KIM STANLEY ROBINSON IS BEST KNOWN for his monumental science fiction trilogies about the terraforming of Mars (1992-95) and reversing the global climate crisis (2004-07), and his most recent, Galileo's Dream (2009). Yet back before the mainstream culturati granted science fiction their seal of approval, Robinson produced one of the great achievements not only of the genre, but of modern California writing. In Three Californias, science fiction, adventure, ecofiction, utopian dreaming, and social realism mesh in a Zen-inflected political vision distinctively Californian. Each novel tells a different version of the future of Orange County. In The Wild Shore (1984), historical development has been reversed by a massive neutron-bomb attack on the U.S. The Gold Coast (1988) depicts a barely displaced extrapolation of 80s development. Most of the region has undergone hyperdevelopment, freeways are built in complex stacks, and only the rich have access to open undeveloped land; the local economy depends on defense industries and drug trafficking. In the final piece of the triptych, Pacific Edge (1990), citizen action has produced laws limiting the growth and influence of corporations; localities establish codes and customs to reclaim previously developed land and to manage natural systems with rational, democratic trade and governance. Utopian social arrangements are in place, a ceiling is placed on income and exploitation, work and politics are based in face-to-face relationships, and daily life revolves around mundane, un-heroic activities like community softball. Each book involves subtle echoes of the others — some characters and events appear in each — but each future has its own sharply distinctive style.
— Istvan Csicsery-Ronay
Out the window is the single stretch of California's coast left undeveloped: the center of U.S. Marine Camp Joseph H. Pendleton. Dark hills, a narrow coastal plain cut by dry ravines, covered with dark brush. Grass gray in the moonlight. Something about it is so quiet, so empty, so pure.... My God, he thinks... The land. A pang of loss pierces him: this land that they live on, under its caking of concrete and steel and light — it was a beautiful place once. And now there's no way back.
— from The Gold Coast
Kim Stanley Robinson: It began with a single notion: I was driving from UC San Diego to Orange County in 1971, having recently discovered science fiction. As I drove through Camp Pendleton I was struck by how empty the land there remained, and then when I hit the border of Orange County, San Clemente suddenly surrounded me, and I saw that different histories do different things to the land. It occurred to me that if I set three science fiction novels in Orange County, I could show how the land was different as a result. Three obvio...read more