Saturday, March 25, 2017

La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson: L'escriptor, convidat a Kosmopolis per parlar de la 'climate fiction', planteja escenaris utòpics després del canvi climàtic

UN CLÀSSIC DE LA CIÈNCIA-FICCIÓ, A KOSMOPOLIS

La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson

L'escriptor, convidat a Kosmopolis per parlar de la 'climate fiction', planteja escenaris utòpics després del canvi climàtic

La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson
JULIO CARBO
Dissabte, 25 de març del 2017
                                             
Quan Ian Watson va anunciar, en la passada Eurocon, que Kim Stanley Robinson seria un dels convidats a Kosmopolis, va llançar una pregunta. Si el canvi climàtic és potser el problema número u de la humanitat, i la ciència-ficció és l’únic gènere que l’ha abordat a fons, potser la seva rellevància és més gran de la que se li concedeix. Robinson, autor de Marte rojo, Marte azul i Marte verde, referent de la ciència-ficció amb intenció ecologista i consciència socialista, ha visitat finalment Barcelona. «La ciència-ficció tracta del futur, el pitjor de l’impacte del canvi climàtic es veurà en el futur, així que la ciència-ficció és la manera natural de parlar del canvi climàtic», confirma Robinson.
Fins i tot si s’escriu del passat cal incloure el canvi climàtic constant que ha marcat l’evolució de la terra. Ho ha fet en el seu últim llibre publicat a Espanya, Chamán (Minotauro), una història que es desenvolupa fa 32.000 anys, en plena edat de gel. «Sempre escric sobre la relació entre les persones i el seu planeta, el seu entorn», recorda.

NOVA YORK SOTA L' AIGUA

Tot i això, el seu últim llibre publicat als EUA, New York 2140, ens porta una sorpresa. Sí, Manhattan s’ha convertit en una espècie de Venècia. Però no es tracta d’una distopia climàtica, de la crònica d’un desastre. «El capitalisme global castiga el treballador, augmenta la desigualtat, no paga pel mal que fa a l’entorn i no pensa en l’impacte que tindrà en el futur. Però potser tot vagi en la direcció oposada. New York 2140 és una novel·la utòpica, descriu d’una manera pràctica una revolució financera d’esquerres».
¿I la climate fiction? «No m’agrada l’etiqueta. Cada vegada que la ciència-ficció es torna interessant s’inventen un nom nou per a ella. Per a mi, sempre és ciència-ficció».

"Hem d'acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia"

A 'Aurora' (publicada l'any passat per Minotaure) Kim Stanley Robinson recull un tema clàssic de la ciència-ficció (una arca espacial, amb un viatge multigeneracional per colonitzar un planeta en una estrella més o menys pròxima) però el subverteix, per arribar a la conclusió que deixem de pensar a viatjar a altres planetes i ens centrem a salvar el nostre. "Això és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia. Volia acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; que podem utilitzar una segona Terra com a rescat. Tenia una altra motivació, la de tractar què passa en un microbioma. Per motius genètics, és un error pensar que una població pugui viure en un espai restringit com una nau espacial i seguir sana". Però no es pot negar que la imaginació es dispara davant l'onada de descobriments d'exoplanetes, o la possibilitat d'enviar petites sondes robòtiques a estrelles pròximes. "Sí, aquests planetes són allà però massa lluny perquè podem visitar-los. I un petit robot podria arribar-hi i fer unes fotos... en el millor dels casos després de trigar 60 o 70 anys. Les implicacions pràctiques de tot això sense pràcticament inexistents".

La Climate Fiction, aka Cli-Fi situada en un futur proper, és la ficció realista del nostre temps, i Kim Stanley Robinson n’és el practicant principal.

  1. La Climate Fiction, aka Cli-Fi situada en un futur proper, és la ficció realista del nostre temps, i Kim Stanley Robinson n’és el practicant principal. Ian Watson, autor veterà de la ciència-ficció, conversa amb KSR sobre la seva carrera, sempre compromès i amb propostes constructives per comprendre com la raça humana pot sobreviure a les crisis que s’estan produint ara mateix.
  • 25 marçh, 2017
  • 19.30 - 20.30 pm in SPAIN
  1. Kim Stanley Robinson: "La ciència ficció és com unes ulleres de 3D"
  2.  

    1. "Sólo tenemos La Tierra. No hay plan B. Marte y otros planetas hoy no son viables". Kim Stanley Robinson. -- "THERE IS NO PLANET B!"
    2.  
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    4.  
     
    UN CLÀSSIC DE LA CIÈNCIA-FICCIÓ, A KOSMOPOLIS

    La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson

    L'escriptor, convidat a Kosmopolis per parlar de la 'climate fiction', planteja escenaris utòpics després del canvi climàtic

    La utopia verda de Kim Stanley Robinson
    JULIO CARBO
    Dissabte, 25 de març del 2017 - 21:16 CET
    Quan Ian Watson va anunciar, en la passada Eurocon, que Kim Stanley Robinson seria un dels convidats a Kosmopolis, va llançar una pregunta. Si el canvi climàtic és potser el problema número u de la humanitat, i la ciència-ficció és l’únic gènere que l’ha abordat a fons, potser la seva rellevància és més gran de la que se li concedeix. Robinson, autor de Marte rojo, Marte azul i Marte verde, referent de la ciència-ficció amb intenció ecologista i consciència socialista, ha visitat finalment Barcelona. «La ciència-ficció tracta del futur, el pitjor de l’impacte del canvi climàtic es veurà en el futur, així que la ciència-ficció és la manera natural de parlar del canvi climàtic», confirma Robinson.
    Fins i tot si s’escriu del passat cal incloure el canvi climàtic constant que ha marcat l’evolució de la terra. Ho ha fet en el seu últim llibre publicat a Espanya, Chamán (Minotauro), una història que es desenvolupa fa 32.000 anys, en plena edat de gel. «Sempre escric sobre la relació entre les persones i el seu planeta, el seu entorn», recorda.

