by Kim Stanley Robinson on May 14, 2021

When I attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop in 1975, our first teacher Samuel R. Delany gave us some advice: don’t respond to critics. It never does any good. Don’t even write reviews.

It was good advice, and I’ve followed it ever since. But here I am. Did I make a mistake? Maybe so.

On the other hand, I’ve published a lot of non-fiction in recent years. What was I saying in those pieces? Couldn’t I respond like that?

Maybe so. Quite a bit of my non-fiction consists of appreciations of other writers, like this one of Gene Wolfe. These were expressions of love.

And I’ve answered lots of interview questions. These were like conversations. There’s no harm in love or conversation.

So I’m going to try this: I’ll happily express my appreciation for all the generous giving of time and thought that I see in the responses below; and I’ll do my best to answer any questions they ask. If there are complaints about my book (and there are), I’ll stick to my long-time practice, and hold my tongue.

Oliver Morton — On Solar Geoengineering and Kim Stanley Robinson

I appreciate Oliver Morton’s response, and all his books, which I’ve greatly enjoyed. My favorite is Eating the Sun, but the one most relevant to this discussion is The Planet Remade, a great meditation on geoengineering, in particular solar radiation modification, SRM.

The Paris Agreement doesn’t forbid geoengineering, so I don’t know why I wrote that in chapter 4 of Ministry. Efforts to establish some kind of treaty regime are sure to be very slow-going. In the meantime, if India suffered a catastrophically fatal heat wave, no one would have any legal or moral standing to complain about them acting in their own defense.

The dust I had India casting was identified in the text as sulphur dioxide. I’ve since learned that other kinds of dust are being studied that might serve better, as being less damaging to the ozone layer. Think limestone, or diamond dust. And planes would work to get it up there, or so my sources say.

Many people worry that any act of SRM would inevitably create a “thermal shock” when the casting of dust ended. Andreas Malm mentions this in a defense of his book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which includes some discussion of my Ministry. He explains the logic of this worry: if you were to keep casting dust into the high atmosphere year after year, while also continuing to burn fossil fuels, then any cessation of the casting would cause an especially brutal rise in subsequent global temperatures. Possibly true, but this is just one scenario, the dangers of which have then been generalized to all scenarios. This kind of worry drift happens quite often in any discussion of geoengineering. The worst plans with the worst consequences are taken as the norm.

Maybe the shock of realizing we are undeniably in the Anthropocene, responsible for protecting the biosphere from ourselves, and obliged to save what we can of it for our descendants and all other living creatures, has caused a period of confusion and dismay. It makes sense; it’s a heavy burden, and given humanity’s sorry track record so far, it seems all too possible we will screw things up again, even when trying to fix them. In this unhappy moment of overwhelmed realization, distinctions seem to get lost. Good plans get dragged down with bad plans in the general flailing.

For me, the really interesting geoengineering in Ministry is the Antarctic work of pumping water out from under the quickest-moving glaciers. This has no apparent negative consequences, and it might help to slow down sea level rise, which is an otherwise intractable problem.

An Antarctic glaciologist told about this idea, and I put it in Ministry under the impression that it was something new. But recently I ran into this: I was amazed. That the proposal was analyzed and advocated for in Nature, in 2018, is great news for the beaches of the world, which are otherwise doomed. The preliminary study looks promising, and I hope this project begins as soon as possible.

Suresh Naidu — This Is How It Gets Better

“A Frankenstein-like quilt of political coalitions”: I like this description of the world system in the years to come. There won’t be a master plan appearing to save the day, and whatever people try, there will be a lot of resistance to it. Also a lot of infighting among people who should be allies.

I met Suresh Naidu at a conference at Stanford, and in following his work since, I’ve seen some of what the cutting edge of progressive economics is doing. Because of that, I appreciate his take on Ministry’s fictional events, which straddle the border of economics and political economy, the latter always projective and speculative. This isn’t a zone that many economists seem comfortable exploring.

He asked if simple cash payments for carbon sequestering would work as well or better than making up a digital carbon coin. I don’t know, and would like to hear more discussions of that, by him and others in his community.

I’m curious to know whether two terms he used, parecon and mondragon, are common usage in economics circles, or if he’s just referring to alternative political economies that have appeared in my novels. I’m hoping the former.

