Is environmental change poised to thrust us into new worlds? NPR writes:
Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow is the latest in what seems to be an emerging literary genre. Over the past decade, more and more writers have begun to set their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth’s systems are noticeably off-kilter. The genre has come to be called climate fiction — “cli-fi,” for short.
“I think we need a new type of novel to address a new type of reality,” says Rich, “which is that we’re headed toward something terrifying and large and transformative. And it’s the novelist’s job to try to understand, what is that doing to us?” As far as Rich is concerned, climate change itself is a foregone conclusion. The story — the suspense, the romance — is in how we deal with it.
Of course, science fiction with an environmental bent has been around since the 1960s (think J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World). But while sci-fi usually takes place in a dystopian future, cli-fi happens in a dystopian present.
Judith Curry, professor and chair of Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, began assembling a list of cli-fi stories a few months ago. She says she first saw a renewed interest in climate change fiction with Michael Crichton’s 2004 novel, State of Fear, which is about ecoterrorists. Then came such books as Solar by Ian McEwan and Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
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