    NOVA YORK SOTA L' AIGUA

    Tot i això, el seu últim llibre publicat als EUA, New York 2140, ens porta una sorpresa. Sí, Manhattan s’ha convertit en una espècie de Venècia. Però no es tracta d’una distopia climàtica, de la crònica d’un desastre. «El capitalisme global castiga el treballador, augmenta la desigualtat, no paga pel mal que fa a l’entorn i no pensa en l’impacte que tindrà en el futur. Però potser tot vagi en la direcció oposada. New York 2140 és una novel·la utòpica, descriu d’una manera pràctica una revolució financera d’esquerres».
    ¿I la climate fiction? «No m’agrada l’etiqueta. Cada vegada que la ciència-ficció es torna interessant s’inventen un nom nou per a ella. Per a mi, sempre és ciència-ficció».

    "Hem d'acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia"

    A 'Aurora' (publicada l'any passat per Minotaure) Kim Stanley Robinson recull un tema clàssic de la ciència-ficció (una arca espacial, amb un viatge multigeneracional per colonitzar un planeta en una estrella més o menys pròxima) però el subverteix, per arribar a la conclusió que deixem de pensar a viatjar a altres planetes i ens centrem a salvar el nostre. "Això és ciència-ficció convertida en fantasia. Volia acabar amb la idea que podem viatjar a les estrelles; que podem utilitzar una segona Terra com a rescat. Tenia una altra motivació, la de tractar què passa en un microbioma. Per motius genètics, és un error pensar que una població pugui viure en un espai restringit com una nau espacial i seguir sana". Però no es pot negar que la imaginació es dispara davant l'onada de descobriments d'exoplanetes, o la possibilitat d'enviar petites sondes robòtiques a estrelles pròximes. "Sí, aquests planetes són allà però massa lluny perquè podem visitar-los. I un petit robot podria arribar-hi i fer unes fotos... en el millor dels casos després de trigar 60 o 70 anys. Les implicacions pràctiques de tot això sense pràcticament inexistents".

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    There is a Chinese-language idiom ...''TÁNG BÌ DĀNG CHĒ'' [螳臂当车] which means ''a mantis trying to stop a chariot''. It means to attempt the impossible!

    There is a Chinese-language idiom ...

    ''TÁNG  BÌ  DĀNG  CHĒ'' [螳臂当车]

    which means ''a mantis trying to stop a chariot''. It means to attempt the impossible!


     TÁNG = praying mantis
    BÌ = arm
    ...
    DĀNG = to be
    CHĒ = car, or chariot/cart

    In terms of humankind trying to stop runaway climate change, is this a noteworthy idiom to learn and remember? Are we humans the mantis and global warming is the chariot we cannot stop?

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Today, with the steady rise of dystopian literature, ecofiction and climate change fiction (otherwise known as “cli fi”), we see similar artistic responses to environmental change which steer readers away from complacency. As authors seek to express the gravity and severity of ecological crises, their literature holds the potential to inspire radical change

    Victoria Tedeschi is a PhD candidate studying English and Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Victoria has tutored literary studies at the University of Melbourne and Deakin University. Her research has been published in international, peer-reviewed journals and has received numerous accolades such as the Australian Postgraduate award, the Gwenda Ford English Literature award and the Percival Serle prize.
    Victoria is currently compiling a dissertation which employs an ecocritical methodology to identify how Victorian-era editions of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale literature represented the ecosphere to a newfound child audience during a period of environmental upheaval. She is primarily interested in ecocritical research, ecofeminist discourse and representations of the environment in popular culture.
    =====================================

    Today, with the steady rise of dystopian literature, ecofiction and climate change fiction (otherwise known as “cli fi”), we see similar artistic responses to environmental change which steer readers away from complacency. As authors seek to express the gravity and severity of ecological crises, their literature holds the potential to inspire radical change

    Nathaniel Rich and Elizabeth Kolbert discuss cli-fi on stage at the New York Public Library lecture series a few years ago.......

    Subject:  listen video re Nathaniel Rich | Elizabeth Kolbert discuss CLI FI and SOME MAN IN TAIWAN at 45.35 into NYPL video:

      http://www.nypl.org/node/261377
      Nathaniel Rich | Elizabeth Kolbert discuss cli-fi

    ELIZABETH KOLBERT: What do you feel about the whole cli-fi, is it?
     NATHANIEL RICH: There's a new term called "cli-fi" that I started tohear ....(laughter) .....after my book came out if you're not familiar with it,there's a man in Taiwan who invented it and is its biggest promoter. I'm surprised you haven't heard from him.
     ELIZABETH KOLBERT: I know, I know.
    FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE: NATHANIEL RICH: And yeah and the novel got wrapped up in the>>> discussion of this genre, there was like an NPR story that I think>>> started. So the idea is fiction about the climate and I think there's>>> very little good fiction about the environment.

    There are a couple of>>> examples that come to mind. I think Ian McEwan's book Solar is very>>> good as an example of it's not didactic, it's not preachy, and it's>>> about sort of a convincing story about these issues.

    And there's a>>> good T. C. Boyle novel, Friend of the Earth, Barbara Kingsolver has>>> written about it, and some other. J. G. Ballard, I guess it's his>>> first or second novel, The Drowned World is a good early example, but>>> there's very little. And I would say even--I love Boyle and I love>>> McEwan, but I would say--and I love those books but they're not their>>> best books, those writers' best books, and I think there's a real>>> opening there, but I think, yeah, but I do have a wariness about--like,>>> anything, whenever anything crystallizes into a genre it's going to>>> have its clichés and its forms and I think if you want to do original>>> work, you have to resist that.

    VIDEO -- At 49-minute mark, Margaret Atwood gives her IMPORTANT NBCC lifetime achievement acceptance speech

    VIDEO -- At 49-minute mark,  Margaret Atwood gives her IMPORTANT NBCC lifetime achievement acceptance speech


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8LxJNslFVg

    How one professor is finding the funny in climate change

    SOCIETY

    How one professor is finding the funny in climate change

     
    And "climate fiction," or "cli-fi," is a budding field of literature, increasingly being taught on college campuses across the country.
     
