Interview with Julie Carrick Dalton

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton was published this month by Forge. I talk to the author of the adult contemporary novel about her new release, and her motivations for writing about climate change.

Tell us about your new book.

Cadie Kessler, a forestry researcher, is in the middle of trying to head off a potential wildfire when she gets a panicked message from her long-estranged childhood friend, Daniela, after a body is discovered in the woods where they played as kids. Cadie rushes home, where she and Daniela must acknowledge the traumatic childhood secret that drove them apart decades earlier. As Cadie and Daniela confront their past, they come face to face with truths about themselves they don’t want to see, and Cadie must decide what she’s willing to risk to protect the people and the forest she loves. WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG is a portrait of friendship, secrets, and betrayal, a love song to the natural world, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

How does climate change play into the plot?

A slow uptick in local temperatures creates conditions that attract a bark beetle to the woods of New Hampshire. Cadie, a forestry researcher, is trying to prove the beetle has arrived in New England, although models indicate it should not be there. The same conditions that appeal to the beetles are driving out native species, including a tiny song bird (from the title) that Cadie remembers from her youth. The federal government has restricted federal lands – including the forest where Cadie suspects the beetles are – from environmental research. She must decide if it’s worth risking her career and possibly jail time to defy the restrictions and collect samples to prove she is right. When Cadie advises fire crews to clear fire breaks in the town where she grew up, a long-buried body is unearthed and Cadie must confront the traumatic secret she has been hiding since she was eleven. As the drought worsens, crops fail, and the beetles settle in, wildfire looms over the small agricultural community and Cadie must decide how far she’s willing to go to do the right thing.

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

Eight years ago, I bought a piece of land and started a small farm in rural New Hampshire. I didn’t have a background in agricultural so the learning curve has been steep! I enrolled in the New Entry Sustainable Agriculture program at Tufts University and did a lot of reading about farming in my area. I learned that the growing season in my region has expanded by twenty-two days in the past century because of a slow, steady increase in the average summer temperature. It made me wonder about all the slow-burning, quiet effects. I researched the invasive species and endangered species affecting my area and tried to imagine how the absence of a tiny song bird and the presence of an invasive beetle could impact the personal lives of residents, as well as the broader community and the world.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change? (fictional or non-fiction!)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

The Bear by Andrew Krivak

American War by Omar El Akkad

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Why is it so important for you personally to see climate change discussed in fiction?

Fiction can convey truth in ways that charts, graphs, and scientific research often can’t. Inhabiting characters in fiction is an act of empathy which opens us up to new ways of considering the world. When it comes to climate change, too many people think about it as a looming crisis, but for many regions of the world that crisis has already arrived. I chose to focus on a small, insular community in New England we might not consider as on the front lines of the climate crisis. I wanted to tease out the small impacts we are already noticing and connect them to other parts of the world. For example, the endangered song bird in my book is dying off, in part, because its winter habitat in the Caribbean is being destroyed by deforestation and hurricanes. The bird is returning to New England in smaller numbers every year, which, in quiet ways, alters the ecosystem of the forest in New Hampshire. Everything is connected. It’s already happening, and we can’t think of it as a looming crisis any more.

Can you share a quote from the book that you hope will resonate with readers?

“All the other creatures had fled. The mice, spiders, crickets, squirrels. The silence they left behind hurt. The owl sat on a charred branch. Its home had been in these woods. Its mottled brown and amber stood out in stark contrast to the black and gray backdrop. Exposed without camouflage, the great bird blinked at Cadie and pulled its square head lower into its shoulders. Its whole body shuddered, as if shaking off a bad memory.

The owl launched itself into the air. Time to start over.”

What message do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I hope readers might see the small changes in their own region and consider how they tie into the global crisis. Climate change doesn’t happen in silos. We can’t think about it as something happening to other people. We all know that the people affected first and worst are most often marginalized, poor, indigenous, black, and brown communities. If readers feel like they are not being affected personally by climate change yet, I hope my book will prompt them to recognize their privilege and consider their own connections to and responsibility for populations already living the crisis.

You can find out more about Waiting for the Night Song here.

