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Kim Stanley Robinson 01/19/00

Xoanon Welcomes ksr to Barliman's Chat!

<Xoanon> Hello!
<ksr> Hi folks. Let's see if I can talk.
<Tehanu> Wha-hey, it's the man himself.!
<Xoanon> ok, the chat is now moderated
<Xoanon> now this is how this will work
<Xoanon> to send KSR a question type /msg Xoanon
<Xoanon> and I will pose the question
<Xoanon> and KSR will answer, obviously
<Xoanon> KSR, does that sound ok to you?
<ksr> okay, sounds fine
<Xoanon> great, when you are done, simply type next.
<Xoanon> any opening remarks?
<ksr> good to be here, next

Xoanon changes topic to "CHAT NOW! to type a Q /msg Xoanon ___"

<Xoanon> first Question:
<Xoanon> Pipesmoke asks: How much leeway would you give a director who was adapting your books into a film?
<ksr> I probably wouldn't be in much of a position to 'give leeway,' to tell the truth
<ksr> the thing is, when producers option a book, they have the rights...
<ksr> toadapt it as they will. Some will listen to you, but most won't....
<ksr> because they have the usually accurate assumption that they know more about movies than you do. So...
<ksr> if I were consulted, I would say, 'it's my book, it's your movie,...
<ksr> do what you want and I hope I like it. (And if not it's your movie and your problem...)"
<ksr> next
<Xoanon> Smaug asks: what got you started and who was your inspiration?
<ksr> I've always loved reading, and I started writing poetry in college...
<Xoanon> to send KSR a question type /msg Xoanon
<ksr> then I discovered science fictions New Wave in the early 1970s. Those folks blew my mind and ever since then I have tried to write science fiction. Next
<Xoanon> Nigral asks: What do you think of this Nasa Mars flag
<ksr> I love it! It was a great surprise, one of the greatest I've ever gotten over the internet for sure...
<ksr> because I had not heard anything about this flag until I saw the press release over the net, put out by the Mars Society.
<ksr> It was really very nice of them to acknowledge my trilogy as the inspiration for their flag, and it has gotten a lot of great publicity. Now I want a copy of the flag. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: Was Tolkien an influence on you?
<ksr> I read Tolkien at about age 13, and loved it very much. Re-read it a couple of times and then went searching through Eddison, etc., trying to find more.
<ksr> So if that means an influence, yes. I always remembered that sense of being completely in a full fictional world, as something that every novelist has got to admire and want to try sometime. next
<Xoanon> Gamge asks: Do you like other genres? Like horror?
<ksr> I don't like horror at all. If it works, it scares me, if it doesn't, it's silly. I don't like either response.
<ksr> I do like some detective stories (peter Dickinson who also does fantasy), historicals (Cecelia Holland and Patrick O'Brian (rip)) and so on. I read anything but horror. next
<Xoanon> Tookish asks: What are you working on now?
<ksr> I'm doing a novel, this time an alternative history. next
<Xoanon> Pipe asks: If you were to change how the Mars Trilogy was written, would you? Given the advances since then?
<ksr> Happily, none of the advances since then has mattered much to my book. I suppose I might...
<ksr> add a bit about them finding fossil bacteria but never finding anything alive, which is likely to be what happens, I would guess.
<ksr> There are also changes I would make in other ways, and in fact I've sent off about 60 pages of small corrections....
<ksr> which Bantam will put into the new printings of the books as they cycle through their printings. These are mostly typos and small errors of one sort or another...
<ksr> but some do have to do with substantial scientific errors that have been brought to my attention since the books were published.
<ksr> All fixes had to be made without changing page lengths, so it was like making crossword puzzles. next
<Xoanon> Tehanu asks: Were you in fact inspired by mexican writer Rene Rebetez as rumored?
<ksr> No, I don't know that name. I'd like to hear more about who s/he is/was and how I would be inspired.... next
<Xoanon> Tookish asks: Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
<ksr> Sure. Try starting with short stories, so you can finish projects and evaluate them and toss them out if you don't like them. Novel make that process wasteful.
