A dialogue between Arkady Bogdanov and John Boone, from “Red Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Here is a small excerpt from Kim Stanley Robinson’s book, “Red Mars”. In my paper back it goes from pages 342 to 344.

This conversation occurs on/in Phobos, one of the moons of Mars, in a room with countless mirrors on the walls and ceiling, and little gravity. It concerns the fate of Mars in terms of whether corporations and the ‘ancien regime’ of Earth institutions will run Mars, or whether the colonists and the novel utopian culture of Mars will decide its future. The “renewal” that begins the conversation is referring to the renewal of an international Earth treaty that has technically governed Mars and how corporations/states can act there since its colonization. Here, John and Arkady muse about corporations and individual nation-states trying to undermine, ignore, or abolish the treaty that articulates Mars as an international commons for scientific research, as opposed to a commercial space for resource extraction.  They reminisce about living as scientist-explorers in the early colonization of Mars, and whether this approximates the ideal hominid circumstances.
The cover art and end lettering is made by my friend Hakanto, who made me a new cover for my novel when i wore the old one out.

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“The renewal is still a few years off, ” John said.
A million Arkadys rolled their eyes. “It’s happening now. Not just in talk, but in what’s happening day-to-day down there. When we first arrived, and for twenty years after that, Mars was like Antarctica but even purer. We were outside the world, we didn’t even own things-some clothes, a lectern, and that was it! Now you know what i think, John. This arrangement resembles the prehistoric way to live, and it therefore feels right to us, because our brains recognize it from three millions of years practicing it. In essence our brains grew to their current configuration in response to the realities of life. So as a response people grow powerfully attached to that kind of life, when they get a chance to live it. It allows you to concentrate your attention on the real work, which means everything that is done to stay alive, or make things, or satisfy one’s curiosity, or play. That is utopia, John, especially for primitives and scientists, which is to say everybody. So a scientific research station is actually a little model of prehistoric utopia, carved out of the transnational money economy by clever primates who want to live well.”
“You’d think everyone would want to join, ” John said.
“Yes, and they might, but it isn’t being offered to them. And that means it wasn’t a true utopia. We clever primate scientists were willing to carve out islands for ourselves, rather than work to create such conditions for everyone. And so in reality, the islands are part of the transnational order. They are paid for, they are never truly free, there is never a case of truly pure research. Because the people who pay for the scientist islands will eventually want a return on their investment. And now we are entering that time. A return is being demanded for our island. We were not doing pure research, you see, but applied research. And with the discovery of strategic metals the application has become clear. And so it all comes back, and we have a return of ownership, and prices, and wages. The whole profit system. The little scientific station is being turned into a mine, with the usual mining attitude toward the land over the treasure. And the scientists are being asked, What you do, how much is it worth? They are being asked to do their work for pay, and the profit of their work is to be given over to the owners of the businesses they are suddenly working for.”
“I don’t work for anyone,” John said.
“Well, but you work on the terraforming project, and who pays for that?”
John tried out Sax’s answer: “The sun.”
Arkady hooted. “Wrong! It’s not the sun and some robots, it’s human time, a lot of it. And those humans have to eat and so on. And so someone is providing for them, for us, because we have not bothered to set up a life where we provide for ourselves.”
John frowned. “Well, in the beginning we had to have that help. That was billions of dollars of equipment flown up here. Lots of work time, like you say.”
“Yes, it’s true. But once we arrived we could have focused all our efforts on making ourselves self-sufficient and independent, and then paid them back and been done with them. But we didn’t, and now the loan sharks are here. Look, back in the beginning, if someone were to ask us who made more money, you or me, it would have been impossible to say, right?”
“Right.”
“A meaningless question. But now you ask, and we have to confer. Do you consult for anybody?”
“Nobody.”
“Me neither. But Phyllis consults for Amex, and Subarashii, and Armscor. And Frank consults for Honeywell-Messerschmidt, and GE, and Boeing, and Subarashii. And so on. They are richer than us. And in this system richer is more powerful.”
We’ll see about that, John thought. But he didn’t want to make Arkady laugh again, so he didn’t say it.
“And it’s happening everywhere on Mars,” Arkady said. Around them the clouds of Arkadys waved their arms, looking like a Tibetan mandala of red-haired demons. “And naturally there are people who notice what’s going on. Or i tell them. And this is what you must understand, John-there are people who will fight to keep things the way they were. There are people who loved the feel of the life as a scientist primitive, so much that they will refuse to give it up without a fight.”
“So the sabotages…”
“Yes! Perhaps some of them are done by these people. It is counterproductive, i think, but they don’t agree. Mostly the sabotage is done by people who want to keep Mars the way it was before we arrived. I am not one of those. But i am one of those who will fight to keep Mars from becoming a free zone for transnational mining. To keep us all from becoming happy slaves for some executive class, walled in its fortress mansion.” He faced John, and out of the corner of his eye John saw around them an infinity of confrontations. “Don’t you feel the same?”


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