(Warning: This blog begins with a rather long, one-sentence rant.)
Given the rolling back of climate change regulations in the US, which is based not on data or reality or science, but rather on the influence of greedy oil and coal mega-companies and their government lackeys who instead of facing the unavoidable decline of their industries (which has almost nothing to do with climate change regulations but rather factors such as the rise of natural gas) and instead of trying to find new sources of revenue and/or trying to re-train people for jobs for the future, they have chosen to dupe a shockingly large portion of the American public into believing their industries don’t cause climate change and, consequently, force the rest of us to pay the price, I thought a blog discussing writers who have exposed the consequences of human ignorance, selfishness and arrogance on the world climate through fiction was appropriate today.
(Wow that was quite a Melville-ian sentence.)
The first book that came to mind when I started writing this blog was Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Actually, before I get to that, did you know there is even a whole sub-genre of scifi called clifi? I had no idea until I wrote this blog!
Here are some books that I thought of for this topic as well as some clifi books I found and I want to put on my reading list now! I was actually a bit overwhelmed by how many of these books there are. (Would terrified be the better word?)
(Soapbox side note: The number of these books that focuses on water or lack thereof is terrifying and I think not a coincidence.)
A Few Samples of Clifi or Clifi-ish Books I’ve Read and Would Highly Recommed
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
After his death, the sons of a former nuclear scientist discover his creation “Ice-Nine,” which turns all water to solid form. Eventually, due to their carelessness, Ice-Nine finds it’s way into the ocean quickly turning it solid, thus destroying all life and setting off an endless barrage of tornadoes and other weather events that destroy the world. At the time it was published, in 1963, the world was in the recovering from the Cuban Missile Crisis and this book felt like a salient reflection of the dangers of man’s creations. Guess what? Today it still feels pretty salient.
So, let’s say instead of putting money into taking care of our own planet, we throw a ton of money at space exploration and visiting, potentially colonizing Mars. (Sound familiar? It should.) Well, Red Mars pointed out the irony of this current real-life approach via fiction a long time ago…Published in 1993 but set in 2026, the book follows the 100 crew members aboard the spaceship Ares, who are looking for a solution for an Earth that suffers from overpopulation and ecological disaster. Their goal is to terraform Mars, which means they will try to use the most advanced scientific technology and techniques to change the desert planet into a place that can sustain human life. This book takes clifi to a while different level – a Martian level.
New Clifi Books I’ve Just Discovered and Am Now Adding to My Ever-Growing TBR List
Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
NEW YORK CITY, the near future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of a cavernous office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. He is asked to calculate worst-case scenarios in the most intricate detail, and his schemes are sold to corporations to indemnify them against any future disasters. This is the cutting edge of corporate irresponsibility, and business is booming. As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe–ecological collapse, global war, natural disasters–he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. Yet he also loses touch with his last connection to reality: Elsa Bruner, a friend with her own apocalyptic secret, who has started a commune in Maine. Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. Mitchell realizes he is uniquely prepared to profit. But at what cost? .
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
In a not-seemingly-so-distant-future American Southwest people are fighting for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. This is where we find Angel Velasquez, a Las Vegas water knife, meaning Angel “cuts” water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her luxurious developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet while the poor get dust. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in drought-ravaged Phoenix, it seems California is making a play to monopolize the life-giving flow of the river, and Angel is sent to investigate. There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a drought-hardened journalist, and Maria Villarosa, a young refugee who survives by her wits in a city that despises everything she represents. For Angel, Lucy, and Maria, time is running out and their only hope for survival rests in each other’s hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only thing for certain is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.
Clifi comes in all shapes and sizes, including graphic novels. This one was also made into a movie recently. In a harsh, uncompromisingly cold future where Earth has succumbed to treacherously low temperatures, the last remaining members of humanity travel on a train while the outside world remains encased in ice.
The surviving community are not without a social hierarchy; those that travel at the front of the train live in relative luxury whilst those unfortunate enough to be at the rear remain clustered like cattle in claustrophobic darkness. Yet, things are about to change aboard the train as passengers become disgruntled…
The Sea and The Summer or The Drowning Towers (US title) by George Turner
Francis Conway is Swill – one of the 90% in the year 2041 who must subsist on the inadequate charities of the state. A young boy growing. Life, already difficult, is rapidly becoming impossible for Francis and others like him, as government corruption, official blindness and nature have conspired to turn Swill homes into watery tombs. And now the young boy must find a way to escape the approaching tide of disaster.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Oh Margaret Atwood, you do dystopian futures like no other. In this second book of the MaddAddam trilogy, the long-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it and obliterating most human life. Among the survivors are Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Amid shadowy, corrupt ruling powers and new, gene-spliced life forms, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move, but they can’t stay locked away.
Carbon Diaries by Staci Lloyd
It’s the year 2015, a time when global warming has begun to ravage the environment. In response, the United Kingdom becomes the first country to mandate carbon rationing―a well-intentioned plan that goes tragically awry. When her carbon debit card arrives in the mail, sixteen-year-old Laura is just trying to pass her exams, manage her ecopunk band, and catch the attention of her gorgeous classmate Ravi. But as multiple natural disasters strike and Laura’s parents head toward divorce, her world spirals out of control. A severe drought sparks fires and deadly riots; then the highest-category hurricane in recent history strikes London. With the death toll in the thousands and climbing, Laura and her family face the unimaginable as her older sister clings to life.