Julie Carrick Dalton

Julie Carrick Dalton’s debut novel WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG (Tor/Forge, Jan 2021) and a second novel, THE LASTEEKEEPER (2022), both hinge on contemporary climate-related issues. Pre-publication, WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG has been named to Most Anticipated 2021 lists by several platforms including Buzzfeed, Medium, and Betches, and has been featured in The Chicago Review of Books. As a journalist, Julie has published more than a thousand articles in publications including The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, Electric Literature, and The Chicago Review of Books. A Tin House alum, 2021 Bread Loaf Environmental Writer’s Conference Fellow, and graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, Julie holds a master’s in literature and creative writing from Harvard Extension School. She blogs for DeadDarlings and The Writer Unboxed, where she often writes about climate fiction. She is a frequent speaker and workshop leader on the topic of Fiction in the Age of Climate Crisis at universities, high schools, bookstores, and writers conferences. Mom to four kids and two dogs, Julie also owns and operates an organic farm in rural New Hampshire, the backdrop for her novel.

How to Build a Solarpunk City by Lauren C. Teffeau

The climate crisis is upon us, and while meaningful action may be hampered by our politics and short-term mindsets prioritizing profit, our imaginations remain unfettered to envision a brighter future. A future that hasn’t been polluted by our overreliance on fossil fuels or soiled by plastic waste or sullied by habitat loss and the inevitable extinctions that follow. A future where humanity has found a way to integrate society with the natural world to the benefit of all. A future I desperately want to see, even if we only accomplish a fraction of that in my lifetime.

I know I’m not the only one impatient to see change on this front. The rise of solarpunk in speculative fiction is testament to that—a body of literature imagining radical futures ranging from solar-powered utopias to gritty works in progress striving for a better tomorrow. Implanted, my 2018 debut novel with Angry Robot, is the latter, set in a solarpunk domed city where technological advancements fuels rehabilitation efforts to restore the natural world ravaged by climate change.

When I first started writing the book, I didn’t realize I’d be creating one of the more ambitious worlds I’d ever attempted. I was simply writing a story about a young woman on the run from her employer after a job gone wrong. I only knew I wanted it set in a high-tech city full of spatial and social constraints. Over time, that slowly coalesced into the city of New Worth, where people enjoy all the connectivity they can get as consolation for being trapped under glass.

You’ve surely read books where the setting becomes a character in its own right, but it’s not necessarily something writers can plan for—you can only hope it comes across to readers as strongly as you feel it. But the solarpunk-meets-Blade Runner aesthetic stuck, becoming inextricably linked to my story, characters, and the city that embodies them all. And I managed it without a contractor’s license or a degree in architecture or city planning, though I suppose that can’t hurt.

The following books helped me bring my storyworld to life and can inspire you to dream up your own city, or perhaps simply envision a brighter timeline, focusing on both the high-concept and the nitty-gritty as well as the people who will be inheriting our future.

Mark Kushner’s The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings

Think of this book as architectural #INSPO for just about any bleeding edge technology out there and how it can be incorporated into the materials, space planning, and design of real life edifices already being built today. While you might find yourself wanting a bit more detail from some of the building profiles, the pictures make up for any lack of text by demonstrating what’s achievable when funding and ideals intersect. When writing, I tend to focus on what’s possible, not necessarily practical or even probable (it’s more fun that way), in the hopes that science and demand will take care of the rest over time. Why not expect anything less from our future?

David Bergman’s Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide

Let your imagination take wing, but spare a thought for sustainable design. We’re going to have to pay the piper at some point for humanity’s impact on the Earth’s climate and resources, so be sure to factor that into your version of the future. Bergman outlines the environmental and energy-conscious considerations in planning and design we should all be thinking about, from our own homes to the administrative buildings erected by our local officials. Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” What are the priorities for your future city? So much can be telegraphed by not only the form but the function of the buildings we choose to surround ourselves with. Make yours work harder for a better future.

Kate Ascher’s The Works: Anatomy of a City

Even with cutting edge science and sustainability in mind, we will always be wrestling with infrastructure of some kind. Ascher’s The Works and companion volume The Heights go into great visual detail about all the individual elements and systems in place that make cities and skyscrapers function. While New York City is emphasized, those basics undergird just about everything everywhere, and such fundamentals change very slowly over time. Unless your future city is brand-new, you’ll have to think about how the old infrastructure can be incorporated or improved upon by the next phase of development. Twist the foundations to your advantage or use them as obstacles for your characters, but whatever you do, don’t overlook their potential.

Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Everything

I’m not sure who gifted me a copy of Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-Sections when I was a child, but it provided me with hours—and I do mean hours—of contemplative entertainment as I pored over the inner workings of cruise ships, skyscrapers, and castles. I remember that last one most vividly, particularly the nobleman taking a dump in the garderobe and the serf hard at work in the latrine below. Besides the obvious amusement that provided at the time, it’s still a nice reminder of not only the essential infrastructure your city needs to account for, but also the different jobs people have. Who shovels the shit and why? Now apply this to just about every other facet of your city. 

Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Everything is similar, sort of a How Things Work with a mind to the spatial requirements manufacturing different objects requires—a must when designing a physically-constrained city. Biesty’s work may be billed as children’s books, but to me, they are essential reading for fully understanding differences in scale and scope, depth and breadth, in a unique and undeniably visual way.

Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Who will live in your city? Where do they live? Where do they work? More importantly, how do they communicate? How do they think? I was introduced to Turkle’s work in graduate school, and she writes about how connectivity has affected interpersonal behavior and communication in an accessible way, drawing on decades of her own research. I believe it is impossible to think about the future without factoring in how the internet has fundamentally changed our interactions, interests, and engagement with the larger world. And all those things will be reflected in both the private and public spaces of your cityscape. Even if you are assuming the communication technology will be different or something happens where it’s no longer possible in quite the same way, we must acknowledge the changes that it has made on us in so short a time, changes that will track through the generations to come and bubble up in unexpected ways.

A previous version of this post appeared at SFFWorld. You can find out more about Implanted here.

Lauren C. Teffeau

Lauren was born and raised on the East Coast, educated in the South, employed in the Midwest, and now lives and dreams in the Southwest. When she was younger, she poked around in the back of wardrobes, tried to walk through mirrors, and always kept an eye out for secret passages, fairy rings, and messages from aliens. She was disappointed. Now, she writes to cope with her ordinary existence. Her novel Implanted (2018, Angry Robot) was shortlisted for the 2019 Compton Crook award for best first SF/F/H novel. Her short fiction can be found a variety of professional and semi-pro speculative fiction magazines and anthologies.

Climate Change in the News

Bank lending to plastics industry faces scrutiny as pollution concerns mount [Reuters]

How Brexit deal could force UK and EU to stick to tougher climate targets [Independent]

Exxon Mobil Is Twisting Itself in Knots to Justify Pumping Even More Oil [New Republic]

Many Scientists Now Say Global Warming Could Stop Relatively Quickly After Emissions Go to Zero [Inside Climate News]

Terror, hope, anger, kindness: the complexity of life as we face the new normal by League member James Bradley [The Guardian]

Nearly $640 billion coal investments undercut by cheap renewables: research [Reuters]

The Case for Climate Rage [Popula]

Interview with Laura Wood about Effie the Rebel

Today Laura Wood’s Middle Grade novel Effie the Rebel is published. I talk to Laura about her writing and activism for young readers.

Effie is changing the world, one classroom at a time.
Dark forces are at work at Highworth Grange school: the student council has been taken over by a tyrannical villain with his own agenda. But Effie Kostas isn’t about to stand by and watch democracy crumble! She’s leading the resistance – but politics can be a dirty game and Effie will need to keep her wits about her as she faces down the enemy. With the help of her brilliant band of misfit friends, a bad-tempered parrot, and a former nemesis, can Effie save the school she loves before it’s too late?

Categories: Middle Grade, Environmental activism, Politics

Published by Scholastic

Tell us about your new book.

Effie the Rebel is a middle grade book about a young activist, determined to make a difference at her school and in her community. When the student council is taken over by Effie’s nemesis, a villain driven by self-interest, Effie realises it’s time to stop playing by the rules and take matters into her own hands. It’s funny and angry and full of hope and glitter glue.

How does climate change play into the plot?

