. It was an urban phenomenon that had its heart in New York City with the few [???][0:07:43.4] and the American Science Fiction. But a lot of the writers were either from the west or they moved to the west because they liked it. So Los Angeles famously Bradbury and Heinlein and the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, so thatScience Fiction has always been a social club or a community as well as a literary genre, its been a way that people organize their social lives. And in that sense, Los Angeles was quickly in action even in the 30s where I am not as crazy Bob Heinlein because of his wild party habits as well as his libertarian utopianism. In the Bay Area, it comes down to a movement out here in the 50s by some locals like Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, and eventually Frank Herbert who wrote Dune. And then the people publishing, editing the magazine of Fantasy in Science Fiction, which was by far the most literary of the Science Fiction magazines of the 1940s and 50s. So that magazine was lead editor and thinker was Anthony Boucher who did Mysteries as well as Science Fiction crucial figure and then his partner Francis McComas. So these people, the writers formed a poker club. They met weekly and they talked about Science Fiction. They wrote stories that bounced of each others stories, and they were a social group. Then, you know, soon thereafter, there was a sort of second wave coming out of New York, which was really Robert Silverberg, Terry Carr and Charles N. Brown, and Silverberg and Carr along with being great writers were editors of important, new wave Science Fiction anthologies, yearly collections of short stories that be published that these were the cutting-edge of Science Fiction at that time and the literary conventions of modernism were being introduced into Pulp Science Fiction really during this period. It was exciting stuff and it was all being recorded and really the kindwhat you would say, the newspaperman of the town that is Science Fiction was Charles N. Brown and they were all in the Oakland Hills together. So there was a really important strand of American Science Fiction thats been run out of the Bay Area here and then New York state the publishing art but in terms of its literary cutting edge, it was often out here and partly because of the space itself, the landscape, the like living out here for the weather, for California. Ursula Heise:In the 60s, also drugs, right? I mean, Philip sort of became the father of a lot of subsequent Science Fiction is a very Bay Area kind of writer and I think that was the strength of the counter culture here in the 1960s. It was also another motive force for Science Fiction force for-- Dana Gioia:Were trying to keep Stans drug history out of this Ursula, I'm sorry. [Laughs] Kim Robinson:Actually I was asked once if my degree beingsince my PhD waswork with Philip K. Dick, I was asked by Joe Holden whether my degree came from the English Department or the Pharmacology Department. Phil Dick was a kid here in Berkley High School and thisits good that you said that because that also brings in Ursula K. Le Guin, really important Science Fiction figure who also was at Berkley High School. I think there was a year where both Phil Dick and Ursula Le Guin were going to Bishop High School and they did not know each other. But they there were and Ursula being the son of Alfred Kroeber is part of the University of California tradition. Very important that that strand of American anthropology well-represented and Ursula, as much as any one writer transforms Science Fiction into something a more intellectually ambitious and grounded in real science especially the soft sciences of Anthropology and Sociology. So she was transformation all to Science Fiction and its strange because, you know, Phil Dick grew up in the Bay Area, very ambitious but also very disorderly, and then he moved to Southern California where he got a more orderly life by moving to my hometown Orange County and settling down a little. Dana Gioia:Stan, before I move to start asking Ursula some questions, I want to ask one more follow-up. Now youve described this milieu, a lot of which has actually personal as well as professional. Did you, coming into your own sense of vocation as a writer, see yourself as part of a community or were youdid you think of yourself more as a loner? Have you experience this communitarian vision that you have for California Science Fiction? Kim Robinson:I think what happened to me is fairly characteristic of a lot of writers from listening to their stories. I thought I was a loner. I thought all writers were loners and I was reading because its a fairly solitary activity. You read the text, you try writing them, it all happens by yourself. I heard that Science Fiction had a workshop called Clarion where people could learn more from professionals. I went to the one professor that I knew in academia that was interested in Science Fiction and he said, Well, go to this lecture by Harlan Ellison and hell give you the address to Clarion. Well, this was a trap door of a question because asking Harlan about Clarion in from the audience when he was on stage was an invitation to get pummeled by abusive humor, which happened to me. But I became aware that there was a community out there and then when I began, I went to Clarion, I began to go to the conventions. I met Terry Carr, an editor and his home in Oakland Hills, and he would introduce me to everybody else. It became quickly apparent that this wasI think of it as a hometown. Its a small town and so it has all the advantages of a small town and all of the disadvantages of a small town, and you're stuck in it. You can leave but you still came from that town. So I come from the town of Science Fiction but its an intellectual home. Its extremely intense and high-powered. There's a lot of gossip and backbiting and stabs in the back, you know, the thing that happens when you're in a small town is if you go off to the big city, people are going to remember and theyll be angry at you or proud of you or both at once. So it has all the attributes and it used to be really more like a ghetto than a small town because it was weld in by prejudice and dislike and it had a really intense intellectual energy inside itself that the rest of the world didn't know about. It had a ghetto intellectualization. Now