The warming planet is increasingly the subject of all kinds of fiction. So beyond entertainment or distraction could climate fiction (“Cli-Fi”) actually help us in solving the climate dilemma?
Biological anthropologist and environmental scientist James Holland Jones explained the neuroscience of narrative: storytelling fits the human brain. Stories might be useful in bringing popular attention to climate and inspiring action on environmental issues.
James Holland Jones is an Associate Professor
of Earth System Science and a
Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute
for the Environment
at Stanford University.
A friend who was there there told this blog a day later:
The event wasn't really a ''panel.'' [What happened is] ....James Holland Jones gave a talk and there was a discussant.
Michael McElligott had tried at first to get Annalee Newitz to be the discussant (her novel, ''Autonomous,'' has strong climate themes), but she had a deadline and was unable to make it.
@Hannu was the discussant and he was amazing. He's a critically-acclaimed author and knows a lot about science generally, including climate science. He had thoughtful questions about the role of literature in motivating social action, why diversity matters in fiction, the possibilities for modeling complex systems using narrative, whether literature is the best artistic form, other things .... @Hannu got more enthusiastic about the project of climate fiction as the night wore on.
Regarding Charlie Jane Anders, who wasn't there, she is ... a co-founder of io9 along with her partner Annaleen Newitz -- and Charlie Jane is increasingly writing about climate, although for some odd reason she never mentions the ''cli-fi'' genre term or even the ''climate fiction'' term. I don't know what she is afraid of. In both her recent TOR piece and her recent WAPO piece she refused to even mention either term in either of her opeds. It's as if those new literary terms are verboten in her sci-fi mind, Rather strange for a writer of her stature to be so provincial and closed-minded. Sci-fi and cli-fi should co-exist in harmony, and I would hope Charlie Jane and Annaleen would be more helpful in this regard. They seem to be wedded to their version of the sci-fi cult. It's a shame they're so closed-minded.
The message that [climate] fiction dealing with climate science .... is a powerful tool for bringing about social and political change is certainly [an important one.]
Even though you were not there, you will be pleased to know that during the event that night, that Dr Holland was quite adamant in his call during the discussion for broader literary work dealing with climate themes. People say he is a big-tent kind of guy and he is.
So, in conclusion, Dan, from my point of view, this event on January 29 was an unmitigated ''win'' for Cli-Fi.
People walked away inspired to take action!
They bought a ton of books -- including titles by ....authors like Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Powers, Moshin Hamid -- from the Borderlands table in the back.
The success of this event was due, in no small part, to the efforts of Michael McElligott, the amazing discussant comments by @Hannu, the encouragement of cli-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson, and the general support of the ''Long Now'' community.
Speaking Series Producer
Mikl produces a selection of our Tuesday night "salon talk” lecture series. He has been a mainstay of the San Francisco art and theater scene for over two decades as a writer, director, performer, and producer.
Author @hannu in Q. and A. with James Holland Jones discussing climate fiction. @longnow