Concerning the carbon coin idea, I got the idea from a paper by Delton Chen. Recently I learned of the existence of the Network for Greening the Financial System, an organization of 89 of the world’s central banks, including all the major ones. They’ve put out a paper describing nine ways that central banks can tilt money toward green projects. I wondered if Chen’s carbon coin idea, as described in my novel, serves in effect as a kind of symbol for these nine strategies, or if it would be a tenth strategy. It would be good to see this discussed, perhaps by a group that Suresh Naidu is associated with, called Economists for Inclusive Prosperity.

In general I’d like to see that group get more involved with theorizing a new improved political economy, rather than just analyzing tweaks to the current system. But we need the tweaks too, so to each their own patch of the broad front. I’m grateful for Suresh Naidu’s work.

Maria Farrell — What Is Only Ours to Give

In the list of mistakes I’ve become aware of making in Ministry, using the word blockchain is prominent. I should have said “encrypted digital money,” or even just “digital encryption.” The computing experts I’ve spoken to, a pretty big group at this point, have often assured me that blockchain as such doesn’t require the huge “proof of work” action demanded by the designers of bitcoin. Nor, they told me, is it a particularly great form of encryption; they judge it as code to be (perhaps deliberately) awkward, and very likely to be superseded in years to come.

I share Maria Farrell’s disgust at bitcoin, which has spurred a large and completely unnecessary carbon burn on the part of people hoping to make money from nothing. Blockchain exists under a cloud of suspicion and dislike because of its connection to bitcoin, and it will have to be shown to be useful for other purposes or it will die with bitcoin, which I hope will pop like the speculative bubble it is, the sooner the better. Future evolutions in encryption and forms of money will hopefully work better for people and biosphere.

In that hope, calling the computer world “a hard-right haven of male libertarians” strikes me as a bit harsh. When I visit Silicon Valley, the people there seem to me odd, often obsessed, often heavily involved in various gift economies; intellectuals, working in capitalist enterprises; in short, they remind me of university professors. I hope the ones giving their time to the construction of new open-source digital commons, and platforms devoted to the public good, fare well in their efforts. We’ll need them if we’re to get to a better place.

Todd Tucker — Ministry for your Future Soul

“Start with the outcome, then work backward through what it would take to get there”: yes. Utopian novels often begin this way, maybe all novels.

I appreciate Todd Tucker’s description of Ministry, in particular the references to Gramsci and 1848. Those locate me me in a discourse space I’m familiar with and understand.

I also appreciate his format of asking questions, for reasons explained in my opening.


How reliant is my theory of change on MMT? I’m not sure. I would say I’ve based this novel’s scenario mainly on a kind of left Keynesianism, in Joan Robinson style; but maybe that’s what MMT is too. Like Todd Tucker, I very much approve of MMT’s insistence on a Job Guarantee. That guarantee clarifies the stakes involved. Maybe rapid carbon sequestration will require such enormous amounts of human labor that full employment will be achieved. I’d like to read more discussions of this possibility among economists and those doing political economy.

Would MMT be just a first step on the way to more just and sustainable systems? I think so, but we need that first step.

What about leaving black rocks in the ground and thereby making money? Nice work if you can get it, right? I suppose I was thinking of easements. Of course who owns the coal then becomes the question. If it were treated like water is now, under California’s new law SGMA—declared a public good, in other words, and regulated under the common ownership of a citizenry, then possibly it would be the people of West Virginia who would get paid for not burning coal. That would eventually require lots of money, but if it were fixed to a physical quantity of carbon, rather than financialized to infinity as with bank loans and so on, it might not crash trust in money. Amortized over time, it could be a good way to deal with the social costs of keeping coal in the ground.

For the question concerning blockchain, see my reply to Maria Farrell.

For the question concerning the possibility or need for violence in any successful replacement of capitalism, see my response to Belle Waring.

For the questions concerning human population, please see my response to John Quiggin.

As for strikes and their utility, quite a few are described in this novel, but having featured them as the climax of the plots in New York 2140 and Red Moon, I didn’t do that this time. On this topic, I’ve learned much from Erica Chenoweth’s Why Civil Resistance Works, Peter Dickinson’s A Summer in the Twenties, and Joshua Clover’s Riot Strike Riot.

Thank you for asking about Frank. He is damaged and isolated, also self-isolating, and thus relatively ineffective as a political actor. Although by working with refugees on a volunteer basis, he does what he can given his problems.

I take a personal interest in PTSD. Everyone is post-traumatic eventually. You don’t have to reflect long to find your own traumas. But not everyone suffers from the stress disorder that often follows the trauma. How do some people cope with their trauma, while others are shattered by it? This is mysterious and individual; maybe it’s a question that can’t be answered. Mary has reasons for thinking about this as the novel proceeds, but can come to no conclusions. Anyway, I don’t find anything risible about Frank, but admire his stubbornness in doing what he can with what he has, even after making huge mistakes. It’s a sad story.