    BOULDER, Colorado USA — We have rising sea levels, world-record warming, acidifying oceans, an approaching food crisis and a president who is determined to cut any federal budget that is aimed at mitigating climate change. Is there anything that's funny about this?

    That's a question about human behavior that Maxwell Boykoff, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is studying because he thinks humor may bring more people closer to understanding the threats and potential solutions to the problem of climate change.

    He and a colleague, Beth Osnes, have produced "Creative Climate Communications," a class for graduating seniors majoring in environmental science that probes their fears about climate change and stresses the need for explaining policies that can cope with it.

    Much of the literature about climate change is focused on the year 2050, a time when scientists predict rising oceans may begin to threaten many of the nation's coastal cities and states like Florida. By then, graduating seniors will be 55 years old, squarely in the middle of this mess, perhaps struggling with a collapsing economy and wild weather while trying to put children through college.

    Boykoff, who is 43 and has a doctorate in environmental studies, wanted to set up what he calls a "living laboratory" to examine what his students think about this. So he built a course that involves producing annual comedy shows involving stand-up comics, skits and short videos to explore the humorous side of climate change.

     
    "At first there was almost mutiny," Boykoff recalled. "They felt you're [tasking] us to take a very serious issue and find funny in there." To talk lightly about "scientifically grounded evidence"? This is impossible, they told him.

    But Boykoff insisted that they would all learn something because communicating with other people about solutions to climate change is becoming extremely difficult. "Expressions of doom and gloom don't help open conversations" that are increasingly necessary to finding solutions.

    He cited statistics showing newspaper coverage of climate change is declining, except for stories about the Trump administration's latest actions. He argued that people use climate denial to avoid thinking about needed changes and told students, "You may be able to use humor to meet people where they are."

    Taking aim at ski bums, Inhofe and weather reports

    The class comes at a time when scientists and other advocates for tackling climate change are seeking new ways to communicate catastrophic threats to the planet. The Showtime series "Years of Living Dangerously" featured big-name celebrities, including comedians like David Letterman, to tell the stories of how rising temperatures are affecting the planet. Some have sought to draw parallels between global warming and the HBO hit "Game of Thrones."

    And "climate fiction," or "cli-fi," is a budding field of literature, increasingly being taught on college campuses across the country.

    Change in attitudes among Boykoff's students and other participants in his show came slowly — some of them had no idea they were going on stage — but it came. One example is a short video that appeared in this year's show, "Stand Up for Climate Change: An Experiment With Creative Climate Comedy."

    The video features a talking baby explaining to President Trump, who will be 71 in June: "You won't be around to face the consequences of climate change, but I will. So please, Mr. Trump, planet Earth first!"
    In last year's show, the class took on three presidential candidates in a skit where they posed as bachelors and bachelorettes on a mock version of the television show "The Dating Game."
    In another, three students walk into a dorm carrying ski gear while another keeps trying to light his bong. A woman reminds the would-be skiers that it hasn't snowed for months. "We've got to do something about this," says one of them, who seems surprised. The student smoking the bong looks up in glassy-eyed despair: "Shit. We're fucked."

    Luke Campbell, one of last year's students, started with a stand-up routine that mocked Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) for walking into the Senate and throwing a snowball during a late-spring snowstorm, as if that proved climate change to be a hoax. But then Campbell seemed to drift off script, admitting that it was unfair to blame Inhofe or any other single person for climate change.
    "Blame yourself and everyone else," he told the audience in a small campus theater. "Climate change is bad news. Eventually something terrible is going to happen, and everyone is on their phones saying we probably shouldn't do that," he said, referring on a common reliance on gasoline to drive for even short errands in their cars. "And they do and they do and they keep doing that."

    Perhaps the funniest moment of Boykoff's first two seasons as a comedy impresario came in a short video from Vancouver, British Columbia, where Heather Libby, a writer and graphic designer, was inspired by years of hating local television news programs to produce one of her own. It was titled "Weathergirl Goes Rogue."

    The announcer, played by Libby's partner, a former CTV bureau chief, kicks it off: "It's the Labor Day weekend, last chance to lounge by that pool and wrap up your summer reading list," and then summons Pippa, the weather girl, to explain why "the nice warm weather isn't quite ready to leave."
    Pippa replies sarcastically, "I don't know why you would imagine that. We've broken thousands of temperature records across the country and the planet this year. In fact, we're heading into the 329th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th-century average."
    Announcer, looking puzzled: "Well it's definitely time to light up that barbecue." He invites Pippa to give her seven-day forecast.

    Pippa starts with the weather "way up north." The Arctic is missing 4 million square kilometers of ice. "That's bigger than India," she points out. Instead of a white ice sheet reflecting the sunlight back into space, there is "dark water sucking up even more heat, making it warm up faster and faster!"
    The announcer, frowning, reminds Pippa he asked for a weather report.
    Pippa screams at him, "You think all this is a coincidence? You want a weather report? This is a reality report!" She predicts "total mayhem if it continues."

    The announcer has the control room turn off Pippa's sound. "So all and all, it looks like a great Labor Day weekend," he says, smiling, "and good times for the air conditioner industry."
    Pippa: "Until the power goes out, you moron!"

    As the announcer turns to celebrity news, the weather girl lunges at him from across the studio, knocking him off his chair.

    An 'aha moment'?

    According to Libby, there were quite a few other people who shared Pippa's rage. Her video went viral on the internet, getting half a million views in the first two weeks. That whetted Boykoff's appetite for more guest videos. Last year, there were nine entries for his comedy show, where judges select the top three. This year, there were 18 entries that will be shown next fall by Rebecca Safran, a biologist, who teaches a separate course about film and climate change.

    Osnes, an associate professor of theater studies, joined Boykoff in teaching this year's course on communicating climate issues. Environmental science majors are different from her usual students, she explained. "They've got deep content knowledge," she said, but getting them up on stage just to do public speaking is often daunting, let alone trying comedy.

    Osnes patrols the rehearsals, prodding people to keep their lines short, stay near the front of the stage and use portable microphones.

