Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Andrew Dobson on ECO-APOCALYPSE [and ''Cli-Fi''] NOVELS

Andrew Dobson blogs:

Here are three more, mentioned in a conversation between David Holmes and 'cli-fi' genre term coiner Dan Bloom
  • Odds Against Tomorrow - by Nat Rich, USA, a tragic comedy about Manhattan under water in the near future and completely flooded by a fierce hurricane of untold proportions

  • Shackleton’s Man Goes South – by Tony White, UK, (which is set in Antarctica, of all places) and is a literary novel released by the Science Museum in London

  • Polar City Red – by Jim Laughter (pronounced as "Lauder"), USA - a little-known “cli-fi thriller” from 2012 that describes the desperate life of people in a domed “polar city” in Alaska in 2070. It is set after Mexico, Central America and the Lower 48 states of the USA have been abandoned, as millions of climate refugees seek survival in Canada and Alaska. It is in this novel that James Lovelock’s 2006 vision of future humans

There are signs that the state of the environment (and particularly climate change) is prompting a contemporary literature of ‘end-ism’ (see below the novels published over the past 20 years). The fictional treatment of environmental problems has been around for longer than that, of course, and often these treatments take an apocalyptic turn. I thought I’d create a list of them here in case anyone else is interested in this cli-fi genre. I’ll do it by decade – and if anyone knows of any that aren’t recorded here, do please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. In September 2010, I had earlier published a slightly tongue-in-cheek survey of climate change fiction in openDemocracy. You can read it here: The fiction of climate change


George R. Stewart, Earth Abides (1949). Isherwood Williams returns from a camping trip in the hills to find that a virus has killed just about everyone. The transition from the Old Times is nicely observed (how long would you stop at a red traffic light until you kicked the habit?) and ‘Ish’ travels America observing changes with a dispassionate eye. ‘Dispassionate’ just about sums up this never less than interesting book, in fact. Odd, too, that the little community Ish sets up is able to live off the scraps of the old civilisation for over 20 years. And then? Ish has to decide which is more important: a library full of books, or a bow-and-arrow. Stewart’s recipe for post-catastrophe survival seems to be: little imagination and lots of courage, as civilisation slips away.


John Christopher, The Death of Grass (1956), republished as a Penguin Modern Classic (which it is). This is the story of a worldwide virus that kills all species of grass. This premise is not the most interesting aspect of the story; more striking is the charting of the descent into ‘barbarism’ brought about by environmental collapse. Cosmopolitanism is the casualty ….

(John Christopher died on 3rd February 2012. Read his Obituary here).

Walter M. Miller Jnr, A Canticle for Liebowitz (1959).  An extraordinary novel that starts 600 years after a nuclear war has laid waste to the world.  Horror at the science that had led to the development of nuclear weapons creates almost universal scepticism about knowledge.  Liebowitz, though, survives the war, and hides , smuggles, memorises and copies books.  The novel opens with a noviciate of the monastic order founded by Liebowitz finding the latter's documents in an ancient fallout shelter. Set in three parts, each separated by 600 years, the novel explores the theme of knowledge - its preservation, its relaunching, and potential we have (or don't have) for learning from our mistakes.


J.G.Ballard, The Wind From Nowhere (1962). A super-hurricane blasts round the world, reaching hundreds of miles an hour. Whole communities are buried, London is unrecognisable and people turn against each other in a desperate battle for survival. Ballard apparently suppressed this novel as ‘juvenilia’ – but get it if you can.

J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962). Classic depiction of a globally-warmed world (though not caused by carbon overload). Ballard’s drowned world is weird and terrifying. Strangest moment? Maybe when they peer underneath the boat and recognise the Planetarium.

