Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vermont, My Kind of State'' (to set a cli-fi novel) -- Vermont Authors Explain Why. (Is this a trend atrending?)

''Vermont, My Kind of State''...
(to set a cli-fi novel).
-- Vermont Writes Explain Why.
(Is this a trend atrending?)
So I asked several novelists who have set their new cli-fi novels in Vermont: Chris Bohjalian, Lewis Milford, Peter Gould, Don Bredes, Sheila Post, Dede Cummings and Meg Little Reilly. In no particular order, here are their comments. Come to think of it, this meme would make a great news story for some Vermont publications and radio reporters, including the Brattleboro Reformer, the Rutland Herald, Seven Days VT, and the NPR station in Vermont -- Vermont Public Radio.


Meg Little Reilly, whose hometown is Brattleboro and who is the author of  the soon-to-be-released novel "WE ARE UNPREPARED," told me:

''My identity as a writer and an environmentalist is inextricably linked to my identity as a native Vermonter. 

''It's easy to fall in love with the stunning Vermont landscape, as I have, but I don't believe that alone explains the abundance of climate fiction it has borne. Vermont is an incubator for activism and creativity and, importantly, it's a place where art is understood to be not a discrete and separate discipline, but an essential tool for activism. Brattleboro, in particular, has a storied history in the anti-war, civil rights, and back-to-the-land movements. It's a purposeful place.

''When I set out to write ''We Are Unprepared,'' I wanted to explore the most intimate human costs of our changing earth. I had just left [my job at] the White House and, while I was proud of the unprecedented environmental steps taken by the Obama Administration, I was frustrated by the pace of progress and tyranny of corporate interests. Writing fiction was an entirely logical extension of my politics, if an unconventional one in Washington. That's the influence of my home state.

''Vermont's contribution to the climate movement is as distinct and artful as the landscape it serves, and there's hope yet for this Earth. ''

NOTES: ''WE ARE UNPREPARED,'' set for a September 1, 2016 release, is a novel about the next big storm, the one that changes our relationship to nature and each other. The storm threatens to destroy a marriage, a rural Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard when it hits -- but the destruction begins months earlier when the fear infects their lives and spreads like a plague.
We are surely unprepared, but we may not be doomed... [Publisher's PR]


Dede Cummings, publisher at Green Writers Press, told me:

"It strikes me that the thing that makes Vermont such a great place for cli-fi novels is a combination of the place's natural abundance and its people's interest in maintaining, rather than exhausting, that abundance. Also, being a small state, Vermont's a place that is likely to feel severe climate shocks generated mostly in the wider world, so it's in the interest of Vermonters to promote global ecological stability. But the smallness of the place also allows for small changes to have comparatively big results, and the fact that the once-deforested state is covered by hardwood-and-evergreen forests shows that it's a place where comprehensive environmental projects have been conducted successfully in the past.
"It's also a place where a new start-up, independent publisher like Green Writers Press in Brattleboro, Vermont, can get tons of attention and support. We are an eco-minded publishing company that gives back profits to support environmental activism. We are not sitting around waiting for the climate catastrophe to happen; rather, we are taking action and publishing books sustainably, that matter. Our message is one of hope and renewal and environmental activism. We are specially interested in cli-fi novels and working with younger readers to spread the message. Cli-Fi is a genre we embrace wholeheartedly and many of our titles are selling well and are starting to win awards."

Lewis Milford told this blog, when I asked him why he thinks so many cli-fi novels are being set in Vermont:
"Vermont is an eclectic stew of writers, people who care about the environment and folks who are at the edge of key cultural trends. For decades they have seen around the corner of change. Climate is the overwhelming issue of our time. They feel it in their bones and are compelled to tell everyone else about it. They can't help themselves, " he told this blog.
"I located my setting in Vermont frankly because I know the state and how it would react to a disaster and what it would do to the place. I just wrote what I know. I did spend some time in the town where oil trains blew up in Canada. The truth is it could happen anywhere along the upper Midwest and down the spine of the rail lines down to Philadelphia," he added.

[NOTE: Lewis Milford, author of VOLATILE, a ''cli-fi'' novel in search of a publisher, has been an environmental lawyer in Vermont for almost 30 years. He adds: "So I've been through the wars here from the inside. It helps with the writing. I try to tell the novel from the angle of an attorney who has fought the fights."]

Peter Gould, author of MARLY, already published, told me:

My new novel, I was working on it for 4 years. When I began it, I didn't know that the issue it raises, and deals with --- how can a small, rural, community-minded state like Vermont get together to solve its energy needs carefully and wisely, in this time of climate change, without giving a free ride to large corporations, to come in and, like, do whatever they want for their profit selling energy that looks green on the face of it? --- how could I know that that question would be one of the BIG ONES being debated right now, in 2016, all over the state?

"I write about the place I live in and love. I'm not a "not in my backyard" kind of guy. I'm more like, "let's put something in all of our backyards" guy, but after we talk it out in a reasonable, cautious, and mutualistic way. Vermont is a town-meeting state; we're good at talking things out with modesty and caring. We're sending one of our Senators (Bernie) to take this message all around the country. Greed is driving some of the worst problems afflicting our planet, including climate change, and I don't see a lot of that kind of behavior here in my neighborhood, or nearly anywhere in Vermont.

"For me, Vermont-style Climate Justice includes as much community-based discussion as we can muster. We don't have a huge effect on the net hydrocarbon emissions our country produces, but we do have an outsized influence upon how people live, eat, think, drink beer, enjoy the outdoors, and talk with each other.


Sheila Post, author of the cli-fi novel ''The Road to Walden North ,'' told me:

"Rather than oriented by socio-economic class, Vermonters are united 
in their attachment to 
the land, the green mountains, and our pastoral lifestyle.
Writers, or those people eager, not only to spread the word — book by book —
of our green ways, but to engage readers in preserving what we have, have taken to 
visualizing their Vermont in fiction.
''We are experiencing a Vermont renaissance of fiction celebrating this special  -- green -- place.'


Don Bredes, author of the YA cli-fi fantasy novel ''POLLY AND THE ONE AND ONLY WORLD,''  from Green Writers Press in Vermont, told this blog:

"Here's my brief contribution to your "why Vermont?" discussion of settings for cli-fi fiction.  I don't really have much to say on this score.  I set my fiction in Vermont (when I do) just because I know and love the place.  Its features (the seasons, old villages, the wooded hills and worn mountains, the hardscrabble people) appeal to me broadly, but there's nothing especially cli-fi-ish about Vermont, except for the the likelihood that this sort of independent, rural place will do much better than many others as the consequences of change become ever more severe. I really think that the most favorable settings for cli-fi fiction are the far north (Quebec and Labrador, where the sequel to ''POLLY'' begins to unfold), West Africa, and, here in the USA, vulnerable Florida, where ''POLLY'' opens.
NOTE: [''POLLY'' was recently released by Secular Media as an audio-book, and is available now from Audible and iTunes.] 


We ''discovered'' a new cli-fi novel from a Vermont writer today, written  by Chris Bohjalian in 1995, titled "Water Witches", set in 1990s Vermont, where the author of 18 novels still lives. We've asked him for a quote to add to this blog post too. Will post it here.







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