<ksr> Then also I'd advise making writing part of your regular schedule somehow, so you never have to 'decide' to write but just have to, at that point in your schedule. You get more done that way.
<ksr> It also helps to find a writing group to serve as your audience, and write for them. Then submit stuff you like. There's more, but let's stop there. next
<Xoanon> Nigral asks: If you were to write a story about Aldeberan, would any of the Mars characters be in it?
<Xoanon> Gamgee asks: Of all Fantasy movies to date, which do you enjoy the most?
<Xoanon> oops
<ksr> Is that the close star? with planets? An interesting project, for sure, but if I did it, I would resist connecting it to my mars books. I like novels to have endings and to stand alone. next
<Xoanon> answer the first one, sorry
<Xoanon> Gamgee asks: Of all Fantasy movies to date, which do you enjoy the most?
<ksr> fantasy movies? I'm blanking. Circus of Dr. Lao. Let me see if more come to the surface. Suggest possibilities. I'm still blanking, are there many fantasy novels proper? I liked Time Bandits.... next
<Xoanon> Tookish asks: What are the overriding themes that are most important to you?
<ksr> That's hard. Themes strike me as nebulous things. I like to tell stories about characters engaged in a society and a landscape. Landscape is one of the things I love about Tolkien the most, by the way. Themes.... persistance. Right action. next
<Xoanon> Smaug asks: Have you ever been approached by any film companies about the books?
<ksr> Yes, my agent has a Hollywood office and agent, and they have been fielding a lot of inquiries, without much substantial being done. The Mars books were optioned by James Cameron's company for a year or two, but that has lapsed and we have the rights back, Cameron doing a different Mars story. So right now nothing in particular to report. next.
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: More on landscapes, your writing does remind me of Tolkien's in that way, yet Middle-earth is basically like earth, how did you try to picture the alien face of Mars?
<ksr> I studied the satellite maps and photos, visited Meteor Crater, went all over the American West and other places trying to see the Mars qualities in them. Looked at the surface photos from Viking too, of course. next
<Xoanon> Nob asks: Who is your favorite author?
<ksr> No single writer. I like Patrick O'Brian, who recently died; his giant novel (20 volumes) is a natural for all Tolkien lovers, I should think. Then the list goes ever on.
<ksr> Virginia Woolf, Garcia Marquez, Melville, Peter Mathiessen, Gary Snyder, et al. next
<Xoanon> Morm asks: What is your opinion of the making of the LOTR films?
<ksr> It sounds like a fantastic opportunity. Now special effects can finally live up to the text, if the movie makers are good.
<ksr> I have spent time on the south island of New Zealand (that's where they're filming, yes??) and it will be perfect for Middle Earth. They won't really have to do much with landscape, starting with that. After that, it's a matter of a good script and good actors.... next
<Xoanon> Tookish asks: Do you ever plan on writing novels for a younger audience?
<ksr> Not really. But I think many of my novels are transparent enough to work for most teenagers, and a lot of readers report enjoying the Mars books whom I regard as much too young for them, so who's to say? next
<Xoanon> Tehanu asks: You have a knack for bringing scineces like geology alive, have you ever studied science?
<ksr> Only as a science fiction writer doing research. I was an English major in college.
<ksr> But I have been married to a scientist for 17 years now, and some of those years we hung out only with other scientists, so I've had the opportunity to study it in the real world, so to speak.
<ksr> Also, reading Science News weekly (it's short enough to do that) is an education in itself. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: (more on a possible film) who would you like to see involved, actors or crew..?
<ksr> possible film of Tolkien? or .... next
<Xoanon> the Mars Trilogy
<ksr> Well, I don't know enough about film to know. The inquiries now tend to be coming from TV companies, thinking of making the trilogy into a mini-series or ongoing series lasting a few years. This makes good sense to me, as they would have time to stretch out.
<ksr> As for cast, I can't see any of them as anyone other than themselves, so it's kind of like casting your friends; no one is really quite right. next.