John Christopher, The World in Winter (1962). More from the author of The Death of Grass (see above). As the sun’s radiation diminishes, the world’s weather is turned upside down and Britain finds itself in the grip of a new Ice Age. An exodus to West Africa gives Christopher the chance to explore racism in reverse and the potential for the colonisation of white by black. This is a novel about power (personal and political) and belonging, and once again Christopher tests his characters in the crucible of extreme circumstances. Dated, no doubt, and about as politically correct as an unreconstructed Tory, but I couldn’t put it down.

Brian Aldiss, Earthworks (1965). A Ballardian account of a garbage-ridden overpopulated world. A central figure is the Farmer (food is at a premium) who runs ‘the village’ where food is grown by forced labour. Knowle Noland, our hero, escapes from the village and joins the Travellers who live a version of the old life in and out of decaying towns. Noland is captured by the Farmer but is released by him to work on the giant atomic ships that transport soil from Africa around the world. Africa is the new political centre of the world, and the book’s denouement takes place as a vital conference gets under way. A brilliant, haunting novel – definitely dystopian, but Noland is a survivor.

J.G. Ballard, The Drought (1965). A protective skin over the oceans caused by radioactive dumping has stopped it raining anywhere but in the middle of the sea. On land, everything begins to die and civilisation itself begins to crack. People and places mutate. Pure Ballard.


John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up (1974).  Just about every environmental disaster you can imagine has happened.  The Trainites are a movement dedicated to resisting the causes of environmental collapse, but their leader – Austin Train – has gone into hiding.  If the government catches him, he’s had it, but the movement needs him.  So he comes back,with devastating consequences.  This is an imaginative tour de force, full of reflections and questions that seem utterly contemporary.  ‘What difference it makes if a plane flies with one seat empty, I don’t know’, says one character.  How many of us are grappling with that one?

Robert C. O’Brien, Z for Zachariah (1975). Ostensibly a book for 14-18s, but riveting for anybody. This is the story of a girl who thinks she is the only survivor of a nuclear war. Then she sees smoke from a fire over the hill, and her life changes irrevocably. Ann Burden – the girl – is courageous and resourceful. She will be on your mind long after you’ve finished the book.


Gregory Benford, Timescape (1980). This is the story of a group of Cambridge scientists in the book’s present (late 1970s?) trying to communicate across time with scientists in California in 1962 to warn them of an impending catastrophe in the hope that it might be avoided. Plenty of scientific and philosophical rumination here, and there’s some sense of the catastrophe that’s on its way in the descriptions of a decrepit and tawdry Cambridge. But in general the catastrophe plays second fiddle to the clever-clever science and rather one-dimensional characters. Not one to get too excited about.

Frederick Dunstan, Habitation One (1983). One of the strangest books of all, written by a then-recent university graduate who (I believe) never wrote another one.  This is a post-nuclear holocaust novel, with the remnants of humanity holed up in a vast tower that rises into the sky.  These people know nothing of their past, nor much about the present, but then a series of events result in a gradual revealing of the truth.  So the setting is rather similar to Hugh Howey’s Wool (2013 – see below), but here people live in the sky rather than underground.  There’s a lot of blood, here, for no good reason that I could see.

George Turner, The Sea and Summer (1987). A novel within a novel, telling the story of Melbourne 30-50 years from now as the waters of a climate changed world lap ever higher round the low-lying buildings of the city. These overpopulated tower blocks are inhabited by the Swill, kept in their place by the slightly more fortunate Sweet. The action centres on a family that’s fallen from Sweet to the fringe of Swill. What shocks is not the so much the future but the contrast with a half-remembered past when the tide did what is supposed to do – come up and go back out again.


David Ely, A Journal of the Flood Year (1992). No real eco-catastrophe premise here, but the central character is The Wall, built out from the eastern US seaboard in the Atlantic to make the country bigger and keep the sea out. Typical dystopian theme: a man and a woman’s fight to resist technobureaucracy and conformity. But The Wall is the real star.