    She thinks the time is ripe for audiences to connect with climate change. "More people are having their own physical experiences with extreme weather. There is a kind of aha moment."
    Comedy, especially parody, she says, can "explode some of the inconsistencies and hypocrisies with which we're all living in a way that we can kind of laugh at." The format, she pointed out, goes back to ancient Greece, where Aristophanes wrote "Lysistrata," a comedy that suggested women deny their husbands sex until they stopped the destruction and killing in the Peloponnesian War.

    "We're just trying to give them ideas they can riff off of," she explained.

    So that is how Pablo Laris-Gonzalez, a student from Mexico City, wound up on the stage this year in a golden robe and a crown. He was "Sol," portraying the role of the sun.

    Students dressed as bugs, plants and animals came on stage with him, but they were covered with a blanket simulating dirt, rocks and debris that compressed them for millions of years until the pressure and Sol's heat produced "Fos." This is a raffish character in a scaly, black costume worn by Larry Gumina from New Jersey. He roamed around the stage bragging about the beauties of having coal and high-powered cars.

    Sol and Fos, who represented fossil fuels, had a kind of love-hate relationship. In one scene, Fos came out on the stage to sleep off a drink and Sol mentioned something about a strip, which made Fos happy. But then Fos woke up to find Sol running a toy bulldozer over his body.
    "Wait a minute, I thought you were going to do a strip," said Fos.

    "I said strip mining," explained Sol.
     

    Monday, March 20, 2017

    In Kim Stanley Robinson's NEW YORK 2140, the character named Gen Octaviasdottir is an homage and show ot respect and shout out to SF pioneer writer Octavia Butler!

    In Kim Stanley Robinson's NEW YORK 2140, the character named Gen Octaviasdottir is an homage and show ot respect and  shout out to SF pioneer writer Octavia Butler!

     

    WHY? Well....

     

     

                Genevieve Valentine · explains a few things about the character named Gen Octaviasdottir in Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel titled NEW YORK 2140, where many readers are now suspecting (guessing) that the character's name is quiet homage and show of respect and shout out to the pioneering SF author Octvia Butler.

     

    Professor Ugo Bardi in Italy asks: ''Zombie Apocalypse: will it be our future? ''

    Monday, March 20, 2017 from his blog post:

    Zombie Apocalypse: will it be our future?



     Caution, this is probably the most catastrophistic post I ever published: famines, cannibalism, mass extermination and more. But, hey, this is just a scenario! (Image from "teehunter").


    For those of us who delight themselves in studying long-term trends, the rise of zombies as a movie genre is a fascinating puzzle. There is no doubt that it is a strong trend: look at these results from Google Ngrams.


    The term "zombie" was wholly unknown in English before the 1920s, then it slowly started gaining attention. In the 1970s, it exploded, mainly after the success of the 1968 movie by George Romero "The night of the Living Dead." The term "zombie" wasn't used in the movie, but the concept became rapidly popular and it created the genre called "zombie apocalypse".  Today, the idea is widespread: it involves the sudden appearance of a large number of undead people haunting suburbs and shopping malls, searching for live humans to eat. They are normally the target of the fire of heavily armed but much less numerous groups of people who have escaped the epidemics or whatever has turned people into zombies. 

    Now, if something exists, there has to be a reason for it to exist. So, why this fascination with zombies? How is that we have created a genre that has never existed before in the history of human literature? Can you imagine Homer telling us that the city of Troy was besieged by zombies? Did Dante Alighieri find zombies in his visit to Hell? How about Shakespeare telling us of Henry the 5th fighting zombies at Agincourt?

    I think there is a reason: literature always reflects the fears and the hopes of the culture that created it; sometimes very indirectly and in symbolic ways. And, here, it may well be that zombies reflect an unsaid fear of our times, a fear that is present mainly in our subconscious: hunger. 

    Let's start with a typical feature of zombies: the black circles around the eyes.
    Zombies are supposed to be "undead," cadavers that somehow returned to a semblance of life. But do cadavers have this kind of eyes? I must confess that I don't have much experience in autopsy (actually, none) but, from what I saw on the Web, it seems to me that it is rare that cadavers have those dark eye sockets; that is, unless they had developed bruises before dying. It is true that a decomposing cadaver will slowly lose the soft tissue and, eventually, the eyes will disappear leaving only dark holes in a mummified skull. But that doesn't seem to agree with the facial aspect of the zombies that appear in the movies. (I know, this was a ghoulish search, I did it in the name of science).

    Instead, for what I could find, dark eye sockets may be a characteristic of undernourished people, often as the result of the development of a facial edema. Here is, for instance, a photo of a Dutch girl during the famine of 1944-1945 in Holland.

    This is not always a characteristic of malnourished people, but it seems to occur rather frequently. Another example is the Great Famine in Ireland that started in 1845. We don't have photos from those times, but the artists who drew pictures of starving Irish people clearly perceived this detail. Here is, for instance, a rather well-known image of Bridget O'Donnell, one of the victims of the Great Famine. Note her darkened eyes. 

    So, we have some idea of who these zombies could represent. They are starving people. And it is clear that they are hungry. In the movies, they are described as stumbling onward, desperately searching for food. They seem to be the perfect image of the effect of a famine. Look at the memorial of the Irish famine, in Dublin:

      
    Do they look like the zombies of a modern movie? Yes, they do. This doesn't mean a lack of respect for the Irish men and women who perished in one of the greatest tragedies of modern times. It is only to note how, in our imagination, real starving people may be turned into imaginary undead zombies. 

    Now, imagine that a famine were to strike our society, today. It is true that the world hasn't seen major famines for the past 40 years or so, but that doesn't mean they can't appear again. Today, our globalized commercial system is fragile, based on a long supply chain that involves maritime transportation and road distribution. The system needs low-cost fossil fuels to function and, more than that, it needs a functioning global financial system. If food travels all over the world it is because someone is paying for it. A currency crisis would make the whole system collapse. The consequences would be, well, let's try to imagine the unimaginable. 