<Xoanon> to ask a question type /msg Xoanon ______
<Xoanon> Pipesmoke asks: Have you seen Gattaca, what did you think of it?
<ksr> Have not seen it. I did see "Galaxy Quest" recently, which was wonderful. next
<Xoanon> Tehanu asks: I'm always interested in the cultures you know so weel, have you met real sufis?
<ksr> Yes, I have met Sufis, in Switzerland of all places. And a neighbor is a DJ for Turkish and middle Eastern music, so now I get to meet and hear musicians from Sufi cultures all the time. I'm using them again in my new novel. next
<Xoanon> Do you see your writing a Science-Fiction, or future Science-Fact?
<ksr> Science fiction. Nothing I write will come true in that form. Really there's no such thing as future science fact.
<ksr> I am a pretty conservative science fiction writer, in the sense that I try to pick future developments that look very much like they could happen given what we know now. So not very many hyperdrives etc etc. next
<Xoanon> Balin asks: Is your alternative history book much the same as Hienlien's 'Future Histories'?
<ksr> No, Heinlein's Future History is a grand master narrative telling a long future for humanity, with all his individual stories linking up to tell it. A good idea.
<ksr> But my alternative history is just of the "what if?" variety that changes some incident in our past, and follows out some of the results of that change. next
<Xoanon> Nigral asks: Was 'The Wild Shore' your first novel?
<ksr> Yes. Although really, I was working on "the Memory of Whiteness," "Icehenge," and The wild Shore in bursts that crossed over each other for a period of about 5 years. next
<Xoanon> Calisuri asks: With the advent of digial media, are you worried about the conventional novel dissapearing?
<ksr> No. I think the novel is very healthy, as it has been for about 250 years now, and nothing can replace what it does.
<ksr> It's possible we may read novels on a palm reader computer, have 100,000 novels in the paperback-sized object in our hand, but we'll still be reading novels. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: In 'Blue Mars' did you intend to keep the character of Hiroko in mystery? Was she a holy depiction?
<ksr> Yes, that's very well put, I intended Hiroko to be beyond full explanation, and so a matter of the reader's own feeling about how mythic figures or great heros or ghosts or whatnot are made. Definitely a matter of exploring the creation of the sacred.
<ksr> That's why there was never a section from her point of view. next
<Xoanon> Stolz asks: What was the most difficult part about writing the Mars series? Plotting, research, or imagining?
<ksr> Really it was all so much a joy to do that it's hard to pick out the hard parts.
<ksr> In a way all of it was hard, in the sense of trying to do a lot of things beyond what I knew I could do.
<ksr> And as the series went on, it felt harder, as if finishing a long crossing on tightrope. I really didn't want to fall near the end, so the sense of pressure grew. Then about halfway through the writing of Blue Mars I could see I was going to make it okay, and it became a pure joy. next
<Xoanon> Nigral asks: What is impeding the Mars mission for NASA now? What is the next step?
<ksr> Good question! NASA has a shrinking budget because no one in Congress is worried about their space constituents back home; there are so few of them.
<ksr> So NASA gets timid and never wants to make a mistake. And the money's only there for little things. So it's trying to build a big thing out of matchsticks.
<ksr> The next step is to convince Congress and the rest of the gov't that people would like to see more of Mars, and people on Mars. With that sense, things will proceed again. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: Can you give us the basic breakdown of a good writing day? 3 hours? 4 hours? all day?
<ksr> For me it's different depending on if I'm doing first draft or revisions.
<ksr> first draft I try to put in three or four hours every weekday.
<ksr> some days other duties (family) intervene. Most days it can be done.
<ksr> Especially if I'm going well. Then in revisions, I can work all day,
<ksr> every day, and I kind of like doing that because I can begin to memorize it all and see the larger patterns. So it's a process of intensification as I go along.
<ksr> But really, if I can only get in half an hour or an hour, I try to do that and not just blow it off because I can't do more. Even a half page is work done that will eventually need to be done.
<ksr> A lot of the time it's like being a carpenter. Get up, go out and hammer nails. next
<Xoanon> Gamgee asks: I have trouble with dialogue, is that something that can be taught? or learned by practice?
