I recently participated in a Union of Concerned Scientists online conversation around Writing for Impact: How Narrative Inspires Change. This was a thrill, largely because it featured one of my literary heroes, Kim Stanley Robinson, who’s been writing climate fiction or eco-fiction since long before the terms entered our lexicon. The focus of this conversation centered on how writers and artists can use their creative energies to inspire positive climate action, not just “climate fatalism.” Many paths can be blazed to pursue this goal, and there are many of us trying our best to contribute to the cause.
Can storytelling really change minds and move readers to take action? I sincerely believe so, as do many writers who are spinning tales to shape a better future.
Personally, I’ve always felt the pull of the natural world; the tranquility that comes from a hike in the woods, the conviction that we need to protect our planet’s precious, finite resources and not just plunder them for near-term gain.
I work in a technical field — cybersecurity — but I’m convinced that technology and the environment can meld in mutually beneficial ways instead of being forced into conflict. Those are the stories I want to tell, the vision I want to share. Writers across the spectrum, in many different genres, feel the urgency of this message in our bones. We extract its essence from our marrow, inject it into our work, and try to spread some hope that a happy ending is still possible for all of us!
As a science fiction writer who specializes in the sub-genres of climate fiction, eco-fiction, or the emerging literary realm called solarpunk, I’m among those making the attempt. I was recently privileged to contribute a short story called “OasIS” to the anthology No More Fairy Tales—Stories to Save Our Planet, which was graciously reviewed by Bill McKibben. This anthology was timed for publication at the onset of the COP27 Climate Summit and was freely distributed to delegates in order to inspire them to commit to meaningful international climate action. Each story in the anthology has an associated webpage describing the climate solutions featured in that tale. “OasIS” explores the idea of the “Ocean as Independent State”: seasteading communities spread their artificial islands across a world ocean now recognized by the UN as a sovereign nation, striving to find new ways to sequester carbon, clean up pollution, harness renewable energy, and provide a refuge for climate migrants displaced from their coastal homes.
Some more stories I have written or contributed to, that I’d like to share with you:
The Green Stories Writing Competition that drove No More Fairy Tales has long been working to increase exposure for eco-fiction storytellers. I was honored to contribute the title story to the anthology Resurrection Trust: Stories About Living Sustainably, published in 2019. “Resurrection Trust” traces the adventures of a teenage orphan from the Steel Cities caught poaching on the “Rez”: the abandoned territories, once deemed too toxic to be salvaged, that have been turned over to members of the Resurrection Trust to be healed, rewilded, and reborn.
Worldweaver Press is a publisher dedicated to presenting stories in the new realm of solarpunk, a sub-genre that transports readers to a world where we’ve learned to weave technology harmoniously with ecosystems, to forge a sustainable future where nature is celebrated and not exploited. I contributed the short story “Snow Globe” to Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters, alongside other writers determined to chart a more optimistic course for humanity. In “Snow Globe,” Native American tribes have established a federation of floating cities across Lake Superior where each city-state is unique, experimenting with strategies for sustainable living while evolving its own form of government and culture.
Similarly, the short story collection Anthology House: A Visionary Ecology Project donated its proceeds to help those who were devastated by the series of climate-change-fueled hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) that hammered Puerto Rico and the American coast in 2017. My story “Storm Rider” was included in that collection. In “Storm Rider,” a determined engineer puts himself directly in the path of deadly hurricanes along the coast of Florida to prove his techniques for storm-proof home construction, haunted by memories of the tempest that stole his wife and daughter.
Of course, novel-length works can also aim to inspire climate action. My science fiction trilogy Aquarius Rising strives to do just that, offering a stark vision of an Earth ravaged by global warming, where humans resort to bioengineering to stave off the worst effects of a changing climate and tailor themselves to fit evolving ecological niches. The novels resonated with critics, winning EPIC’s eBook Award for Science Fiction and the Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Science Fiction.
Many climate fiction novels have gained wide readership: your favorite library or online bookseller is bound to offer something to inspire you. The wonderful website Dragonfly: An Exploration of Eco-fiction provides an exhaustive list of books, authors, and publishers in this category.
And you, too, can be an author. How about you also get started?