Monday, November 10, 2014

Science professor in western Massachusetts pens world's first 'cli-fi rom-com'


Brian Adams teaches science at a small community college in western
Massachusetts, but his debut novel "Love in the Time of Climate
Change" takes a big swing at the way global warming is discussed in
the media.


He calls his book a "cli fi" rom-com and introduces it that way when
he gives stand-up readings around New England now.

"I like the label 'cli-fi' rom-com," he said in a recent email. "I may
be the first writer to come out with one. And people seem to get a
chuckle when they hear that."

Welcome the fictional world of a science professor named Casey who
teaches at a small community college in western Massachusetts. It's
the work of an American humorist, and first-time author Adams follows
neatly in the footsteps of the late Kurt Vonnegut and the current Nathaniel Rich, two
authors who also looked into big issues like climate change and the
end of the world.

A professor of environmental science and co-chair of
the science department at Greenfield Community College, Adams hails
from the Maryland area just outside Washington, D.C..

With a degree in human ecology from Cornell and a
masters in environmental biology from Antioch, Adams decided to go
into the teaching profession, and his debut novel shows just how well he has
taken to it.

He's not only a natural-born storyteller, as can be seen
from this humorous "rom-com" about college life, romance and the
future of the human species, but he also comes across as a teacher who
really cares about his students.

I asked him who his debut novel is for.

"Activists, college-age kids, rom-com aficionados, and people
interested in climate change," he said. "The general public as well."

Adams chose to write the novel as a humorist because he felt humro can
help people see climate issues in a different way from serious novels
about the apocalypse and dystopian vistas.

"I have found that many people avoid climate change nonfiction, given
how depressing and absolutely paralyzing it can be,'' he said.  "I
mean, seriously, how many people read climate change nonfiction? It
can be an incredible downer. Extreme weather, food insecurity,
drought, famine, melting glaciers, drowning polar bears, out of
control wildfires, rising sea levels: it can be heavy reading."

"So I attempted to do  something that I think is rather unique and
tackle potential world catastrophe in a fictionalized form through
humor, drugs, social awkwardness and sex -- while at the same time
being uncompromising about the science of climate change."

The 300-page "Love in the Time of Climate Change" may be the world's
the first activist rom-com cli-fi.  What Nathaniel Rich achieved in
"Odds Against Tomorrow," Adams achieves in a similar yet over-the-top

"My thought is that humor, silliness and love present an ideal
opening, not just to climate activists but to a larger audience as
well," he said. "I love awkward romance and relationship angst, so it
was a lot of fun to write."

Some readers in Massachusetts who know the author personally have
mentioned that the hero in his novel bears a very close resemblanace
to him. But Adams insists it's pure fiction.

"Like the book's fictional professor, I am also quirky, socially
awkward and adolescent acting, and colleagues tell me the book does
have a lot of 'me' in it," he said. "None-the-less, while the main
character Casey is entirely fictional, he is certainly based on many
of my own real life experiences as a teacher and a resident of New

Dr. Seuss's classic book "The Lorax" makes an important appearance in
Adam's novel, and there's a reason for it.

"I believe that 'The Lorax' is one of the greatest environmental books
ever written and a real call to activism." he said, noting that
Theodore Geisel, the real name of Dr. Seuss, was born in western
Massachusetts and grew up in the Springfield area. "So I quote some
important lines from his book in my novel. It worked out perfectly."

He quotes a classic line from "The Lorax" in his email to me, writing:
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to
better. It's not."

"That just about sums up activism," he says,"I love Dr. Seuss, always have."

While Adams' novel doesn't use climate
change as a "what if" plot inspiration, climate change is background
to the novel. But he doesn't call his book "cli-fi" per se, but rather
"cli-fi rom-com."

"I think that the cli-fi term is more used to describe the
post-apocalyptic dystopian stuff, what happens after the fall, after
climate catastrophe, 'The  Hunger Games' on steroids kinds of novels.
Good stuff, but absolutely terrifying. At my public book readings, I
am calling my novel cli-fi rom-com and it gets a lot of laughs when I
introduce it that way."

When asked why he wrote the novel, and how he found a small green
publisher in Vermont to publish it, Adams said:
''I want to save the world, promote activism, and bring humor and hope
to folks living in desperate times.''

"I didn't have an agent," he said. "I sent the book early on to a
publishing house in Vermont and they took it. Hooray for our small
independent presses!  Where would be without them? Green Writers Press
is a marvelous activist press with a mission to spread the word about
climate change in a positive way."

When asked about which aspects of climate change he is most interested
in, he replied:
"So many to choose from, but if forced to pick two I'd have to go with
species extinction and food insecurity."

In the end, humorist Adams is an optimist, he says.

"I am hopeful that the rising tide of activism and energy around
climate change will usher in a renewable and sustainable revolution
with positive and profound social, political and personal
implications," he said. "That there will truly be system change not
climate change. I am an optimist and honestly believe that humans will
rise to the occasion and shed our addiction to this fossil fuel
madness and avoid (perhaps narrowly) climate catastrophe."

Welcome to the madcap madhouse novel that is "Love in the Time of
Climate Change." It's funny, laugh out loud funny and signals the
arrival of a new American humorist writing his ass off in the leafy
environment of western Massachusetts.



It’s a pleasure to meet this fellow sufferer of Obsessive Climate Disorder; he’s definitely funnier than most of us environmental types.

(Bill McKibben, founder of and author of The End of Nature)
About the Author

Anonymous said...

About the Author
Brian Adams is a professor of Environmental Science and co-chair of the Science Department at Greenfield Community College in western Massachusetts where he has taught for the last 20 years. Brian is active in the climate change movement on and off campus. He has authored numerous health related brochures distributed nationally by ETR Associates. For his first novel, he drew heavily on his experiences teaching and working with students. Brian lives with his wife in Northampton, Massachusetts.