<ksr> Yes, it can be learned
<ksr> try writing in cafes and writing down what people say, verbatim
<ksr> also, read lots of different kinds of books and check out the dialog
<ksr> like Gaddis's JR for a pure example of "tape recorder" or Jack Vance for "artificial dialog" or Salinger for teenagers, etc etc.
<ksr> then trying reading your dialog out loud to yourself and seeing if it sounds like something people will say.
<ksr> Also, when writing dialog, allow things that occur to you to enter in, so that it looks like the flow of natural conversation, with new things popping up by association as people talk. People seldom stick to topic as maniacally as writers have them doing. next
<Xoanon> Stoltz asks: What inspired the structure for Red Mars? i.e. Climax, then the story starts..
<ksr> I did it by instinct, but now think I can explain why I did it.
<ksr> The going to Mars and setting up the colony is a matter of building things, and could have been
<ksr> boring. Just too every-day. So I needed there to be a torque on events to give them suspense. If people (readers I mean) know that this ordinary looking process is leading to murder, it puts an incredible stress on even the most trivial incidents.
<ksr> So there was that. Also, the 'before" stuff goes on for so long that I think readers assume
<ksr> that the book will only get to John's assasination by the very end of the novel, at best.
<ksr> But suddenly it happens at the end of Chap 5, and readers are cast back out of "foreknowledge" and a kind of predestination, into ignorance and free will. They don't know what's going to happen next any more! So the rest of the story has that suspense of "what will happen next."
<ksr> So for both reasons (aside from it being the classical way to start epics, which I suppose is for these same kinds of reasons) I think it was the best way to do it. But all this in retrospect, you understand; at the time I just thought, Let's start with a big bang.... next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: Was Frank Chalmers an evil character? Or were his flaws simply more evident that John Boone's?
<ksr> He did an evil thing; fratricide, in effect.
<ksr> Does that make him an evil character? Maybe so. I guess it does. I prefer to think of evil actions. And I like to support all my characters when I'm in their point of view.
<ksr> Thus Frank had his reasons. Later I think he saw they weren't good enough, and felt terrible. But you can't go back and erase past mistakes. next
<Xoanon> Smaug asks: Would you ever pen a fantasy novel? What style would you go for?
<ksr> Yes, I would if the right idea came to me. I think fantasy can create great novels, and novels are what I love, doesn't matter what genre.
<ksr> I think of my novella "A Short Sharp Shock" as being my fantasy novel. I kept it short because for me, even in the fantasies I love, I get weary near the end
<ksr> a matter of "where anything can happen nothing is interesting" which is the GREAT danger of fantasy generally. You have to somehow counteract that by convincing readers
<ksr> that there are rules in the fictional world, explainable even if magic, so it's not a case of
<ksr> anything can happen. But this is difficult, and one of the many areas where Tolkien excelled.
<ksr> I would excempt him from the usual feeling of weariness later on. In fact the third volume of Tolkien is perhaps the best, because by then you forget that there's any magic at all in Middle Earth, it's just the way things are. That's Tolkien's great consistency.
<ksr> Now in "A Short Sharp Shock" I have a very fluid, surreal situation, like a science fantasy five million years in the future, with lots of unexplained and unexplainable phenomena,
<ksr> so I needed to make it short I thought. But I put everything I had into that story, and I'm very proud of it. I would love it if it eventually joined the fantasy or science-fantasy canon, as something to read,
<ksr> like MacDonald's Lilith or Lindsay's "A Voyage to Arcturus," two weirdo fantasies I love. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: Tolkiens' characters all have a deep history and ancestry, your Mars characters have some of that, did you wish you dug more deeper into that? Or was it enough?
<ksr> I couldn't do the ancestry thing, in the format of a single novel (even three volumes). Also the relevance isn't there. As for their histories, the more the better, but I think I got it about right. The main characters can be pretty well known by readers. next
<Xoanon> Tehanu asks: What was the 'seed' for the Mars Trilogy?