Maggie Gee, The Ice People (1998)
. Gee imagines a globally warmed world which is returning to aridity and cold. Men and women are segregated. This is the story of one man’s attempt to find his son, and to take him South, to where the sun shines.


 Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Fifty Degrees Below (2005), Sixty Days and Counting (2007). One thousand three hundred and eighty pages in total, and I’m hard pressed to say what this rambling narrative was about. In fact I’m so hard pressed that I’m not going to try. This is one (or three) I wouldn’t bother with if I were you.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006). The one that just about everyone’s read. America has burned, and a father and son trek across the country to the coast. They only have a pistol to defend themselves against other would-be survivors. Redemptive or just harrowing?

Martine McDonagh, I Have Waited, and You Have Come (2006).  The world has been ravaged by climate change and Rachel is one of the survivors.  People have retreated into isolated communities, or are otherwise making the best of what’s been left to them.  Rachel lives alone, abandoned by her partner, and stalked by the mysterious Jez White – who has issues of his own.  The weird weather is effectively evoked, as is the connection between a ‘normal’ past and the damaged present.  The fissure between then and now is in part presented through Ordnance Survey maps of the area around Thelwall (Cheshire, UK) overlaid with Rachel’s scribblings as she tries to map (literally) the changed human and natural landscape around her.  Check out a map of where you live.  What might it look like in 2043?

Sarah Hall, The Carhullan Army (2007). Much of Britain is underwater and the country has been taken over by the Authority. This is the story of a woman who escapes the garrison town in which she lives, to try to reach a commune of women in the Lake District, in Carhullan, where she believes she will find sanctuary.

Jim Crace, The Pesthouse (2007). America’s been devastated by an illness that has wiped out vast tracts of the population, and sent the country back into a pre-mechanical age. Like many of these novels this one involves a journey, with the protagonists finding solace in each other while assailed by all the tribulations in which life has once again become ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short’. Probably shouldn’t be on this list as the premise is not strictly an eco-catastrophe. But the writing is taut and appropriately dated – mirroring the state into which society has fallen. There is redemption amid the destruction.

Alex Scarrow, Last Light (2007). This is a kind of climate-change-meets-the-SAS’s-Chris-Ryan novel as a shadowy group of influential men plot to choke off the world’s oil supplies with predictable results. The action takes place in Iraq (that’s the Chris Ryan bit) and in England where a UEA student picks her way through the collapse of law and order, pursued by a killer hired by the plotters because when she was ten she … saw too much. I’m sure you get the picture.

Max Frisch, Man in the Holocene (2007).  Translated from German, this book locates us in a wet world of climate change.  The protagonist, Geiser, is stuck in his house in a mountainside village as the rain pours down outside.  Will the village be swept away in a landslide?  Geiser ventures outside, to try to make sense both of his own life and the fragile world in which he lives it, but turns round halfway and comes home.  In some ways his surroundings are the same as they were in the Stone Age, but in others they are changing irrevocably: ‘The glaciers, which once stretched as far as Milan, are retreating’.  Thanks to Rasmus Karlsson for suggesting this one.

Saci Lloyd, The Carbon Diaries 2015 (2008). A climate change book for teenagers. Brilliant idea: it’s 2015 and everyone’s been issued with a carbon card as the UK is the first country in the world to introduce carbon rationing. But the climate change backdrop occasionally disappears from sight as this novel for teenagers turns into a … novel for teenagers. The heroine, Laura Brown, catalogues her relationships with Mum, Dad and boyfriends in her diary, as well as her attempts to get a band together. So far, so normal. But the scenes toward the end, as the Thames Barrier fails, drag the narrative back to where it should be. For me, a missed opportunity – but then I’m not 15 any more.

Toby Litt, Journey into Space (2009). Some catastrophe has befallen the Earth, but we never know what sort. A gaggle of humans has set off into space to find another habitable planet. We join the trip when those who set out on it are long since dead. There are some brief but interesting reflections on nature loss, memory, nostalgia. This reads to me like a missed opportunity.

