Utopian Science Fiction: Kim Stanley Robinson Shows the Way

By Shlomo Maital  

The Ministry for the Future. By Kim Stanley Robinson.

  ‎ Orbit (October 6, 2020)    577 pages.

    Let’s face it.  Science fiction writers are generally doom-and-gloom.  1984?  Brave New World?  They extrapolate negative trends in today’s worlds, into apocalypse in the future.

    But Kim Stanley Robinson is different.  He is one of a small group of science fiction writers who are, in a sense, ‘utopian’ – they show us a better future and how to achieve it, with a real road map. 

    The Ministry for the Future is a ministry whose function it is, globally, to represent future generations, a la Greta Thunberg.  Why?   When decisions are made only by and for those alive today, our unborn children and grandchildren and their voices are unheard, silent.  Someone must speak for them, with authority.  So why not a cabinet minister?  With real power! And money!

     The book begins with a horrific heat wave in India, that kills people.  And little by little, Robinson shows, step by step, how the climate catastrophe can be mitigated, one baby step at a time, with the Future Minister intervening to fund every small idea that helps. 

     In a National Public Radio interview (The New Yorker podcast),  Robinson was asked about baby steps or giant steps.  He does not believe in ‘giant steps’ – huge leaps forward.  They don’t work.  But he does believe in incremental policies, many of them, implemented relentlessly, globally,  step by step, over time.   He recounts hiking in the high Sierras, near a favorite mountain range, with eight glaciers, and every one has melted, except one last glacier, which will be gone too in three years. 

   This is Robinson’s 20th novel.  He calls them political fiction, because they are futuristic but show practical pragmatic ways to deal with humanity’s existential problems.

   I plan to read the other 19, for sure.