Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction

Vor ein paar Monaten hatte die Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF) zu einem Climate Fiction Shortstory-Contest aufgerufen. Jetzt haben sie aus über 700 Einsendungen 12 Gewinner ausgewählt und in einem eBook (PDF, ePub) für lau veröffentlicht: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction. (via Bruce Sterling)


Snip aus dem Vorwort:

The subject matter of the stories we received was tremendously diverse, ranging from artificial intelligence and carnivorous nanotechnology trees to indigenous communities, corporate espionage, climate refugees, and political intrigue. There were even some fantastical stories powered by magic and mysticism, and far-future tales of aliens and other worlds. Despite this amazing diversity, a number of common themes emerged from stories authored on five different continents.

First, our authors approach climate change as a thoroughly human and often individual experience.

Second, similar to the award-winning climate fiction on sale in any decent bookstore, most of our stories imagine gloomy, dystopian future worlds in which much of what we cherish – and take for granted – about our present realities will be lost. This pessimism and sense of foreboding seems to reflect not only a societal mood in the industrialized world, but also humanity’s mood in a decade full of broken records.

The dystopian story brings with it a number of motifs that are already at risk of becoming climate fiction clichés: the simplification of community life, scavenging, disappearing islands, and decreasing mobility in a de-globalized, disconnected world. What seems to weigh heavily on writers’ minds are fraying and changing family relations, concerns about availability of food, and the loss of places and homes, but less frequently of non-human species or ecosystems.

Third, several authors explored the attribution of responsibility for climate change by casting their stories with characters across generations. They often use the grandparent-grandchild relationship to explore the connections between the past (i.e., the readers’ present, in which this world is still intact) and the future (i.e., the protagonists’ present, which usually features radically different challenges). Focusing on grandparents and grandchildren simultaneously avoids and addresses the generation of parents that is presumably responsible for creating, or at least not fixing, the climate mess. Through the thoughts and experiences of the older and younger generations, difficult arguments and emotions find expression: often a hint of blame and a dash of anger, a call for justice (probably not as loud as it ought to be), but seldom the need for revenge.

Many of the stories submitted to our contest raised challenging emotional issues young people grapple with at the dawn of a climatic transformation: What does it mean to have children, and should I have children? What can I do when I feel helpless and powerless in the face of overwhelming change? Who should I be angry at, and what is the best way to express this anger? How do I deal with the loss of people, ideas and expectations, places and experiences, species, normality, and sometimes even hope? What will be sources of excitement, joy, and happiness in a future that looms dark and uncertain?

Climate change is usually conceived as a scientific issue that requires global and national political solutions, often focused on the development of new technologies. However, most authors contributing to our contest presented a very different picture. None of the stories were about climate science and climate skepticism, Congressional stalemate, or an international treaty. Nor did they discuss anything close to the standard fare of climate policy, such as a price on carbon, renewable energy technologies, or green buildings.

Instead, they grappled with food availability, health, changing landscapes, changing professions, family and community relationships. Largely unconcerned with politics, they asked what life would be like in world with a new or still-changing climate. Finally, with regard to solutions, most authors explored personal, individual approaches rather than large-scale technological change, institutional change, or societal reorganization.

There was a “naming and shaming scheme” to mark and punish people who live in carbon excess, a government coup instigated by an individual, disaster and disappearance tourism, and an individual’s heroic effort to save a species from extinction. Adaptation and suffering were much more prominent themes than mitigation and geoengineering. But as our grand prize-winning story “Sunshine State” demonstrates, there was also a strong focus on social innovation and resilience in small groups and communities.

We hope that these stories inspire readers to think in new ways about climate change and its consequences, about the challenges and the glimmers of opportunity that face us in a world in flux. We believe that stories are empathy machines, devices that enable us to connect with people in drastically different circumstances, in futures we have not yet glimpsed but are even today helping to create with our decisions to act, or to not act. And we look forward to hosting future contests, to give more people the opportunity to contribute to this crucially important conversation about our planet and the futures we will create for ourselves on it.