James Howard Kunstler, A World Made by Hand (2009). Kunstler imagines life in a small town in Vermont in the aftermath of peak oil and a decade into what the author refers to as ‘the long emergency’.

Stephen Baxter, Flood (2009). The water rises inexorably, everywhere – and with the book reaching 556 pp maybe you can imagine where it gets to. Characterisation isn’t the strong point of this novel by this science fiction star, but there are some vivid accounts of the effects of worldwide flooding, and the occasional glances back to a ‘normal’ world are poignant. The best post-apocalypse books are good on the changes in society and people that environmental change wreaks. On this count, Flood fails – how on earth they are still on the internet when the floods are 100s of metres deep is beyond me.

Stephen Baxter, Ark (2009). This is the sequel to Baxter’s Flood (see above). It takes off (literally) where Flood finishes, as a select few destined to survive the flood that has covered the entire planet board a starship destined for Earth II. Plenty of suspension of disbelief required once again (they build the starship from scraps left over from the old nuclear and space programmes) but once the ship lifts off, the forty years (yes, forty) of space travel are powerfully recounted. The tribulations of a crew which ages in a tin can with perhaps no prospect of ever getting out are certainly thought-provoking. If you like this kind of thing it’s definitely a page-turner.

Liz Jensen, The Rapture (2009). Climate change with a twist (and more in the background than the foreground). At the heart of the story is 16 year-old Bethany Krall, apparently capable of predicting natural disasters. Or is she somehow causing them? And what of the wheelchair-bound psychiatrist assigned to dealing with her? And her physicist lover? Do we care? By the end, not enough – although the climatic denouement is carried off with just about enough panache to overcome the faintly ridiculous circumstances with which Jensen surrounds it.

Matthew Glass, Ultimatum (2009). I’m writing this just as the Copenhagen climate change talks of December 2009 look close to collapse. China and the USA are at loggerheads. But if real life looks bad, then the stand-off in Ultimatum reaches eye-popping proportions. This climate change novel is full of descriptions of drab high-level political meetings, and it struggles to get off the ground until the stakes get really high towards the end. If what happens in Glass’s imagination is what has to happen in the real world to get a meaningful climate agreement, then we’d have to wonder if the game is worth the candle.

Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood (2009). I was so looking forward to reading this one – probably too much. Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) is a brilliant fictional treatment of the effects of genetic manipulation, and of a disrupted relationship between humans and the non-human natural world. So as a semi-sequel, I had high hopes of The Year of the Flood. An unspecified natural disaster has altered life on Earth, and a group called God’s Gardeners preach the virtues of a more natural life in the face of social and environmental instability. Sounds good? The characters here are thinly developed, though, and Atwood’s capacity for linguistic invention overwhelms the story. There are lots of luminous parts here, but they don’t quite amount to a whole.


Polar City Red – by Jim Laughter, USA - a little-known “cli-fi thriller” from 2012 that describes the desperate life of people in a domed “polar city” in Alaska in 2070. It is set after Mexico, Central America and the Lower 48 states of the USA have been abandoned, as millions of climate refugees seek survival in Canada and Alaska. It is in this novel that James Lovelock’s 2006 vision of future humans serving as “breeding pairs in the Arctic” takes literary form.

 Robert Edric, Salvage (2010). Climate change serves as a backdrop for a study in corruption. Civil Servant Quinn has been sent to some unspecified part of the north of England to audit the progress on preparations for the creation of a new town. He encounters a nasty cast of characters all on the make and all trying to cover up various irregularities – especially the toxic residue from the culling of large numbers of farm animals, necessitated by the changing climate and the collapse of farming. It’s a grim place in a grim time. Climate change novel fans aren’t likely to put this at the top of their list though: the climate isn’t integral to the story – though the ending is satisfyingly weather-ridden.