    People living in suburban areas have no other source of food than their shopping centers. Now, imagine that, suddenly, the ships and the trucks stop running. Then, the shelves of supermarkets can't be replenished anymore. The suburbanites would be first surprised, then angry, then desperate, and, finally, starving as their home stocks of food run out. Even before that, they would have run out of gas for their cars; the only system of transportation available to them. Now, assume that the elites would decide that it is easier for them to let the suburbanites starve and die rather than attempt to feed them. Suppose they decide to wall off the suburbia and instruct the army to shoot on sight anyone who tries to escape. Who could force them to do otherwise?

    We can imagine what the results would be. The inhabitants of suburban areas would become emaciated, blundering, hungry people haunting the neighborhood and the shopping malls in the desperate search of something to eat; anything. Would they turn to cannibalism? Possibly, even likely. Some of them may be able to put their hands on a good supply of guns and ammunition, then they could play king of the hill, gathering most of the remaining food and shooting dead the poor wretches who still lumber in the streets, at least until the run out of food and ammo, too. It would be the zombie apocalypse, nothing less than that.

    This is, of course, just a scenario, Nevertheless, I think it is interesting as an illustration of how the human mind works. In a previous post, I noted how the "overpopulation" meme disappeared from cyberspace as a result of how people gradually developed a kind of "infection resistance" to it.  The zombie meme seems to be related to the same issue, but it is a much more infective meme and it is still growing and diffusing in the world's population.

    There are reasons for the success of the zombie meme. Fictionalized catastrophes ("it is only a movie!") are surely less threatening than those that are described as likely to happen for real. So, the concept of "Zombie Preparedness" is making inroads in many areas. Apparently, preparing for a zombie apocalypse is more socially and politically acceptable than preparing for the consequences of resource depletion and climate change. This is a curious trait of the human mind but, if this is the way it works, so be it. It makes the concept of "climate fiction" (cli-fi) an attractive one for generating preparedness for climate change.

    It may be that the only way for our mind to understand catastrophes to come is to see them as tales. In Ireland, before the great famine, there was some premonition of the incoming disaster. Here is what the Irish poet Clarence Mangan wrote in 1844 about an undescribed "event" that he expected to take place in the future.

    Darken the lamp, then, and bury the bowl,
    Ye Faithfullest-hearted!

    And, as your swift years hasten on to the goal
    Whither worlds have departed,
    Spend strength, sinew, soul, on your toil to atone

    For past idleness and errors;
    So best shall ye bear to encounter alone
    The Event and its terrors.




    The Irish may have had some kind of premonition of the "event" that was going to hit them, the Great Famine of 1845, even though that didn't help them much to avoid it. Is a similar "Event" coming for us, too? Maybe it is already starting.

     

    Jason Nahrung on ''Stolen futures: the Anthropocene in Australian cli-fi mosaic novels''

    University of Queensland

    Jason Nahrung

    Stolen futures:
    the Anthropocene in Australian
    science fiction and cli-fi mosaic novels

    Abstract:

    Commentators such as Naomi Klein (2016) and Kim Stanley Robinson (2015) have warned that a failure now to adequately address anthropogenic climate change is an act of intergenerational theft.

    So great are these man-made impacts the term Anthropocene has been suggested to delineate a new epoch in the planet’s history.

    Australian writers are using science fiction and cli-fi, or climatefiction, to examine possible conditions faced by future generations that reflect on our current approach to the phenomenon. This paper argues that the mosaic novel, in concert with a science fiction approach, is particularly well suited to this task in its use of interlinked short stories as a reflection of the complex elements of global climate change.

    My mosaic novel, “Watermarks”, being written as part of my PhD in creative writing, is set in near-future Brisbane.

    It draws attention to what has been identified as a relatively neglected topic in climate fiction: mitigation (Clode and Stasiak, 2014; Jordan, 2014).

    “Watermarks” uses a bricolage method in its construction, which also has resonance for the amorphous, interwoven aspects of anthropogenic climate change. The book adds to the small canon of other Australian writers who have used the science fictional mosaic to present visions of future life in the Anthropocene: Sue Isle’s Nightsiders (2011); James Bradley’s Clade (2015); and Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming (2009).

    Bibliographical note: Jason Nahrung, a Ballarat-based journalist, editor and writer, is undertaking a PhD in creative writing at The University of Queensland. His M.A. in creative writing from QUT explored Australian vampire Gothic. While he writes across the gamut of speculative fiction, all four of his novels and most of his 20-odd short stories lean towards the dark side.

    Keywords: Anthropocene, bricolage, science fiction, cli-fi, mosaic novel, climate change

    Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 2


    Introduction

    I was born in the late 1960s, and so have grown up with climate change: the predictions of its effects, its observable impacts on our environment, the recalcitrance of governments to address it.

    My entry into the official conversation can be marked by my short story “Watermarks” (2014), which imagined a near-future Brisbane beset by the effects of advanced anthropogenic climate change.

    This story, however, concentrates on the negatives: there is very little for my protagonist to do but mourn and survive, and only a few aspects of how the city might be affected are canvassed.

    How best to expand that story, I wondered, without sending the reader into denial due to fear, disbelief or helplessness in the face of the enormous, complex challenge of climate change? How to breach the cognitive dissonance, to show that, while the world may change, mitigation and adaptation may yet save the planet from the most apocalyptic of predictions?

    My answer is being explored through practice-led research in the form of a PhD in creative writing, consisting of two interrelated elements:

    “Watermarks” [1], a mosaic novel of about 60,000 words, and an exegesis of about 20,000 words.

    Both elements use bricolage to assemble their cohesive wholes from a combination of autonomous but interlinked parts – a technique that has a thematic echo in the exploration of climate change.

    The mosaic, made up of ten to twelve autonomous but interconnected short stories, is both cli-fi and science fiction (SF or sci-fi).

    The novel examines and demonstrates how these genres, when combined with the mosaic form, provide a valuable tool for making the massive and complex phenomenon of climate change more approachable.

    Three other Australian climate mosaics have employed a cli-fi lens:

    the dystopia of Sue Isle’s Nightsiders (2011);

    the pangenerational view in James Bradley’s Clade (2015);

    and the journey of an unnamed protagonist in Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming (2009).

     “Watermarks” adds a new angle to these approaches.

