Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The structure of THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR

I have been re-reading the SCHROEDINGER'S CAT trilogy, and when I finished THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR, I realized I had seen a similar structure somewhere else.

During the 1980s, I read a trilogy of novels by California writer Kim Stanley Robinson, all set in a future California, that is referred to as the "Orange County trilogy" or the "California trilogy." THE WILD SHORE (1984) is set in a U.S. which has been largely wiped out by nuclear bombs smuggled into the U.S., so it could be read as a dystopia. THE GOLD COAST is a future California very much like the present. PACIFIC EDGE (1988) is a utopia.

THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR has a very similar structure, published in one volume. The first section could be read as a dystopia (it ends with a terrorist group setting off bombs all over the U.S.) The second section is a kind of funhouse mirror of the present. The third rather short section is a utopia. Wilson's book came out in 1979, so it predates Robinson's works. I know nothing about whether Robinson could have gotten the idea for the structure of his own work from Wilson, whether it is just coincidence or whether both writers got the idea from an earlier work.

Interestingly, both writers lived in California at the same time and both were very familiar with the work of Philip K. Dick (Robinson wrote a book about Dick and has lectured about him). I once saw Robinson on a panel at a science fiction convention with another of my favorite writers, George Alec Effinger, and when they shook hands before the panel I wondered if that was the first time they had met. I don't know if Wilson and Robinson ever met.

3 comments:

Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

Novelist Paul Chuey called _Schroedinger's Cat_ a "pornographic quantum mechanics textbook." Another friend it to _Alice in Wonderland_, with the reader as Alice.

michael said...

A huge ambivalent thanks to you, Jackson, for the head's up on Kim Stanley Robinson's Orange County Trilogy: more "work" for moi! (But I DO so love it!)

RAW was particularly glad about New Scientist's John Gribbin's review of the SCT.

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