Ian McEwan, Solar (2010). Earlier this year McEwan expressed surprise at the lack of climate change novels being written. He has obviously not been paying attention, as the list above testifies. I’m not sure this adds to the canon though. It reads more like a rather tired mid-life crisis novel, as the protagonist struggles to deal with a failing career and a younger wife (his fifth) who doesn’t love him any more – if she ever did. Climate change is incidental to this story, a mere backdrop which could have been any other backdrop. We learn nothing about the causes of climate change, nor what to do about it. There is no comment on the styles of life or political and economic systems that contribute to climate change, and nothing about the arguments that rage around the fairness or unfairness of international negotiations. There is even very little about the arguments over the science of climate change – a surprise, perhaps, given that McEwan’s protagonist is a Nobel prize-winning scientist. In all, definitely not an eco-apocalypse novel and probably not even a climate change novel.

Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2010). Thanks to Kate Crowley for putting me on to this one. Here Bacigalupi has created a future world in which synthetic viruses run riot and seas round the world have inundated major population centres. Only part of Thailand has bucked the trend, by building a giant sea wall and operating a strict biosecurity policy. This uneasy balance is under constant threat from within and without as foreign companies conspire with the Trade Ministry to undermine the controls put in place by the Environment Ministry. Trade vs Environment? Well of course! This really is the shape of the future, and Bacigalupi’s sort-of steampunk novel is an evocative exploration of these redrawn political battle lines.

James Miller, Sunshine State (2010).  One in the thriller genre. It features the Storm Zone (a lawless no-go region of the USA), home to Charlie Ashe – ‘master of guerilla warfare’ – and secret agent Mark Burrows, who is sent to find him.  Ashe and Burrows have history, and Ashe is supposed to be a threat to the global order of Western power.  We don’t know why the Storm Zone exists and its depiction is rather formulaic.  I didn’t find the story especially gripping either.  Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is name-checked here, but definitely more in hope than expectation.

Helen Simpson, In-Flight Entertainment (2011). The penultimate short story in this collection is called ‘Diary of an Interesting Year’, and it is one of the most harrowing accounts of what life after environmental catastrophe might be like. ‘If we run out of beans I think he might kill me for food’, writes the diarist on 14th October 2040. In a few brief pages, Simpson charts the descent of a society from relative sanity to utter depravity. We could read this as a warning to those who think that the only way to sustainability is via a total collapse of business-as-usual.

Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb (2011).  An act of biological terrorism has created MDS – Maternal Death Syndrome.  The human race looks as though it’s on its way out.  Then scientists come up with a vaccination the protects frozen embryos – but not the surrogate mothers.  Jessie Lamb is a teenager with a decision to make.  The trouble is that her Dad has locked her in a room with no escape.  Why?  Will she get out?  And what will she do if she does?

James Atkins, Climate Change for Football Fans: a matter of life and death (2011). More a pre-apocalypse novel this one – what to do to prevent catastrophic climate change. Written by a thoughtful carbon trader, James Atkins, the tone is set early on as Atkins tells us that, ‘This is a book about climate change policy, which is one of the most boring topics in the world. So it includes stuff about football, which is the most exciting topic in the world’. You don’t have to like football to enjoy this book, which is an informative yet serious examination of the obstacles in the way of dealing effectively with the climate change problem. One conundrum that Atkins forces us to confront: can we afford freedom and democracy, or do we need a short, sharp shock?

Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour (2012). Quite possibly the best climate change novel in English of the 21st century – partly because it wears its climate change-ness very lightly indeed. Depicting monarch butterflies, an intelligent and frustrated woman in an empty marriage, and run-down rural life in Appalachia, this is a challenging and brilliant slow burner of a book. Why have the monarchs chosen to overwinter so far from the warm south? Is this an act of God, or is there an anthropogenic origin? A group of scientists, headed by one Ovid Byron, descends on the village to study this unusual phenomenon, and Kingsolver examines the debates between science and religion to which it gives rise. The media plays an important role too: is it a force for good? Only, apparently, if you lose your temper.