John Quiggin — Half the Earth?

To John Quiggin, thanks for bringing up the animals, our horizontal brothers and sisters. Also the Half Earth plan to save them from a mass extinction event.

Right now only about three percent of the living flesh on the planet is wild; the other 97 percent is us and our domesticated food animals. This is the crisis of biodiversity, the slide into an anthropogenic mass extinction event. Were one to happen, Earth’s biosphere would not recover for millions of years; its current diversity would be unrecoverable by the people who follow us no matter what their GWP happens to be. So it needs to be attended to, and the Half Earth plan, derived from calculations out of island biogeography, is the best plan we have for dealing with this immediate crisis.

As John Quiggin points out, progress in this area has been made with surprising speed, because it turns out the whole world is somewhat like Australia—there’s a lot of land that could be protected for the sake of the animals. A good new book describing the history of this project, and the current work being done on it, is Rescuing the Planet, by Tony Hiss. The idea is rapidly being taken up, not just as a utopian wish, but as a necessary part of civilization’s survival. I’m surprised and encouraged by the acceleration of progress in this project. 30 by 30 is an exciting plan.

People have made the excellent point that “pure wilderness” with no humans living in it is a peculiar concept historically and in the present, and I trust my book makes it clear that all kinds of protected land under a variety of regulatory and ecological regimes would be best, following a general principle I like of avoiding either/or when you can find a both/and. In this case I recommend looking at the land use categories defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an admirable organization for stimulating thought and action, at

Concerning the size of the human population, I recommend A Planet of Three Billion by Christopher Tucker, current head of the American Geographical Society. It takes on the question asked in the great book by Joel Cohen, How Many People Can the Earth Support? with some new findings and methods. What it describes as a project is a world in which the more women are empowered, the lower the birth rate. That’s a double good, being both moral and practical. The project Tucker describes is now afoot, to bend the global birth rate below the replacement rate by 2030, almost entirely by empowering women. 1.5 by 30.

Olufemi Taiwo – What’s In Our Way?

Olufemi Taiwo and I did a Zoom panel together recently, and I’ve been thinking since about what he said. What I take from that event, and his text here, is that inequality created by the colonialist racist last several centuries still manifests in everything, including how we respond to climate change. Capital is still heavily concentrated in the US and the developed countries, and capital is rarely given away by those who have it. So when push comes to shove, international treaties get ignored, and there is no sheriff to enforce them. So the Paris Agreement could easily turn into something like the League of Nations, a good idea that failed.

That seems undeniable, and is good to remember.

I hope Ministry pays attention to that reality. The future it depicts is a chaos in which good and bad are mixed, not so much intertwined as coming in rapid alternation (this is partly a narrative issue of one sentence and scene at a time). There’s a lot of violence in it, including the slow violence of capitalism. It sticks with India, which stays important to the world history outlined in the book, even though the novel is mostly set in Zurich. It’s true that some big changes in my fictional future happen in India, and are therefore somewhat off-stage for my main characters. But why not? It’s a multi-cultural country with a lot of political energy. Of course it could go wrong, but that’s true everywhere; and things are happening there that could turn out to be good for everybody. That’s the story this novel tells. I don’t want to be put into a lose-lose situation where if I speak of central banks, it’s a novel about the elite of the elites saving the world; but if I speak of India, that’s putting the hard work of saving the world on far-away people of color. I wanted to describe a process that included both these phenomena, led by India. Both parts have to work for any real success to be achieved.

The Paris Agreement insists on climate equity. Developed nations are to pay more than developing nations to cope with the damage of climate change. Will that actually happen? Achieving it would mean something like what is graphed in this analysis, made by one the crafters of the Paris Agreement:

What this suggests has to happen—a giant pay-out by the US in particular—is sobering indeed. But the calculation has been made, the Paris Agreement was signed by all nations, its promises now exists. Time to make everyone keep these promises, especially the developed nations.

A difficult story to believe in, yes. But it’s the world telling it now, not my novel; and it’s worth telling. The Paris Agreement is real, so all the nations have already made certain commitments, and the pressure’s on to make more.

Thanks to Olufemi Taiwo for holding up this future, and all our stories, to the reality principle of history and our current moment. And I appreciate the reminder not to shoot the messenger on these points.

Jessica Green — Can the World’s Bankers Really Save the Climate?

