Science Fiction and Climate Change

fire-102450_640Climate change has been a subject of science fiction for a very long time. I remember reading “The Sheep Look Up” in the late 70s (it was published in the early 70s,) and was very influential in my early life (along with Silent Spring, the non-fiction book by Rachel Carson.)

One of the great things about science fiction is that it can, and does, ask big questions, like “what will happen if…” Like, what will happen if we keep on this same path? Answering that is the subject of any number of books and movies. Octavia E. Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” is one such. It paints a grim picture of the economic and environmental future. Another one that is more environmental in scope is “Mother of Storms” by John Barnes. Not my favorite novel, but its future look at climate is scary.

I’ve steered away from deep consideration of that subject, although it is a factor in many novels I’ve written. The first is the “Casitians Return“, set early this decade, where we get saved from the effects of climate change by galactic intervention. That’s nice, of course. I keep saying to my partner when I see stuff about how climate change is taking its toll, “When are those Casitians going to show up?”

The second time is in “The Right Asteroid” where Lodan, one of the main characters, gets sent to Mars after having spent time in New England during the “mini-ice age” brought on by the cessation of the thermohaline circulation system (the Gulf Stream is part of this system.) But Earth is actually not in too bad a shape in that novel. The Earth doesn’t fare well in either “Becoming Queen” or my newest book, “Friends with Wings” although it has a very small part to play in those novels. In fact, “Becoming Queen” is set so far in the future that any mention of the fate of Earth is in a history book the protagonist reads.

It’s fun to ask big questions about the future, although with climate change, the answers seem dire. Unlike the 70s and 80s (and, to some extent, even the 90s,) the prospect of a bright future, with spaceflight inside and outside of our solar system now just seems so unlikely. The more unlikely it seems, the less science fiction will reflect that kind of possible future, I suspect. In fact, I think we already have seen this. The golden age of space operas are largely behind us. I might keep writing them, but I understand how unlikely that future is to unfold.

 

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One Comment

  1. It does seem like things will get worse ever before they will get better. And that better won’t happen in our lifetime. I have to say though that it’s hard to sit in that hopelessness. I’m glad your novels give a sense of hope.

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