Hugh Howey, Wool (2013), Uneven, but rarely less than entertaining, this is the story of people who live underground in a vertical tube, a silo. Their life is bound by rules and regulations and they know little of the outside, except that when people misbehave they are sent outside to what looks like certain death. The story develops – as many dystopias of this sort do – around a rebel who comes to think that there is more to the community’s situation than meets the eye. No spoilers here, but Jules’s rebellion sets in train a series of startling events. Claustrophobic.

Gregory Norminton (ed), Beacons: stories for our not so distant future (2013). I was looking forward to this, but was ultimately disappointed. What’s not to like? Here is a series of short stories by well known writers (one or two of whom are already featured on this page), who were asked to ‘devise original responses to the climate crisis’ (as the puff says). To be honest it’s a while since I read this book so I can’t remember the detail too well, but my overall impression was that the writers were almost trying too hard to hit the target, and so they missed it. Perhaps that’s less their fault, and more the difficulty of dealing with climate change in a short story (though Helen Simpson, see above) does pretty well. Perhaps we should call this collection ‘uneven’ – I’ve no doubt that some readers will enjoy bits of it.

Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam (2013).  The final instalment of Margaret Atwood's trilogy (the other two being Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood).  I know this is heresy, but Atwood didn't really make me care very much what happened to anyone in this story.  Or at least not until the very end when I felt sad for Toby.  Given that most people love this book, it's obviously me that's at fault and not Atwood.

Clara Hume (pen name), Back to the Garden (2013).  A folksy cli-fi tale in some unspecified future when life has become more simple and more basic, travel is harder, and people live local lives.  The protagonists here live on the side of a mountain, eking out a life.  They go on a journey to try to find old friends and family.  Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the protagonists.  It works.  It's redemptive and hopeful.

Hugh Howey, Dust (2013).  This is the third part of a trilogy with began with Wool (see above).  (I didn't read Part Two because it's a prequel, and I'd rather go forwards than backwards).  Satisfyingly, this brings together the lives of various people from various silos.  Will they escape from the silo world?  What will they find if they do?  Over the two novels I read, the characters are quite richly drawn, and you care about what happens to them.  This is rare-ish in post-apocalypse fiction, and just one of things that explains why Howey has a cult following.

Nathaniel Rich, Odds Against Tomorrow (2013).  The story of a young mathematician, Mitchell Zukor, immersed in the mathematics of catastrophe and ecological collapse.  He's so good at predictions, and at stoking up fears, that he ends up working for a company that makes money out of helping other companies to save on insurance by building overblown catastrophe predictions into their balance sheets.  Trouble is, he predicts drought - and Manhattan is overcome by a storm of biblical proportions.  And Mitchell is right in the middle of it.  This is a great book - definitely recommended.  Clever, wry, and rather worrying.

Wayne Marinovich, Floodlanders (2013).  A short-ish story about a climate-changed London.  The Floodlanders inhabit the area occupied by an overflowing and still tidal Thames.  The water gets to Tooting Bec at high tide.  The father and son protagonists drive into the Floodlands to sell food from their farm at the market.  This new London is populated by gangs and Warlords, and bad things happen to Martin and Warren.  Maybe Marinovich doesn't quite have the courage of his convictions at the end of this tale, but this is still an intriguing read.