Effie and her friends are trying to make their school more green: she organises a river clean up, a recycling programme, and starts a zine to discuss climate change and the difference they can make with her fellow students.

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

I researched young activists, zines, and advice for schools and communities about becoming more green – things like composting and local clean ups. There are so many people doing such amazing work out there and the research was actually really inspiring. When it came to Effie’s zine I found myself doing a lot of research into plastic use and I was shocked by some of the figures I found – for example that the average person eats 100 bits of microplastic in every meal.

What approach did you take to talking about complicated topics, either political or scientific, for younger readers?

I guess this links to the kind of research I was doing – looking at young activists who were in a similar situation to my readers, and trying to find brief, clear facts that would make my points with the biggest impact. Also, I think it was important for me to have a sense of hope underpinning all the conflict – a feeling that while things are bad, there is still the possibility of change.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change?

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg, Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari and The Lorax by Dr Seuss!

Can you remember when your journey with environmental activism started?

I suppose I started learning about the environment at school, and I remember always being very interested in that and feeling a sense of empowerment, I guess, that through actions like recycling I could make a difference – as a child that is a rare thing, to feel that you’re able to enact real change. But shamefully, I think it’s only much more recently that I’ve been really aware of and interested in environmental activism, and that truly is down to incredible young people like Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate, Autumn Peltier, and Amy and Ella Meek.

Why is it so important for you personally to see the environment discussed in fiction?

Because it is important. Climate change is not something that’s going away, and as a writer for young people in particular I think their fiction should help them to better understand and cope with difficult subjects like this one, particularly when it’s their future at stake.

Can you share a quote from the book that you hope will resonate with readers?

There’s a silence that stretches between us for a moment. “Effie,” Iris breaks it finally. “If you’re going to be an activist then I’m afraid you’re going to come up against a lot of Matt Spaders. People who want to belittle you and the cause you’re fighting for. People who are afraid of change, or who have their own reasons for wanting things to stay the way they are.” She reaches out and squeezes my hand, just for a second. “Do you believe what you’re fighting for is right?”

“Yes,” I say quickly. “I think raising money for the river clean up is important. I think it’s exactly the sort of thing the school SHOULD get involved in as part of the community. We shouldn’t only be interested in what’s going on inside the school gates… that’s so narrow minded and selfish. And damage to the environment affects all of us anyway!”

“Well then,” Iris is brisk, “you’ve just got to keep fighting for it then, haven’t you? Where would we be if the suffragists just gave up when an obnoxious boy told them he didn’t like what they were doing?”

“STUPID PEANUT,” Lennon squawks.

“He IS a stupid peanut,” I agree, thinking over what Iris has said. Suddenly I find maybe I can manage a piece of cake after all, and I take a big squishy bite.

What message do you hope your young readers will take away from your work? What steps would you like them to take to be more involved in environmental activism?

I hope they’ll find themselves feeling angry, but I also hope they’ll feel hopeful. I want them to know that they are taken seriously, and that they have autonomy and power of their own, that we adults are listening, and we want to hear what they have to say. I hope they’ll find a way to be more involved in environmental activism that they are passionate and excited about, but also that it will encourage them to realise that even the smallest actions can make a difference.

Laura Wood

Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing and the author of the ‘Poppy Pym’ and ‘Vote for Effie’ middle-grade series and YA novels, A Sky Painted Gold and Under a Dancing Star.

She loves Georgette Heyer novels, Fred Astaire films, travelling to far flung places, recipe books, Jilly Cooper, poetry, cosy woollen jumpers, Edith Nesbit, crisp autumn leaves, Jack Gilbert, new stationery, sensation fiction, salted caramel, feminism, Rufus Sewell’s cheek-bones, dogs, and drinking lashings of ginger beer.

Interview with Aya de León

A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de León was published this month by Kensington Books. I talk to the author of the adult thriller about her new release, and her motivations for writing about climate change.

Tell us about your new book.

A Spy in the Struggle is about a millennial Black woman who has followed all the rules, but can’t seem to find the success she’s been promised. She graduated Harvard Law and joined a top corporate law firm, but when they’re indicted for securities fraud, she turns whistleblower to cover herself. Then, when she can’t get another job in corporate law, she goes to work for the FBI. They send her to infiltrate a Bay Area eco-racial justice organization. In the process, she begins to have doubts that she’s on the wrong side.

