Thursday, December 3, 2015

How might novelists in today's current climate fit into today's current climate?

Joe Follansbee, a fiction writer in Seattle, wonders how novelists fit into the world around us in today's current climate, noting in a recent post:

"...[My] head is buried in my laptop as I try to tell stories about survival in a future that no one can predict with any certainty. Even if COP21 [in Paris] is wildly successful, the planet will still warm by a couple of degrees, and millions of mostly poor people will have to cope with the changes.

"I've explored this idea in ''Carbon Run,'' a completed novel I’m shopping around to agents. It’s about a man running from a charge of genocide against a non-human species.

Another novel, ''Restoration,'' is sitting on a shelf awaiting a top-to-bottom revision. In this story, a failed tech entrepreneur is hired by the national government to take down the last hydroelectric dam on the Columbia River in order to restore the river to its free-ranging glory. What would this mean for a desert town dependent on the water behind the dam?

My current project, ''Antarctica 2261,'' imagines an Antarctica warm enough to attract climate change refugees. Like the pioneers of the American West, they begin a pilgrimage inland, heading for a mythical city that, unbeknownst to the pilgrims, is terrified of their arrival. What happens when desperation caused by global warming meets fear of contamination by outsiders?

My stories contain no warnings or calls to action. I’m not on a mission, and I’m not interested in frightening people into actions we might later regret.

I mostly see climate change as the anvil on which I hammer my characters to see how they adapt to new conditions. I think this is the role of the fiction writer as humanity copes with the inevitable sea level rise, desertification, and other disruptions in the coming decades.

If I can get a reader to imagine himself in a world the people at COP21 are working to prevent, I think I’ve made a useful contribution.''

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