Climate change is relatively unexplored territory in fiction, including speculative fiction, and most of the pioneers in this area have investigated the subject via the novel. Relatively few writers have tackled it with the short story and other short forms. One collection, however, corrects this mistake. Hot Mess: Speculative Fiction About Climate Change, edited by Rachel Lynn Brody, brings together six stories by five writers (including Brody) into a diminutive and intriguing look at how global warming might affect the lives of ordinary people.
The stories range from classic dystopia to allegory to biting satire, all with a warming world as a driving force behind the narrative. The lead story, Eric Sipple’s “She Says Goodbye Tomorrow,” tackles the impact of the warming on winemakers who see the climate slowing killing their legacy, though family tensions play their usual insidious role. Miranda Doerfler’s “In Between the Light and the Dark” demonstrates a frightening outcome to climate change as an opportunity for murderous authoritarianism. And in “Haute Mess,” Brody skewers the fashion industry and commercial enterprise in general, which is ready to appropriate anything, including a climate disaster, to influence the all-important decision of what to put in our armoires.
Over the history of literature, only a few dozen writers, mostly in science fiction, have posited an earth with a different climate than what we now know. A small subset of those writers–mostly novelists–are attempting to take the very real changes in earth’s climate as starting points for an exploration of the psychological, political and emotional landscape of a warmed planet. For some reason, speculative fiction writers sometimes recoil from a subject once it morphs from conjecture to reality. And not all of Hot Mess’ stories succeed in shedding light on how humans might adapt. But as an anthology, Hot Mess is an excellent early effort at encouraging other adventurous writers to look at what humanity is facing and explore the options.