When Elon Musk introduced earthlings last month to his vision for cities on Mars, his 90-minute remarks fired up imaginations everywhere—except on Mars. For now.

Kim Stanley Robinson has done as much as anyone to bring the idea of colonizing Mars into the mainstream. The writer entwined knowledge, reasoning, and imagination into his landmark Mars trilogy—Red Mars (1992), Green Mars (1993), and Blue Mars (1996).

And to Robinson, Musk’s Martian future looks a lot like other people’s familiar past.

“Musk’s plan,” he said, “is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his back yard.”

An edited transcript of an interview follows:

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