Marxist Sci Fi was Historical Materialism

Jay Moore pieinsky at
Sun Dec 22 15:18:34 MST 2002

In the "alternative history" genre, I've just finished reading Kim Stanley
Robinson's "The Years of Rice and Salt" (2001).  He's a Marxist of some
sort.  F. Jameson wrote an interpretive essay about Robinson's Mars Trilogy
which I'm still trying to puzzle my way through.  This book is a great read.
The premise is that Europeans die off more or less completely (instead of
1/3 to 1/2) in the Middle Ages due to the Black Death.  Thus, there's no
Columbus or Cortez or Vasco de Gama, etc, etc.  World history develops
instead with the Chinese, Muslim, Hindu (Kerala) and Haudunosaunee cultures
becoming predominant and fighting it out.  Instead of Italy, the Renaissance
and Scientific Revolution take place in Samarkand on the Silk Road.  There's
a Karl Marx-like figure explicating exploitation to the global audience
gaining followers who make proletarian revolutions, except this Marx is
Chinese.  I've also read the first volume of the Mars Trilogy (Red Mars)
which has a neo-Bolshevik figure among the first human settlers of Mars.

Alternative history is fun stuff, and Robinson clearly seems to be using it
to try to open up some imaginative spaces for change.  From what I can tell,
he's one of the more popular, best-selling science fiction writers operating


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