* * *
Suggestions from others

Mike Smith (Professor of Geology at Cymru University) has written a climate change ‘blovel’, and you can either read it online here:

Glass House: Climate Change in the Third Millennium or download the Kindle edition here: Glass House: Climate Change in the Third Millennium

July 2009 note – Thanks to Ian Christie for the following annotated list, which I’m looking forward to reading (or re-reading, in the case of the first one): The Day of the Triffids is an anti-industrial, anti-progress novel and a warning about genetic manipulation and invasive species, and (like many 50s and 60s sci-fi books) a metaphor for pervasive fears about nuclear doom. Olaf Stapledon’s epic history of the future Last and First Men (1930) takes human history out about a billion years from now, and the projections for the millennium ahead are full of hints of eco-disaster and technological hubris. There’s also George Turner’s The Sea and Summer (1988), an unbelievably depressing novel about Australia in the grip of global warming, with mass squalor, violence and resource scarcity. (See review above). Kim Stanley Robinson has also done a global warming trilogy, set in the USA, which begins with Forty Days of Rain – not bad, but not gripping enough to make me want to carry on with the rest. (See review above). There is also a terribly over-long sci-fi blockbuster called White Devils (by Paul McCauley) that has its moments, despite some plodding characterisation and longwindedness. It is set in the 2030s, when global warming plus ‘gene hacking’ (rogue gene-splicing by criminal scientists and amateur genetic engineers) have caused global havoc. It’s set mainly in the Congo, which has become a calamitously damaged genetic manipulation laboratory run by a supposedly sustainable TNC on behalf of the UN. Someone is doing Dr-Moreau-style experiments for evil ends, and it all goes from bad to worse.

Many thanks for this contribution from Paul Moloney – some very interesting-looking recommendations: George R Stewart, Earth Abides (1940s) – see review above; Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (1950s) Brian Aldiss, Earthworks (1960s) – see review above; Gregory Benford, Timescape (1980) – see review above; Frank Herbert, The White Plague (1985) … and a more general source: Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2nd edition, 1990s). Out-of-print, unfortunately, but full of interesting references. As Paul says, ‘there are probably more of these kinds of novels kicking about than most of us might suppose’.

And three more suggestions from Gill Seyfang: John Christopher, The World in Winter (1962) – see review above Stephen Baxter, Ark (2009) – see review above John Wyndham, The Kraken Wakes (1953)

Thanks to Peter Gingold for alerting me to James Miller’s Sunshine State (2010) (review above).

And thanks to Rupert Read and Jonathan Essex for Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge and Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing, respectively.

And thanks to Agnes Woolley for recommending Doris Lessing’s Mara and Dann (‘quite a detailed evocation of resource shortage and drought scenarios’) and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods.

And to Ben Rall for Hot Sky At Midnight by Robert Silverberg (“Humankind’s fate is at stake in a futuristic tale of an Earth bordering on ecological catastrophe from which the only escape is genetic adaptation or emigration to satellite cities in space.” – quote from tax-dodgers Amazon).

More thanks to Jose Maria Parrena for suggesting Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998) by Octavia Butler, and (as with Rupert Read and Jonathan Essex, above), The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993), by Starhawk.


Thanks to Luc Semal, of SciencesPo, Lille and the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, for sending me this list.  You might need a magnifying glass to read it ....

Here are three more, mentioned in a conversation between David Holmes and 'cli-fi' genre term coiner Dan Bloom
  • Odds Against Tomorrow - by Nathaniel Rich, USA, a tragic comedy about Manhattan under water in the near future and completely flooded by a fierce hurricane of untold proportions

  • Shackleton’s Man Goes South – by Tony White, UK, (which is set in Antarctica, of all places) and is a literary novel released by the Science Museum in London

  • Polar City Red – by Jim Laughter, USA - a little-known “cli-fi thriller” from 2012 that describes the desperate life of people in a domed “polar city” in Alaska in 2070. It is set after Mexico, Central America and the Lower 48 states of the USA have been abandoned, as millions of climate refugees seek survival in Canada and Alaska. It is in this novel that James Lovelock’s 2006 vision of future humans serving as “breeding pairs in the Arctic” takes literary form.

Here are a few more to tick off:
Thanks to James Atkins for this one (and read his excellent blog here): The Collapse of Western Civilisation: a view from the future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (2014)

Thanks to Mary Phillips for alerting me to this Climate Fiction website and Facebook page.

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