Changing the conversation with Climate Fiction



I was very happy to contribute to the ‘Nothing is as it was’ blog tour this week with a guest post: ‘Changing the conversation’ on ‘Donna’s Book Blog‘. All about choosing clifi.

Thank you Retreat West for a great blog tour and congratulations on a fantastic anthology!


Changing the conversation with Clifi 

Human beings are storytellers. From the time we lived in caves, we have been using stories to teach and to warn one another of potential dangers. Aboriginal dreamtime stories tell of dangerous places and animals, fairy tales teach children right from wrong and even our favourite picture books tell stories about action and consequence. Stories are where we convey our strongest messages and discover endless fascination.

No-one wants to read didactic fiction. We read for the enjoyment of losing ourselves for a while and clifi is no different. I’m reading South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby right now and although climate change is ever present in the subplot and setting, the plot is very much a character-driven, personal journey that could easily be transplanted to any remote setting and still work. Clifi isn’t all post-apocalyptic, dystopian struggle, there are just as many stories of hope, redemption, romance and even poetic lyricism within the genre. It differs from Scifi and fantasy because it’s grounded in real science and that’s what makes it a challenge to write and so interesting to read.

One of the biggest challenges faced by climate scientists is getting people’s attention and changing the conversation. It’s hard to grasp what, exactly, an increase of .2 of a degree over twenty years means to us personally. Talking about data should be enough but it isn’t, people just don’t get it.

Our imagination allows us to see, feel, taste and smell the changed world from the point of view of characters that we can relate to. Compelling narratives capture our interest and tug at our emotions. The world built by a clifi author can serve as a backdrop to the story, or it can be the story, there are no rules.

Global warming is often brushed aside as a problem to be dealt with in the future, there’s not the same sense of urgency about it as with natural disasters, for example. Literature can transport us to a time and place where food and water supply, floods, hurricanes, international relations and social order have drastically changed. Stories enable us to imagine life in a future scenario from every angle, through the power of imagination.

Only inspired people take action. The hope is that readers will feel moved enough to seek out more information. If enough people do that, then we’ve, at least succeeded in changing the conversation and that’s a start.