Thanks to Jessica Green for her detailed descriptions of the novel’s green quantitative easing plans.

As to her article’s title, which asks a question, I can answer it quickly: no. Bankers can’t really save the climate. And that’s not the story my novel tells.

Regarding mass actions, I refer you back to chapters 35, 39, 41, 55, 60, 65, 69, 73, 75, 82, 85, 101, and 103. There you will find:

a spontaneous riot, an illegal kidnapping of Davos, citizen solidarity in the face of a drought, a Paris Commune-type month of mass takeover, worker strikes all over the world, a mine takeover as part of Africa for African campaign, a military coup, an animal stampede organized by people, student fiscal strikes in America, mass demonstrations in China, an organized sabotage campaign, the revolutionary establishment of new nations, a list of over a hundred citizen groups already defending the biosphere, a thirty-year off-and-on city strike, a worldwide citizen’s religious demonstration/party, and more.

Can mass action take a variety of forms? Yes. How can novels portray such various events? Lots of ways beyond mere dramatization. Alex Woloch’s The One vs. the Many is very good on how to deploy minor characters in a novel with low protagonicity, as he calls it, in order to portray mass historical actions.

Henry Farrell — Technocracy and Empire

I appreciate Henry Farrell’s initial description of my novel, and agree with it, until he begins to categorize what the novel is concerned with, where I become confused. “His imagined world is one that is dominated by markets and technocracy.” I balk at this, as the implication is that I’m leaving something out; and I don’t like markets, which systemically misprice things. But with some transcoding, maybe I can follow him.

Since the Mars trilogy, I’ve been describing history as a struggle between science and capitalism. It’s very Manichean, but I’ll stick with it as a rough cut, enabling all kinds of further work. Using these terms, I can transcode what Henry Farrell says by defining technocracy as the political effectiveness of science, and markets as a manifestation of capitalism. Yes, my imagined world is dominated by capitalism and science. And so is the real world. But markets always misprice things, and are an instrument of capitalist power, so they must be defeated. So: technocracy defeating markets? Okay, I can accept that as a description of my novel.

Another transcoding: finance and the state. Joseph Vogl’s The Ascendancy of Finance describes very persuasively the history of the state and finance as two parts of a single power system, of the post-Westphalian nation-state variety—always hand in hand, but arm-wrestling for control. Mauricio Lazzarato’s Governing By Debt makes a strong case that in the neoliberal era, finance has decisively whipped the state in this struggle for control, the state having been transformed by its debt to finance into an outsourced and semi-privatized instrument of finance’s overweening power. Whether the great quantitative easings of 2008-12, and now 2020-to present (and future), would complicate Lazzarato’s conclusions in his disturbing book, only he can say. But for me, persuaded by these and many other studies, the state both legitimates and enforces finance’s power, and is at the same time a site of contestation, in which people struggle for power. Finance tries to rule the state because ultimately the state has the upper hand (I think), as it represents the people and sets the laws. If the state were to declare finance (meaning capital and markets) to belong to the people, this would represent a seizure of the power of capital from the one percent (really more like ten percent, but you know who I mean) by the representatives of the people. Finance therefore has to try to control the state, because if the state controlled finance, then at any time the promise of the state to represent its people might be made real, and the ninety percent of the precariat could then dispossess the rich ten percent, and spread their power and wealth in a democratic way. Robert Meister writes about this possibility—basically a revolution in the form of a legal coup, which is simply to say new legislation passed—in his new book Justice Is an Option: A Democratic Theory of Finance for the Twenty-first Century.

One version of this state seizure of the power of finance is told in Ministry. Central banks, under pressure from people and events (see list in reply to Jessica Green), create new fiat money to pay people for sequestering carbon, that being used as an index for other good biosphere work. This is precisely not a market solution, but rather a disabling of markets as the deciders of where capital should be expended—because markets always direct capital to the highest rate of return, which means more capital accumulation by the rich. This plot recognizes that the invisible hand never picks up the check, and it tells the story of overriding that particular legal system called the market, by way of a government-directed spree of biosphere-helping stimulus spending. Zachary Carter’s The Price of Peace provides an excellent history of this kind of Keynesian mixed-economy power exerted in the twentieth century, and Meister’s book is an attempt to describe what it might look like in the near future. Modern Monetary Theory is another such attempt.

So, I’d like to see Henry Farrell’s own alternative evaluation of the major determinants of the next few decades expressed more fully (perhaps in a novel!) so I can understand him better. If he’s saying a good future can’t possibly happen because of capital, or because of imperial (American) power, I disagree. But all the transcoding I’ve had to apply here may have confused me. I feel on the outside of a discourse space unfamiliar to me.