with the walls broken down and actually the whole world a Science Fiction story, it looks a lot different and some people are made very uncomfortable by that, but others are kind of loving it because its never that comfortable in a ghetto compared to the big world. Ursula Heise:Dana, if I might just add a little bit, sort of to the history of this. I mean, when I first thought about the topic of this panel and that nexus between environmental writing and the imagination of the future. Some of the things that strike you first about environmental writing in its traditional form and Science Fiction in its traditional form, pre-Kim Stanley Robinson and maybe even pre-Ursula K. Le Guin or part from Le Guin, is that theyre actually quite different in various respects but among others in relation took place in the sense that it was environmental writing, you almost always care where the writer is from because in some ways, you know, if you think of [???][0:14:59.0], you think of Rachel Carson, you think of John Muir, you think of Henry David [???][0:15:05.0] where they were has an immediate shaping impact on what they write about. With Science Fiction writers, thats not immediately and systematically true in the same way. I mean, you cannot tell from writing a Science Fiction novel necessarily where the writers from, where he/she lived in the same way. So I think that that relationship is quite different and so I think in some ways there's more traction to the connection between California and environmental writing. I think at first plush, then there is to the connection between California and Science Fiction, but I think there is a reallythere are really important next there and youve pointed out the first one. I think the second one sort of following up from the 1960s is that odd convergence where you have on one hand a counterculture part of whose objective is, you know, the violent criticism of society among other things to return to nature. And then that to some extent peters out or perpetuates itself in a variety of different weaker versions in the 70s and 80s. But then you have the rise of the computer culture, which in many ways understands itself at least in its beginnings as a continuation of the counter culture and I mean, John Markov and Fred Turner have both written really interesting books about that continuation now to this day a lot of software engineers, hardware designers actually come out of a sort of counter cultural mindset and some of them fight for freedom online, Electronic Frontier Foundation and so forth understand themselves to in some ways continue in the realm of the digital, some of the struggle that began in the counterculture and that I think isfor that story, California is a really, really important sight and in some ways I think that is a crucial nexus for what then becomes possible from the 1980s and 1990s on that merger of thinking about virtual realities and the digital and on the hand, thinking at a new way about the material and about nature. Dana Gioia:But wouldnt part of the deepening of Science Fiction as a literary genre have occurred in writers like Le Guin or Dick or Robinson who you cant really imagine coming from anywhere but the west, you know, in terms of their social perspective, their natural perspective, their anthropological perspective, which seems, you know, fundamental. It seems to me thats part of the transformation that happens beginning in the 60s as you go forward. Ursula Heise:Well, but I'm not so sure that thats exclusive to the west. I'm might be interested to what you think about this or indeed that its exclusive to the United States because-- Dana Gioia:Noabout the transformation of the genre itself. Ursula Heise:No, no, but I mean, thats what I'm saying. The new wave also was really strong in the UK at the time. So its people like Michael [???][0:17:59.4] you know, people like that who write very different kind of Science Fiction than what was written in the 1950s. So whereas I think retrospectively once you look at a person like Ursula K. Le Guin, yes you cannot associate her from the west coast or for that matter somebody like Octavia Butler later on. But yeah, I think its also worth remembering that that transformation of Science Fiction away from a purely male world of technology and outer space also took place in Britain with somebody like Jay G. Ballard now its inner space rather than outer space-- Dana Gioia:But you couldnt imagine Ballard coming out of any place but sort of, you know, Britain and Britains colonial history. There's a sensewhat I think on the genre itself develops a sense of the place. Let me ask you, a contemporary Science Fiction novel has regained this stature that maybe something like, H.D. Wells did as a conscious genre of the novel of ideas. Do you feel in the sense that, you know, when you're undertaking these books that there is an intellectual content as well an imaginative content? Kim Robinson:Yeah, very much so. I think thatI mean Wells called Science Fiction the Scientific Romance because the phrase Science Fiction hadnt been invented at that point. And the Scientific Romance he was trying to point out that romance and epic wereand the American novel always had strong strand of that with Melville and Hawthorne. It wasnt always domestic realism as tightly as the British novel. So its an American tradition already that has to do with the frontier and with the vast spaces and the big stories that are told and since the site itself was transforming decade by decade, the novels about it would tend towards the romance. And so Science Fiction has a very strong American element to it of the experience on this continent between industrialization, modernization, globalization and the terraforming of the planet of the continent especially California to make it more suitable for humans with all the water work weve done and the concrete. It has been a Science Fiction story, so the genre as Ursula said becomes more and more suitable to our times. It is in effect the best realism of our time because now, just like climate modeling has gotten better so that the IPCC can say confidently that we can only burn a trillion tons of carbon and put that ways in to the atmosphere before well fundamentally alter the planet and weve already burned half of that, and the rate were burning it, we will have done that by 2040, and after that, we