"How to go forward": Catastrophe and Comedy in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital Trilogy

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Abstract

Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital trilogy dramatizes how climate change profoundly unsettles traditional understandings of ecology and politics. By treating science as an integral part of an ethical and spiritual-rather than instrumental-solution to environmental crisis, Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, and Sixty Days and Counting depict an ongoing project of national, as well as spiritual, renewal. Drawing on work in climatology, bioinformatics, and neuroscience, as well as Buddhist philosophy and American Transcendentalist thought, Robinson sets large-scale remediation efforts to restart the stalled Gulf Stream against intersecting narratives of romance and political intrigue in twenty-firstcentury Washington, D.C. In the figure of Frank Vanderwal, a National Science Foundation scientist at the center of both scientific efforts to deal with the consequences of abrupt climate change and covert political struggles, the novelist dramatizes the tensions-between mind and body, love and work, frustration and activism, and insecurity and commitment-that define the means and the obstacles to a hard-won, eco-cultural transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-27
Number of pages21
JournalConfigurations
Volume20
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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