For now, I would hope that Ministry resists all reductive abstractions, single-angle analysis, and political science. Because the disciplines discipline.

Belle Waring — The Sudden Tempest of Ultimate Summer

I like Belle Waring’s response. I appreciate it very much.

It starts poetic, therefore impressionistic and suggestive. Then it’s novelistic, in that she imagines herself, as readers do, into a scene; this time one in which an airplane is shot down by climate terrorists, and her comforting her daughters as the plane goes down; this is harrowing, what I call a “needle in the eyeball” moment; it sticks with you. Obviously it should be a scene in the book, and I add it to three or four other scenes suggested to me by readers since the book came out. It’s a somewhat melancholy pleasure, compiling this list: chapter 107, tremendous, 108, stunning; 109, 110, 111—never to be written by me, even though they would make the book better. Belle Waring’s scene would make it shockingly better, in that people would be shocked. On the other hand, putting all the attendees at Davos against a wall and shooting them, even with paper bullets of the brain—I don’t think so. Just a feeling.

So, living into a novel while reading it. I do that myself. Then her response becomes analytic in the more usual way, providing an X-ray of the book’s structure. A surface novel and an under novel: yes. The novel’s attitude toward what level of violence might acceptable in resisting the destructive power of capitalism is a crucial thing, but I didn’t feel comfortable judging this myself. I tried to get out of the way and let the world speak, because this is a world where we live our daily lives under the rule of law, while at the same time robot machines drop from the sky and kill people elsewhere. The decision to kill is made extra-judicially by people acting in our names, supposedly to defend us, or the system we live in (not at all the same thing). So Americans already live in the double structure of my novel, and it wasn’t just me avoiding answering the question of justifiable violence in resistance to this horrid system. We live this question daily, we are in collusion, compliance, subalternity, pick your abstraction—guilt? Shame?

Also, I was playing the game of forms. Even in a novel about such grim stuff, there should be pleasure. For me some of that came from making a game of forms. So the surface novel is Mary’s story, about what we could achieve by legal means; then there’s Badim’s story, obscure enough that the reader has to stay alert for clues as to what’s happening there. This is not unusual, all detective novels operate this way; but this time there aren’t enough clues. The reader has to shift from being a detective to being a co-novelist, concocting their own version of what Badim might have done or authorized. In that process readers have to consider what they themselves might sanction, given the world’s desperate situation.

That Belle Waring saw this structure indicates that it must be there, and legible, which is good to know. That she responded to it so generously (because it could be seen as merely evasive) is something for which I am very grateful.

What I would have commented on, if asked, is the game of forms, the literary game. Lots of modes in this book, in a bricolage, perhaps to imitate the confusion of history and make readers be historians as well as ethicists. Novels always do this.

The riddles came to me from Anglo-Saxon. About a third of remaining Anglo-Saxon literature consists of riddles, and many are structured so that there can be more than one right answer, as in puns. Scholars still argue about whether the answer to one of them is an angel or a grasshopper; that was surely deliberate, a joke. A surface answer and an under answer.

The “IT narrative” was a fad in eighteenth century England, in which a coin or a violin or an atom would tell its story, proceeding through the world, and usually through someone’s digestive tract, with amazement but with little to no agency, which I take it is why the genre died off.

The dialogues between the smooth host and the grumpy guest I got from a book called Orwell at the BBC. Included are some transcripts of Orwell hosting a weekly radio show on books, broadcast during the war. A repeat guest on this show was the literary critic William Empson, whose frequent rudeness always bounced right off Orwell. This struck me funny, and I thought it could be put to use.

Meeting notes: having dramatized quite a few bureaucratic meetings in my career, it seemed to me it would be a relief to all to convey these by notes alone.

Essays, encyclopedia articles, political rants, historical summaries, op-ed pieces: these are all genres with specific norms. They are also forms that fiction can use. Including them in a novel might add to what Barthes called the effect of the real, but even if they don’t, they do create variety, and the chance to play with pastiche and parody.

There is a spine of dramatized scenes, mostly focused on Mary and Frank. Very important, still the basic unit of fiction. Then also the opposite of dramatization, summarization; this was a staple of nineteenth century realist novels, and is still very useful—not to be jettisoned, much less despised, no matter how unfashionable some people now find it.