will have created a jungle planet. So this is a very confident climate modeling, and what I'm saying is that Science Fiction is the cultural modeling and that the ramifications of what were doing now extends so far off into the future and are so easy to predict now even thought there's a broad band the further you get out, but you cant predict what will actually happen but you can see a band of possibilities that broadens as you get further away. Well, thats the Science Fiction act and so we end up with a realism, the way life feels right now is that there's a lot of futurities stuck into our daily actions because we can see the ramifications better than ever before. So if you're going to write about it especially if you're going to write fiction about it, then like Dana suggested, you get this crossing of motes, you get the epic, you get the romance, you get the utopian story of how we could do it right or its flipside, the dystopia, the best possible modeling outcome, the worst possiblethose are very obvious. But in between them, you get history itself and you get Science Fiction as future history, which is a really interesting game to play because it always come back to now and talks about the choices were making right now. Then you get Le Guins great addition of justwhere she makes The Utopia also a very good novel in terms of characterization and plot and this is the dispossessed, and at that point you got a utopian novel that works as a novel as well as a, what she called an ambiguous utopia because things are not very pure or clear, that story is still historical and has complications like a regular novel. And at that point, the whole, a mixed genre has been made that after that, you cant ignore, you cant go back, you cant write a utopian novel thats just a blueprint or a walk through the zoo and even something like ecotopia, which is probably the most influential utopia since looking backwards had big impact on the counter cultures thinking its a very simplistic text compared to the dispossessed, which came out three years earlier and I dont think it will last this long in our thinking the dispossessed. It was historically important, but as a text, its not a great novel, and now you kind of need to write a good novel to go with your utopias. Its an added burden because the novel says, be realistic, show us the real, be the mirror to nature and when you're reading a novel, you're thinking, thats right, thats the way it feels, thats the way life is, and with the way life is. But the utopia is saying, this is the way life ought to be. Well, you try to combine those in one and you get David Humes odd problem, its a horrible philosophical problem, the difference between what is and what ought to be and to try to put them both into one text, I can tell you personally your brain explodes. Its terrible. Ursula Heise:So there's an interesting corollary I think to your observation that in some ways Science Fiction is the realism on our time. Again, in environmental writing itself because you think of a text like, Ellen Wisemans The World Without Us, which came out a few years ago and that of course ishere's an environmental writer trying to think about the lasting human impact on the planet but he does it through Science Fiction concede. Lets imagine all of human kind gets wiped out and he doesnt say how. Is a disease is a sort of Mary Shelly Last Man Scenario, he doesnt spell out, he just said, okay what becomes of nature? What becomes of our artifacts once humans are gone? So its a thought experiment to explore how much weve changed the planet up to this point and if we disappear now, what would happen? What would happen to our cities? What would happen to the forest? Dana Gioia:Sounds just like Roberts and Jeffers. Ursula Heise:In some ways. And then [???][0:24:22.1] I mean, one of his last books, I dont think its the very last one now, its called Eaarth with the double A. So its still pronounced earth but the orthography is different. So again, he explosively says in his book this is sort of a way of signaling that we no longer live on the planet earth such as its been so far. We now defectinhabit a different planet. So even somebody as on Science Fiction in other ways as Bill McKibben actually falls back onto a Science Fiction concede, and you know, speaking for my own discipline, I mean, the status of Science Fiction has changed radically over the last 20 years. I mean, when I did my, you know, I wrote my dissertation in the early 90s, it was still impossible to do a dissertation that had any significant amount of Science Fiction in it and you just, let alone doing one that was entirely about Science Fiction, you just couldnt do it, it wasnt wise, you wouldnt get a job. Thats really changed, I mean, Science Fiction now is a very serious object of study on the part of literary critiques I think around the world and the frontier now has moved to the graphic novel and were unsure whether that should be-- Dana Gioia:Thats why Stan had to work with the pharmacology department. Kim Robinson:Yeah. You know, the word Planet is a marker that you're doing Science Fiction, and for instance if you haveif you're trying to make a distinction and a novel is this is a fantasy novel or if this is a Science Fiction novel. If the word Planet is in it, its not a fantasy novel. They will talk about worlds but they will not talk about planets. When you say the word Planet you're in a Science Fiction text, and it used to be the course that literary realism, the domestic novel would never have occasion to talk about a planet, that would be a weird thing to say, and yet since we are on a planet and were in a globalized world with climate change, the whole story of humanity now is globalization is a planetary story. So in Science Fiction, there used to be a thing called The Planetary Romance. You would go to another planet and it was difficult, and a small group of humans had to survive there against inimical circumstances with a little bit of technology and a lot of clearness and they would get by. This would be Jack Vance, Early Le Guin, Frank Herbert. The Planetary Romance is one ofEdgar Pangborn, a very beautiful strand in Science Fiction and Clifford Simak who would beand Aldo Leopold and Clifford Simak was actually a Wisconsin writer as well as a Science Fiction writer. Well, now its awere in a planetary romance in a way and so--