    Climate change While climate change can be a natural process, the term has come in recent decades to be a popular reference for anthropogenic alteration of the Earth’s climate, in particular those changes caused by global warming (the raising of the average temperature of Earth). This warming is largely due to an excessive build-up of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect), due in large part to the use of fossil fuels (Maslin 2009: 1). So great and rapid have these changes been that in 2000 Nobel Prizewinning scientist Paul Crutzen suggested humanity had brought about a new geological age in Earth’s history: the Anthropocene. This paper, concerned with human impacts on the environment and consequent environmental impacts on humans, uses the term “climate change” in this anthropogenic context.

    The continued warming of the planet, which research suggests is already disrupting “normal” weather patterns, is predicted to further alter Earth’s climate through dramatic effects such as rising sea levels, altered climatic zones and melting ice caps and glaciers (IPCC 2014; Flannery 2007; Garnaut 2008; Whitaker 2010).

    Despite widespread scientific and growing political acknowledgement of climate change, there is a body of sceptical resistance (Dupont & Pearman 2006: 19–24), as demonstrated by the Australian Abbott Government’s opposition to mitigation (Kenny 2014). Part of “Watermarks”’ raison d’être is to challenge this scepticism, using the tools and properties of science fiction. Science fiction, climate fiction Climate change has increasingly become a topic for fiction writers (Johns-Putra 2016: 266) both on the big screen, most notably The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and in books such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour (2012), the sceptical State of Fear by Michael Crichton (2004), Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife (2015) and Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series (2003, 2009, 2013). Not surprisingly, Australian writers have also addressed climate change – our country is considered highly vulnerable due to its variety and variability of weather patterns, a population clustered along the coast, delicate environments such as the rainforests of Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, and reliance on marginal land and irrigation for food production (Flannery 2007; Henderson-Sellers 1989; Lynas 2007, 2011). Key Australian novels reflect the spread of climate fiction: contemporary literature such as Tim Winton’s Eyrie (2013) and Anson Cameron’s satirical The Last Pulse (2014); First Nations SF by Peter Docker (2011); thrillers from Ian Irvine (2000) and LA Larkin (2012); the adult dystopia of Hillary James (2015); George Turner’s SF (2012); and young adult dystopia of Gabrielle Lord (1990) [2].

    In 2009, Dan Bloom proposed the term cli-fi as an umbrella term to draw attention to such broad fictions all sharing a common concern with anthropogenic climate change, “a fiction genre that might be helpful in waking people up and serving as an alarm bell” (in Holmes 2014), regardless of their other genre affiliations.

    Bloom said the genre was a work in progress, that “(n)ovelists, screenwriters, literary critics, and academics will determine what makes cli-fi in an organic way over the next 100 years” (in Holmes 2014).

    With the seepage of various aspects of climate change and adaptation into a broad range of fiction as noted by Adam Trexler (2015: 15) and a “dramatic diversification among fictional responses” since the 1990s (Clode & Stasiak 2014: 24), I suggest that cli-fi is best suited to describing those fictions – such as “Watermarks” – that actively discuss the phenomenon and humankind’s response to it, rather than those merely using it as a background to a more primary narrative.

    As we progress further into the Anthropocene, however, the literature’s purpose will be less that of ringing alarums than in presenting coping mechanisms – both of these themes are present in “Watermarks”.

    The cli-fi term is not without its shortcomings – the abbreviation’s similarity to sci-fi suggests a limiting association, for instance.

    While Bradley argues that the broad body of work dealing with this growing awareness of our relationship with nature may transcend genre Bradley is wrong.

    With its strengths, cli-fi is a useful space in which to examine how writers of all genres are addressing this era of dramatic transformation.
    This helps a practitioner such as myself to explore the most pertinent work that has gone before and find a point of difference while adding to this ongoing conversation.

    Science fiction and estrangement “Watermarks” falls firmly within the climate fiction field, as well as being science fiction.

    Darko Suvin defines science fiction as “a developed oxymoron, a realistic irreality” (1979: viii) because it causes cognitive estrangement in the consumer. The fictional world “estranges” the consumer’s understanding of the known world by presenting a possible but fantastical element (a novum).

