I’ve been going through a bit of a non-fiction reading spree as of late, and one of the books that has caught my attention is Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future. It’s from the staff of Climate Central, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bridge the gap between scientists and the public on global warming and other related issues.
I know that global warming is a politically contentions issue, and I don’t want to set off a flame war at Suvudu, so allow me to say this book is well-written, reasonably short and presents all of the major arguments in support of the argument that the world is growing warmer. In doing so, it explains how this effects the world now and will continue to do so in the future. If that sounds like something that would interest you, then I highly recommend it. Let me also say that if you’re skeptical on the topic of global warming but happen to enjoy dystopian/apocalyptic reading, then you’ll probably still enjoy the last third of the book, as it predicts some pretty scary stuff: coastlines swallowed by rising waters, powerful hurricanes, droughts, famine and more. Powerful and worrisome read, unless you think it’s all hogwash. In that case, I envy you!
Leaving all of that aside, climate change has played a big role in science fiction and fantasy, and I’ve been inspired by this book to make a list of a few of these depictions. In no particular order, here are my picks:
Hothouse, Brian Aldiss. The Earth has become stuck in orbit, and now one side of the planet permanently faces the sun. It has become an enormous hothouse, and vegetation is evolving into new and dangerous forms. Small groups of humans huddle under the canopy and fight for survival in a world no longer their own.
The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood. Genetic experimentation and climate change have both transformed the world into an alien milieu. A cult that calls itself God’s Gardeners prepares its adherents for a coming apocalypse.
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi. A story of intrigue and espionage unfolds amid a 23rd century world ruined by rising seas, a devastated ecology and corporate-controlled genetically modified foodstuffs.
A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin. The action of this multi-volume fantasy saga unfolds against the backdrop of massive climate change. Weather patterns are erratic in Martin’s world, and both winters and summers can last for years, decades even. As the first book, A Game of Thrones opens, the first chill winds announce that “Winter is Coming.”
The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse, Dale Pendell. Environmental change triggers famine, disease and war. The survivors band together to create a new way of living among the ruins.
These are just a few of the many many works of fiction that feature climate as a major element of the setting. Can you think of more?