I find the genre wars incredibly entertaining, mostly because they’re pointless, and the participants waste an amazing amount of time making their points when they could be writing good stories. The kerfuffle everyone in the scifi universe talks about these days concerns the definition of “science fiction.” Traditionalists, who call themselves the Sad Puppies, have … More More Skirmishes in the Genre Wars
Science fiction has a long, glorious history on radio, beginning in the medium’s golden age with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Sci-fi dropped off radio’s radar as television took over, but the genre occasionally reappears in special projects. Chicago-based WBEZ-FM, one of the country’s leading public radio stations (This American Life; Serial), has produced a thoughtful … More Review: “After Water” Radio Stories Put Climate Change In a New Light
Policy wonks, eco-alarmists, and right-wing denialists dominate the climate change conversation with boring reports, deafening polemics, and forgettable op-eds. The mound of non-fiction reaches to the moon, and we’re no closer to a collective response to a warming world. In contrast, the number of novels written with climate change themes might not reach the top … More Review: Why aren’t ‘serious’ writers writing about climate change?
I’m reading a new mystery novel and there’s a problem. I can’t help but think the author is holding back, like a sprinter on the starting block, but not quite ready to run all out. The novel’s characters are too nice to each other, preferring to forgive than hold a grudge, pulling back from saying … More Why science fiction writers should reveal their inmost selves
The movie Interstellar opens on November 7 and climate change drives the story. Stills and leaked reports about its plot point to an agriculture irreparably damaged by global warming, forcing the protagonist to leave Earth in search of greener pastures. Commentators are lumping Interstellar into the current crop of post-apocalyptic thrillers, which include Hunger Games … More Is fiction about climate change for real?
You can read a book through different lenses. Most reviewers of The Truth, the second novel by ex-Monty Python comic Michael Palin, read it as mainstream literature. I read it through a narrower lens, as a writer interested in how fiction makers work with environmental themes. Seen in this way, Palin’s book is about hero-worship, … More Review: To get at The Truth, dig deeper
Cosmologists are embracing the idea of parallel universes or the multiverse, which writers of science fiction and fantasy have portrayed as mirrors or different versions of our own universe, with passageways between them. Other sciences have noticed that the laws of nature often lead to repeat, parallel performances, such as adaptations in unrelated creatures to … More Review: The Adjacent Is Confusing, Maybe Unfinished
The activist and public relations man Dan Bloom, who originated the term “cli-fi” in 2008, recently posed the question to me in an email: Is climate fiction a genre, a theme, or a motif? I laughed, because these are the kinds of questions that resemble the old saw about debating the number of angels who … More Is climate fiction a genre, a theme, a motif, or what?
Environmentalists share a kinship with devotees of religion the former prefers to ignore and the latter enjoys lampooning. Extremists in both camps have a matching emotional commitment to their cause an anarchist or Taliban mullah would admire. Both have a mystical attachment to an idea, one an invisible spiritual value of nature, the other a … More Review: A Being Darkly Wise
I attended an arts event the other day that reminded me why I don’t go to arts events. The event was one of a series of readings sponsored by a Seattle-area literary non-profit which I won’t name, but I respect it for its work with aspiring writers and young people. The event’s theme of climate … More Why arts events are like torture
I remember a lecture in a college philosophy class about a medieval scholastic who wrote that if you can imagine something, it’s possible for it to become real. The artist Picasso took the idea a step further by declaring, “Everything you can imagine is real.” But what happens if you imagine something, and then destroy … More Review: A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists
Most books in the emerging genre of “climate fiction” fall under the label after the fact. Margaret Atwood, author of the Maddaddam trilogy, has embraced the “cli-fi” label, though she prefers “speculative fiction.” Climate activist and book lover Dan Bloom and editor Mary Woodbury have attached the label to dozens of books published as early … More Review: In Ark warns against benign eco-ideologies
One of my beta readers said that a draft of The Vault of Perfection, the sci-fi novel I’m currently revising, reminded her of Raymond Chandler‘s novels. It’s a compliment I hardly deserve, but it came as a surprise, because I’d never read any of his books. I knew he had pioneered the “hard-boiled detective” novel, … More Three things Raymond Chandler taught me about writing
Science fiction’s nautical tradition goes back to the genre’s origins. In 1870, French writer Jules Verne predicted the nuclear submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and he created one of the great megalomaniac characters in literature, Captain Nemo. My own love of sci-fi was sparked in part by the 1960s TV series Voyage … More Review: ‘Fleet’ revives sci-fi’s nautical tradition
Mark Nykanen, author of Primitive, Carry the Flame, and other environmentally themed novels, and Mary Sands Woodbury, editor at Moon Willow Press and the website Clifibooks.com, offered their thoughts on climate fiction and its future in publishing. (Material is edited.) What is “climate fiction,” and is it a new genre of fiction? Nykanen: I like … More Thoughts on climate fiction from a writer and a publisher
If you’re interested in writing in the new genre of “climate fiction,” here’s a few boundaries that will help you understand your role as climate storyteller. … More Six rules for putting climate change into your fiction
Climate change is too abstract for most people. Scientists focus on impacts decades out, while hedging predictions with “may” or “could.” Activists often turn these prognostications into apocalyptic visions, and the hyperbole turns people off. When something truly frightening occurs, such as a super typhoon or powerful late season tornadoes, an audience ready to hear … More Review: Water’s Edge a Plausible YA Climate Yarn
A science museum ought to be a temple to experimentation and odd ways of thinking, because that’s where new knowledge is often born. But you wouldn’t have guessed that an institution as prestigious as the London Science Museum would offer an altar for a literary experiment, though Shackleton’s Man Goes South has plenty of scientific … More Review: Shackleton’s Man Goes South
A literary event in April 2014 has me thinking that climate fiction may have arrived in Seattle. Richard Hugo House, a non-profit organization that supports writers with educational programs and events, has posted the schedule for its annual Hugo Literary Series. The org has invited three writers–Nick Flynn, Rick Bass, and Jennine Capó Crucet–to write about … More Seattle literary event may debut climate fiction
Here are some character sketches from my novel for young adults, Bet: Stowaway Daughter. Lisbet “Bet” Lindstrom – As the daughter of an experienced sea captain, 13-year-old Bet is familiar with life at sea, but only through the stories her father and his friends have told when they visit her home in Seattle. She’s not … More Character Sketches from Bet