A Short, Sharp Shock

Kim Stanley Robinson's A Short, Sharp Shock is the last novel I'm teaching this quarter in my 20th Century American Literature course before a much-needed summer hiatus. I haven't read it since graduate school, at UMass-Boston, in 1997, when I co-taught my first college class with my advisor Robert Crossley. I remember being utterly fascinated and inspired by A Short, Sharp Shock -- its prose, its vision, its irreal, dreamlike texture. I liked it so much I began to write a screenplay for it, and I even talked to KSR about my ideas for the screenplay one night in '97 when I met him at an SFRA convention in Los Angeles. (The screenplay remains unfinished.) While the novel engages a number of KSR themes (e.g. the relationship between nature, the human condition and violence), it's unlike anything else he's written, more fantasy than science fiction, and I suspect he hasn't produced anything like it since then because of its limited marketability and returns, at least compared to his Mars and Three California trilogies. In any case, I hadn't read A Short, Sharp Shock in over 10 years, and returning to it reminded me what a powerhouse KSR was and continues to be -- as a speculative fiction author as well as a word-artist and storyteller in general. A truly remarkable thought-experiment with equal shares of action, emotion, beauty, oddity and terror. Perhaps KSR's most overlooked and underrated work.