    Building on this, M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas acknowledge the difficulty of defining the complex genre of SF, due in part to its long evolution and the role of cognitive estrangement in all fiction (2009: 3–4). They define SF as “fiction set in an imagined world that is different from our own in ways that are rationally explicable (often because of scientific advances) and then tend to produce cognitive estrangement in the reader” (2009: 4). The emphasis on fractured reality establishes science fiction’s speculative nature, while the elements of explicability and technology are key in differentiating SF from other strands of speculative fiction [3] such as fantasy and horror, which often come with their own challenges of definition. Cognitive estrangement is an important aspect of my design for “Watermarks”, which is driven in part by frustration at continued denialist rhetoric and government inaction. Cognitive estrangement may break through this cognitive dissonance, as Paik (2010: 2) and Schmidt (2014: 872), amongst others, suggest. Providing a picture of a possible world to come might encourage critical thinking (Krznaric 2010: 155) and engender empathy for the generations who will have to cope with the unravelling of climate as we know it (Krznaric 2010: 162). The sheer size of climate change, in terms of global impact and temporal reach, makes such long-term reasoning difficult. In introducing his climate fiction anthology Loosed Upon the World, editor John Joseph Adams says: One of the many problems we face is simply in popular comprehension. It’s hard to imagine how a two-degree increase in the average global temperature could possibly affect you or me ... It all feels distant, either in space or in time – something that’s affecting someone somewhere far away, or will affect a future generation as yet unborn. But that sense of distance is a false one. It’s happening now, and we will feel the affects (sic) in our lifetime. (2015) Timothy Morton posits that climate change is a hyperobject – “(a thing) massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” (2013: 1), which Robert Macfarlane describes as Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 5 “(defying) our perception, let alone our comprehension” (2016). To counter this overwhelming object, Morton proposes that, “We need art that does not make people think (we have quite enough environmental art that does that), but rather that walks them through an inner space that is hard to traverse” (2013: 184). Science fiction can do both, simultaneously, by fostering empathy with people in future scenarios that in turn reflect on our current experience of, and reaction to, climate change. The very structure of the mosaic novel lends itself to this role through its application of bricolage – taking elements from the disassembled hyperobject and reassembling them into a cohesive, approachable story world. Mosaic novels The term “mosaic novel” is a loaded one, a descriptor that is not widely used in discussions of the form. Since Forrest Ingram offered the first comprehensive study of the mosaic form in 1971, numerous titles have been offered to accommodate the form’s place if not between then beside the short story and the novel. A few key descriptors have arisen since Ingram championed the term “short story cycle”. Robert M Luscher suggested, in 1989, “short story sequence”, and in 1995, Maggie Dunn and Ann Morris moved away from the short story altogether and argued for “composite novel”. In 1999, Rolf Lundén added his weight to the camp of the “short story composite”. These definitions tend to focus on the ways in which a) the stories cohere to transcend the properties of a collection and b) the connotations the titles hold, such as a linear or cyclical shape to the narrative, and/or preferencing of the parts (short stories) or the whole (novel, composite). There is consensus, however, regarding the underlying principal that governs the operation of this form, with Dunn and Morris offering a solid base definition: The composite novel is a literary work composed of shorter texts that – though individually complete and autonomous – are interrelated in a coherent whole according to one or more organizing principles. (1995: 2) Two guiding principles in “Watermarks” are the use of recurring characters as a “composite protagonist” and the common temporal and geographic setting. Also, the book uses repeated references to water and drought to aid symbolic cohesion. Whether this qualifies the book as a “novel” is open to debate against the background of academic inquiry assayed here (and indeed, the perceptions of possible publishers and readers), but I use the “mosaic novel” descriptor in this paper as a best fit term. The key from this analysis is that the texts, when read together, make a whole that is bigger than the sum of their parts – “the features of unity distinguishing it from the collection” (Lundén 1999: 14). While each story offers its own selfcontained narrative, when combined they interact to form a larger, more complex world. This mirrors the web of interactions that make up environments at all levels, and the complex interactions that are involved in climate change. Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 6 Australian SF mosaic climate change novels The mosaic form has been used in combination with SF by three aforementioned Australian writers to examine the Anthropocene: Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming, Isle’s Nightsiders [4] and Bradley’s Clade. Each of these texts employs a different narrative approach within the mosaic framework. TWDSC tracks an unnamed protagonist through a series of contrasting adventures over an approximate twenty-five year period and through an unnamed country riven by ecological disaster and social breakdown. There are signs of overarching government and a reestablishment of accessible technology – the protagonist is treated for health issues, for instance, and the final story involves him acting as a tour guide to jet-setting terminal patients. The book enacts a cyclical recall by ending with the father introduced in the first chapter. Nightsiders uses different protagonists to explore its dystopian setting, a Perth largely abandoned due to war and ecological collapse and with limited technology for those few who stayed behind. A new generation of mutated humans is adapting to a high-UV, low-rainfall world. In “Nation of the Night” a character travels to a flood-stricken Melbourne where they undergo gender reassignment surgery. There is, in the final story, a suggestion of mixing First Nations and post-colonial knowledge to improve survival chances. Clade is perhaps the most optimistic of the trio. It traces a broadly defined family through events such as bird extinction, refugee and health crises, flood-devastated England and a global plague. The idea of the Anthropocene as a time of transition, not an ending, is repeated, with Clade’s final story suggesting a technological resurgence – fish adapted for an ocean warmer and more acidic than at present, and a hopeful vision of the deep future where aliens may be present. Along the way, there are glimpses of adaptation and mitigation such as electric cars and trees modified for carbon sequestration. Each book uses a chronological timeline and recurring characters as part of their mosaic form. That sense of unity is enhanced in Clade by the network of characters anchored around the central figure of Adam, beginning with the impending conception through IVF of his child and ending with his reported death. Clade also employs a cyclical device, opening and ending on beaches. TWDSC traces its protagonist from teenagehood to his apparent death, although the tactic of leaving the protagonist unnamed erodes this cohesion. In Nightsiders, a common geographic setting, reinforced by the contrast of the Melbourne excursion, enhances the sense of unity. To this trio, “Watermarks” – still a work in progress – brings a new combination of approaches: themed stories, multiple points of view, and temporal and geographic proximity, as well as its focus on mitigation – carbon capture activities such as kelp farming, reducing methane production in livestock, and phasing out fossil fuels. Mitigation has been identified by Danielle Clode and Monika Stasiak (2014: 26), and Deborah Jordan (2014: 9), as an often overlooked aspect of climate fiction, one that Jordan finds is more the domain of scientific and political discussion (2014: 7). Mitigation and adaptation, as sources of achievable hope, balance the potential paralysis and despair that Krznaric warns can be generated by dystopic visions (2010: 163). The mosaic, with its ability to use numerous point-of-view characters to highlight various themes while maintaining a Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 7 cohesive world view without recourse to the traditional novel’s “coherent narration and closure” (Lundén xxx: 13), has much to offer in this balancing act. Why the mosaic novel? The mosaic form offers a way of breaking the nebulous and complex phenomenon of climate change into more manageable pieces. Michael Trussler notes, “(S)hort fiction accentuates a single event, as opposed to the novel’s propensity to knit numerous events together in a serial fashion” (1996: 558). The mosaic novel can accentuate single events “knitted” into a bigger, more cohesive picture. This tension of fragmentation and unity – what Lundén describes as centrifugal and centripetal narrative forces (2014) – makes mosaics an ideal vehicle for conveying, Michelle Pacht argues, “a struggle to define and understand the always-changing world in which their characters live” (2005: iv). She continues: The story cycle ... can exploit the short story’s attention to an individual character and combine it with the novel’s more expansive look at society as a whole. These texts can therefore highlight isolated events and the collective ramifications of those events at the same time. Because meaning exists in the spaces between the text-pieces – those invisible threads which link them to one another – the cycle’s structure demands that much of the interpretive work be done by the reader. (2005: 172) The gaps between the short stories is one of the inherent characteristics of the mosaic form, and play an important part in the reader’s relationship with the text. Angela Slatter calls them “liminal spaces ... where further story, the story that occurs before the opening sentence and after the last full stop, is withheld from the reader”, and contends that “a skilful writer will be able to hint at what lies within the abyss” (2012: 284). The gaps are, Lundén asserts, “not to be regarded as passive states of absence but rather as dynamic narrative components” (2014: 59). Catherine McKinnon identifies similar fertile purpose in these gaps in her examination of translit stories, a term she ascribes to Douglas Coupland (2012). She describes translit as “multi-narration [autonomous stories, not necessarily a straight polyphonous story] novels that surf time, genre hop and skip geographical location”, and offers Things We Didn’t See Coming as an example (2014: 1). McKinnon’s and Coupland’s descriptions of translit locate it firmly within the mosaic form. In the spaces between the short stories, McKinnon argues, lie unanswered questions, the beginnings and ends of tales not fully told, perhaps never heard ... [inviting] the reader ... to imagine a story or set of political or cultural consequences that might arise from what the author of a translit novel has drawn their Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 8 attention to; an imagining that drifts up from the spaces, gaps, voids, that are left between the stories. (2014: 20–21) Clade and Things We Didn’t See Coming both have gaps spanning years between their stories as their characters move forward in time. In Nightsiders the time jump is less pronounced. The stories within “Watermarks” take place in a more condensed time period. Still, they invite the reader to explore the before and after of each story, and in so doing recognise the often unstated connections between my near-future story world and the current “real” world – to recognise how my imagined future may be a plausible potential outcome of our actions in the past, present and near future. The reader can also bridge these narrative gaps by inference and extrapolation, tracing characters such as mudlark Kat without my having to explicitly fill in the transitions in their lives. This allows a purposeful focus within the short story while inviting the reader to be involved in the broader storytelling. Another thematic strength of the mosaic, identified by Susan Garland Mann (1989), is that, “because cycles consist of discrete self-sufficient stories, they are especially well suited to handle certain subjects, including the sense of isolation or fragmentation or indeterminacy that many twentieth-century characters experience” (qtd. in Lundén 1999: 23). Isolation and indeterminacy are evident in all three Australian mosaic novels as isolated characters seek community or belonging in their challenging worlds; ways to exert influence in worlds that can present as being beyond further human influence. These forces are close to the heart of “Watermarks”, too, set as it is in a changing environment potentially inimical to human life (and indeed to much of the natural living world as we know it). This movement from isolation and helplessness towards community and agency, reflecting the creation of unity from separate stories, further reinforces my feeling that the mosaic carries in its very structure some of the core themes I am working with. Bricolage as guiding principle Adding to this thematic resonance is the underlying methodology of bricolage, which in this literary application offers a thematic and structural practice well suited to the complex process of climate change and mosaic fiction. The creative work draws on news headlines and non-fiction publications from a broad range of fields, including sociology, economics, technology, energy production, transport systems and politics, and the many sciences of climate change, from philosophy to chemistry and oceanography, ecology and geography. It also surveys other climate fiction, and applies a spread of critical access points to the topic, including cognitive dissonance, cognitive estrangement, ecocriticism, and facets of science fiction such as dystopia, utopia and apocalyptic fiction. Bricolage as an artistic practice has developed from the theory espoused by Claude LeviStrauss, in which he proposes “two strategic levels at which nature is accessible to scientific inquiry: one roughly adapted to that of perception and the imagination: the other at a remove Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 9 from it” (1966: 15). The scientist (or engineer), he says, uses structures to make events; the bricoleur uses events to make structures (1966: 22). The bricoleur “makes do” with ‘whatever is at hand’, that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions. (1966: 17)

