Kim Stanley Robinson's
There comes into being, then, a situation in which we can say that if individual experience is authentic, then it cannot be true; and that if a scientific or cognitive model of the same content is true, then it escapes individual experience.
-- FREDRIC JAMESON, "COGNITIVE MAPPING" (349)
Published in 1988, Kim Stanley Robinson Gold Coast (the second volume in his Orange County trilogy) is the earliest in my sampling of critical dystopias. 1 Although his utopian Martian trilogy is perhaps better known, Robinson's first trilogy, set closer to home, is in itself an important moment in the development of sf. 2 In this set of textual studies published between 1984 and 1990, he created three versions of the southern Californian landscape that perceptively explore the formal possibilities of the sf genre as well as the sociopolitical realities and tensions in the United States in the late 1980s. In each, a younger and older man cross generational barriers and engage in a conversation about society, personal life, and the vocation of the writer as they simultaneously confront the political crisis that shapes their particular spacetime variation. In the first two volumes, the young man eventually decides on the sort of writing he needs to do to be true to himself as well to be a responsible political agent in his society. In The Wild Shore ( 1984), Harry, at old Tom's urging, writes about his travels and experiences in the new frontier of post-neutron bomb Orange County; in the military-corporate-consumer society of The Gold Coast, Jim sets poetry aside to write the history of a ruined Orange County; but in Pacific Edge ( 1990) it is the older man (the Tom Barnard who appears in all three volumes) who works out the literary