Best Of: A Weird, Wonderful Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the great living science fiction writers and one of the most astute observers of how planets look, feel and work. His Mars Trilogy imagined what it might be like for humans to settle on the red planet. His best-selling novel “The Ministry for the Future” is a masterful effort at envisioning what might happen to Earth in a future of unchecked climate change. Robinson has a rare command of both science and human nature, and his writing crystallizes how the two must work together if we are to rescue our collective planetary future from possible ruin.
In his 2022 book, a rare turn to nonfiction called “The High Sierra: A Love Story,” Robinson trains his attention on the planet we inhabit in the here and now, particularly on one of his favorite places on Earth: the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California and Nevada. The new book is part memoir, part guidebook, part meditation on how time, space and even politics take shape in a wondrous geological landscape.
In this conversation, recorded in July 2022, we discuss why Robinson decided to start writing outdoors, what it was like to experience the Sierras on psychedelics in his youth, what “actor-network theory” is and how it helps us understand our relationship to the planet and to our own bodies, why we should think of climate change more like we do plane crashes, what hiking backpacks say about American consumerism, how we should change our relationship to technology in order to be happier, why the politics of wanting are so confusing yet important, why Robinson is so excited about ideas like a wage ratio and rewilding schemes, how the “structure of feeling” around climate has changed, why Robinson is feeling more hopeful about Earth’s future these days and more.
We’ll be back with new episodes next week.
“The Most Important Book I’ve Read This Year” by Vox Conversations
“Your Kids Are Not Doomed” by Ezra Klein
“Design for the Real World” by Victor Papanek
“Thomas Piketty’s Case for ‘Participatory Socialism’” by The Ezra Klein Show
A Brief History of Equality by Thomas Piketty
The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.
This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Isaac Jones and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Executive produced by Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.