<ksr> I like to backpack in the mountains above treeline. One time I was researching Mars for "The Memory of Whiteness," and got "The Surface of Mars" by Michael Carr, at that time the bible for Mars people.
<ksr> I looked at one of their stereo-vision photos of a Martian canyon, and it came into 3-D focus for me, and I was simply amazed. It was like Earth but also unearthly. I thought, that would be a great place to backpack. It all followed from that. next
<Xoanon> Stoltz asks: What led you to the creation of the Lift?It seems a truly original idea
<ksr> No, it was introduced to science fiction by Arthur Clarke and Charles Sheffield, in novels published simultaneously (it so often happens that way!) in 1978. They got the idea from tech papers in the tech literature.
<ksr> That's why the two ends of my lift are called Clarke and Sheffield. I particularly liked Sheffield since it's a town in England already. And Charles was a huge help with tech questions of all kinds. next
<Xoanon> 4 Only 15 minutes left in the chat, get your Q's in now!
<Xoanon> Breelander asks: What do you think of Douglas Adams and his work?
<ksr> I laughed a lot listening to the radio shows long ago. That's all I know of his work, really. But I remember him being very funny, which is a really good thing to be. next
<Xoanon> Stoltz asks: Which character that you dreated would you love to meet?
<ksr> Maybe Maya, or Zo. But I'm not sure I'm brave enough. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: Were you at all influenced by any Sci-fi TV shows when you were young?
<ksr> Not really. I hardly ever watched TV when I was young, my parents had restrictions, and also I wasn't interested.
<ksr> The only part of all that I liked was Spock. I didn't even see many Star Treks, maybe parts of half a dozen altogether, but I thought Spock was hilarious, and I still think he's a great image of The Scientist.
<ksr> That kind of human that pretends they can be objective, etc. Being scientific, or trying, while also full of the usual complement of emotions. Very funny. But even there, more the idea of him than the actual screen time. I'm basically a print-oriented person. Still see very few movies, and don't care about them really. It's just books for me. next
<Xoanon> Narie asks: In your opinion, what are the basic foundations for Sci-Fi? both concept and author wise
<ksr> I think it's simply fiction set in our future. If it's that, it's science fiction.
<ksr> Science itself doesn't necessarily have to come into it. It usually does because...
<ksr> it looks like the future is going to be heavily influence by science. But if you posit a future in which religion takes over the world in the year 2002, that's still science fiction.
<ksr> A more accurate name would be 'future fiction,' but I like the name it has, because it has very great power in it (in the Tolkien sense of power names).
<ksr> As for the writers, start with Wells, Verne, Zamiatin, and go on from there, through all the decades, each full of good writers. next
<Xoanon> Nigral asks: In the trilogy, you imagine a form of worldwide wrist internet connection, are you on the Net alot, and what do you do if you are?
<ksr> No, I'm hardly ever on the net (as Xoanon found out...). I do think it will come to Dick
<Xoanon> lol
<ksr> Tracy wristwatches with internet powers, if they can solve the power question. But
<ksr> I probably won't use many of those. I like to spend what time I am not writing, outdoors. In fact I like to write outdoors. I still haven't found any good use for the internet except for e-mail, which I love. next
<Xoanon> Xoanon asks: Was your having the Psychiatrist, Michel, on Mars as the only one having 'Home Sickness' a bout of Irony or sillyness for you?
<ksr> Yes. "The Doctor is Sick"--a common theme, no doubt about it.
<ksr> It did seem to me that people interested in classical psychiatry might be just the sort of ones to be thinking a bit too much to prosper on Mars, in such a small group. next
<Xoanon> last question
<Xoanon> and this one is very very important
<Xoanon> Tastes great? or less filling?
<ksr> The best single malt you mean? always both!!
<Xoanon> lol
<Xoanon> my man!
<Xoanon> alright mr. Robinson
<ksr> my fingers need some right now.....
<Tehanu> total confusion from NZ
<Xoanon> It's been a very nice experience having you today
<Xoanon> all the folks here wish you luck with your novel and thank you very much!


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