For this month’s reading group, we’re after nominations for science fiction books that have something to say about the climate crisis.
It’s been a while since we last tackled SF, and since we’re in the middle of an ongoing climate emergency, we thought we’d focus on fiction that is based in the science endorsed by experts; a serious subject, but not at all limiting. The climate and changing weather have been among the most fertile subjects for speculative fiction since at least the days of the ark. Older, in fact, since flooding also had such a big influence on the epic of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. It’s perhaps stretching the definition of climate to say that if Aeolus had kept his bag of winds closed, Aeneas would never have been blown off course and the subsequent body of western literature would have been utterly different. But it is true to say that nearly all ancient epics were governed by the moods of the Mediterranean climate, the furies of the equinox and Zephyr’s willingness to blow away the winter.
There are plenty more recent classics to choose from. One of the very first books that we would recognise as (almost!) modern science fiction, for instance, was Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel The Last Man, detailing the world festering under a black sun, flooding and subsequent migrations. Then there are all the pioneering SF climate novels from the latter half of the 20th century, such as Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang and JG Ballard’s The Drowned World. More recently, there have been hugely important novels such as The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, NK Jemisin’s mighty Broken Earth trilogy, and – depending on what you think might have happened – Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There are probably hundreds more to choose from; after all, this is one of the biggest stories of our time.
If you want to put a book forward for consideration, just post a nomination in the comments below. If you say a thing or two about it, so much the better. Towards the end of the week, I’ll put the nominations in a waterproof hat and the one that comes out will be our subject for the month. I’m looking forward to seeing your suggestions.