Science Fiction & Fantasy

Reflecting on Climate Change Disaster Fiction with 2018’s Heat Wave

The Japanese government has declared it a national disaster; the far Eastern country has seen temperatures more in line with the middle east. Here in the UK, we are set to have the hottest and driest summer since 1976. Some time in the next few days, we were expecting to experience the hottest average temperature this country has ever experienced but storms put a dampener on that. WIld fires have hit Sweden and tragedy struck in Greece.

Welcome to the most visible and immediate effects of climate change. Deniers will just keep on denying but I would hope even those people will start to see this global event as being too vast, too broad, and too deadly to ignore. Both hemispheres are experiencing unusual temperatures for the time of year. This is one of the things that climate scientists have been predicting for decades. In spite of this, there does not appear to be a great deal of ecological disaster or climate change fiction. I’ve dabbled twice.

Copyright MG Mason 2018

In The Weight of Reason I used an analogy of seismic shift to point to the dangers of doing nothing in the face of overwhelming evidence. In my short story 50% Match from Herrenvolk and other Stories I predicted that the future of the UK would be the enforced movement of people from the parched southeast and London to the north and southwest to reduce the population in that area and the strain on water supplies.

But what of the ecological disaster story in published fiction? I can barely think of any, personally. The most obvious is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capitol trilogy which deals with climate change induced ecological disaster and a complacent government’s inaction which finally has its hands forced. It starts with 40 Signs of Rain where there is massive flooding, then moves to a horrendous winter in the second book 50 Degrees Below and finally 60 Days and Counting.

Another Kim Stanley Robinson is New York 2140 which I have not read is about an aquatic New York linked with waterways and canals much like Venice is today. In an article from last year, Unbound World highlights a small sample of “Cli-Fi” this area but at just six books in the list. A blog called Five Books highlights five more but this small number has made me realise just how thin on the ground this sub-genre is right now.

Another I have read is Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, a mystery thriller set in a world of bio-engineered plague, where most plant foods are extinct and we must use GM to survive, where calories are currency, and one where we fought over the last few drops of oil instead of looking for alternatives.

In the real world, we’re now preparing for an end of year of high food prices and reduced stocks in many areas of the world due to failed crops not receiving enough water. It’s likely/possible that 2018 may prove to be a turning point for “cli-fi” or a great emphasis on climate change in many other areas, not necessarily limited to science fiction. The effects of climate change are here and now and 2018 is demonstrating once more the need for action.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword and maybe, just maybe, through effective and popular fiction we may finally do something to mitigate the effects of the worst disaster ever to hit humanity.

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