Design Fiction

Currently reading The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. ๐Ÿ“š I have read a few of Robinson’s other books and found them wanting, but here I realize I may have been approaching them incorrectly. They don’t work by the usual rules of literature, or here even really by the rules of genre fiction. This book is a design fiction about the potential ways in which we will or will not respond to the climate crisis. As such it is free to move from character to character, place to place, and even from year to year within the 21st century. The first chapter is a somewhat notorious set piece involving a heat wave in India which exceeds the survivable wet bulb temperature. So, it seems Robinson is going to give it to us straight. But no, here’s what’s mystifying: in the first half of the book there are plenty of notes of scientific skepticism about carbon capture, cap and trade, and other mitigation strategies, including refreezing glacial runoff, which is noted might only reduce sea level rise by a centimeter or so, if boundless resources were put behind it. But then later in the book CO2 levels begin to drop dramatically, and quite quickly, without good explanation. It’s not that the book is too optimistic โ€”ย it simply avoids realities of which Robinson has already signalled he is well aware.