Lastly, and for me the great discovery for Ministry, is the eyewitness account. This too is a genre, I think under-recognized and theorized as such. Eyewitness accounts are more summarization than dramatization; they are telling not showing, thus reversing one of the Three Stupid Rules of MFA creative writing programs (see The Program Era, by Mark McGurl). Eyewitness accounts are often the result of interviews; the eyewitnesses are usually recalling something that happened many years before, which has since been judged significant. So they make judgments; they tell us what they think the event meant to the world, and what it meant to them in their lives after it happened. They tell their story with urgency and often great propulsive force. Something they saw, and often did, later proved important not just to them, but to the world!

When I understood this genre’s potential for my project, I began to collect and read anthologies of eyewitness accounts. Swansong 1945, by Walter Kempowski, was a very powerful example. The more I read, the more impressed I became by the potential of this form for fictional purposes. I began to make lists of who might see what; I began speaking in tongues. Despite all, including occasional waves of dread, these chapters lifted and carried me through this book. Are there mistakes, inaccuracies, omissions? Of course. There should be more eyewitnesses, in my book and in the world. But this Frankenstein-like quilt (thank you again Suresh), stitched together from so many disparate parts, in the end seemed to clomp away from me toward the Arctic, and I was happy. Go little book.

Thanks again to all. yrs, Stan



Brett 05.14.21 at 5:56 pm

Excellent and fascinating replies to the essays!

I really enjoy these book seminar events at Crooked Timber. I just wish the comments were a bit more fluid – the moderation delay really slows them down.


tony prost 05.14.21 at 7:56 pm

I don’t know why H. sapiens expects to survive the current mass extinction.


Kiwanda 05.14.21 at 9:12 pm

The “IT narrative” was a fad in eighteenth century England, in which a coin or a violin or an atom would tell its story,

See also the Reader’s Digest “I am Joe’s Body” series (pdf), which included “I am Joe’s Man Gland” (disappointingly, at the link, it’s just “Testis”), and some of Jane’s organs as well.


JimV 05.15.21 at 12:49 pm

I enjoyed the linked review of Gene Wolfe. I guess by proxy I have read Marcel Proust and others of the long list of influences. (I did read Rex Stout and Hemingway.)

Those “Slingshot Endings” always implied to me that there would be sequels. It is a bit of a disappointment that they were just contrivances. I guess what matters is the great scenes and characters along the way, though.


Tim Worstall 05.16.21 at 3:02 pm

“The “IT narrative” was a fad in eighteenth century England, in which a coin or a violin or an atom would tell its story, proceeding through the world, and usually through someone’s digestive tract, with amazement but with little to no agency,”

Well, yes, a famous example or twist on the theme from the 1950s being “I Pencil” which rather speaks to this:

“But markets always misprice things, and are an instrument of capitalist power, so they must be defeated.”

Or as was the conclusion of an earlier book seminar around here, Red Plenty. Even if all capital was state directed they’d have to leave a market economy around somewhere just so they’d know what the correct price was.


Stephen Frug 05.16.21 at 5:00 pm

Obviously it should be a scene in the book, and I add it to three or four other scenes suggested to me by readers since the book came out. It’s a somewhat melancholy pleasure, compiling this list: chapter 107, tremendous, 108, stunning; 109, 110, 111—never to be written by me, even though they would make the book better.

Given that they would make the book better, why not just… write them? You could post them online (I bet an SF magazine would even pay you for the privilege, but if not, you could just put them somewhere). People who were reading or rereading the novel could incorporate them into the proper places. Then, if there was ever a second edition (not just a second printing, but a proper new edition) they could be incorporated into the text. Samuel R. Delany had a chapter cut from Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders; he posted it online, and then when he prepared a new edition he added it to the text. I know writing is work; but the book is so good, surely it’s worth it to make it better?

(I would say the same thing, mutatis mutandis, about fixing errors—such as saying “blockchain” when upon reflection you should have said “digital encryption”. Why not post an errata list somewhere? Readers could assemble the perfected text in their heads until a revised edition could be brought out.)


Bill Benzon 05.16.21 at 8:29 pm

@Stephen Frug: Sounds like you’re a half-step away from fan fiction, fans telling their own stories in the universe KSR created for Ministry.

I thought of something like that for New York 2140. Take the same universe, but 10 years later, and center the story on Kisangani, to yield Kisangani 2150.

Why Kisangani? First, because it’s in a different part of the world from New York. It’s in central Africa and high enough that it wouldn’t be affected by the sea rise. Second, a literary reason: It used to be called Stanleyville and is the location of the Central Station in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

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