Friday, June 29, 2012

Obscure References

In a follow up to yesterday’s post, here are two things that I’ve learned about by listening to podcasts of Kim Stanley Robinson talking about 2312:
  1. Andy Goldsworthy. Swan, one of the main characters of 2312, is an artist who produces works called “goldsworthies”with natural materials. This is a tribute to the artist Andy Goldsworthy, who creates “site-specific sculptures and land art.” Here’s one of many good YouTube videos of his work.
  2. Ascensions. Most of the travel in 2312 isn’t done in spaceships, but in hollowed out and terraformed asteroids called Ascensions. This is a reference to Ascension Island in the middle of the South Atlantic, which used to be a barren but which was transformed when Joseph Hooker (with encouragement from Charles Darwin) started to plant trees on the island, transforming the “cinder island” into a tropical cloud forest. It's in this vein that the asteroids in 2312 are transformed, and in fact many of them serve as sanctuaries for endangered and extinct-on-earth species (animal and botanical). Swan, as a goldsworthy artist, used to create ascensions in her early career, creating asteroids that mixed species from different areas (for example, both Mediterranean and Australian fauna).
All references I would have missed had I not looked for more information on the book and the author, and is a testament to both the scope of Robinson's imagination and the vigor in which he grounds his speculation within a realistic foundation.

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