    While not all of my materials are as unrelated as this quote suggests, I appreciate, and indeed am aesthetically and thematically drawn to, the notion Levi-Strauss introduces here of using what amounts to debris – “the remains of previous constructions or destructions” – as not only a nod to literary antecedents but as a symbol of writing about a climate change future. Construction and destruction apply to a range of social, economic and technological patterns of behaviour that have been created, ended or modified by the realities of the Anthropocene, as well as to the notion of building a new city on the “ruins” of what has come before. The resulting short stories do not just build on the past (predominantly our present), however, but on each other in an iterative process of discovery and revision.

    This interplay of connections helps to form the mosaic. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, having identified several approaches to bricolage, highlight the synchronicity between bricolage and the mosaic novel that encapsulates my ambition for “Watermarks”: “the interpretative bricoleur produces a bricolage – that is, a pieced-together set of representations that is fitted to the specifics of a complex situation” (2014: 4). This synchronicity is further reinforced by AnneMarie Boisvert, who talks of disassembly and reassembly as a way of dealing with complex issues. She writes: (T)he bricoleur seeks above all (more or less consciously) to preserve the qualitative complexity of the world by transposing this complexity onto structures of components with diverse and subtle relationships. This complexity is sacrificed by the scientific mind in favour of intelligibility. The bricoleur thus displays concern for recuperation, and thereby responds to a profound need: that of creating meaning through reassembly, by (re)organising and weaving meaningful relationships among apparently heterogeneous objects. (2003)

    This recuperative aspect and creation of unity through linking heterogeneous objects – short stories drawing on a variety of influences within fiction, non-fiction and criticism – is at the very heart of my vision for “Watermarks”, using a bricolage framework “to see the world as it could be” (Kincheloe 2005: 346).

    The novel’s focus on mitigation helps it to add to the Nahrung Stolen futures Authorised Theft: Refereed conference papers of the 21st Annual AAWP Conference, 2016 10 conversation occurring in Clade, Things We Didn’t See Coming and Nightsiders. “Watermarks” uses the disassembly and reassembly offered by the mosaic novel driven by a bricolage methodology to make climate change more accessible.

    The novel uses the cognitive estrangement of science fiction to not only reinforce a well-established sense of peril but to suggest ways forward.

    If, as Elizabeth Boulton attests, “Humanity will never be able to defeat a threat it cannot perceive” (2016), then “Watermarks” is an attempt to put a human face on the Anthropocene, to draw our changing climate within the limits of perception, and to encourage action now to ease the way for future generations.