How does climate change play into the plot?

This multi-generational organization has an ongoing campaign against a biotech company in their low-income Black and Brown Bay Area city. It’s sort of every horrible environmental scourge possible, from toxic dumping to rising cancer rates near the lab to producing dangerous chemical weapons. They are also the prototype shady corporation promising capitalist solutions to climate change, in the form of designer biofuels that they promise will have zero emissions, but actually have a huge carbon footprint to produce. Also, there’s a critique of a fictional mainstream environmental organization that has created a number of nature preserves and solicited donations based on those holdings, but it comes out that they are also allowing fossil fuel drilling on those lands. It is actually in response to this scandal that the mainstream green organization begins funding these multi-cultural projects throughout the US. However, because they are so poorly funded, they are generally ineffective. However, this particular one is very effective, and attracts the attention of the FBI.

The organization is focused on youth leadership and is making clear connections between racial justice and climate justice.

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

I started writing it in my 20s, when I was part of an intergenerational African American community organizing group. We speculated about what would happen if we were ever infiltrated by the FBI. In the early 00s, I decided to include an environmental justice angle. Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything was important in grounding the deceitful practices of mainstream environmental organizations. I also had to study FBI procedures to get those details right.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change?

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein.

Can you remember when your journey with climate activism started?

I had been “concerned” about climate change, but everything came home to me with Hurricane Maria in 2017. I am part of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, and I could no longer look away from the issue. I began to call myself a climate activist. I wrote SIDE CHICK NATION, the first novel published about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2019. Later that year, I became active in climate organizing. In 2020, I became a founding blogger with The Daily Dose: Feminist Voices for the Green New Deal.

Why is it so important for you personally to see climate change discussed in fiction?

Currently, people are obsessed with books set in the past or in the dystopic future. It’s as if we want to rewind to the time before the crisis was looming, or fast forward to a time after it’s all fallen apart. We don’t want to be in the time when we need to take action. Which is why I think it’s necessary to set books in the present where protagonists are compelled to begin to act on the climate crisis. This is true of Side Chick Nation, as well as another of my novels-in-progress.

What message do you hope readers will take away from your work? What steps would you like them to take to be more involved in climate activism?

Whoever we are, wherever we’re from, wherever we live now, and whatever we’re doing, climate is our issue, and the climate movement needs us. The biggest shift right now needs to be from the encouragement to do individual things, particularly with regard to consumer waste (reduce/reuse/recycle) to putting our energy toward policy changes at the corporate, military and governmental level: (Green New Deal/cutting the military budget/ending fossil fuel dependence). It’s no longer about individual solutions, but planetary ones.

You can find out more about A Spy in the Struggle here.

Aya de León

Aya de León directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley, teaching poetry and spoken word. In spring 2021, she will be a visiting professor in the graduate creative writing program at the University of San Francisco. Kensington Books publishes her award-winning feminist heist series, which includes SIDE CHICK NATION, the first novel published about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In December 2020 Kensington will publish her first standalone novel, A SPY IN THE STRUGGLE, about FBI infiltration of an African American eco-racial justice organization. In June 2020, Aya published her first children’s chapter book, EQUALITY GIRLS AND THE PURPLE REFLECTO-RAY, about a girl who uses her superpowers to confront the president’s sexism. Aya is a founding blogger with The Daily Dose: Feminist Voices for the Green New Deal, and she organizes with the climate movement and the Movement for Black Lives.
Aya’s work has also appeared in Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, VICE, The Root, Ploughshares, and on Def Poetry. Aya has organized elementary school students for the climate movement, and has written about it for Mutha Magazine. She also delivered the 2019 Afro ComicCon keynote address on Afro-Futurism as a call for Black people to join the climate movement and save the future. Aya is at work on a YA black/Latina spy girl series for teens called GOING DARK. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA.

Writing a love story to Antarctica by Midge Raymond

For me as a writer, place is essential to character. Every setting, whether an American city or an icy continent, has a personality, and where a character lives, or is from, is so vital to me in understanding that character. So I always begin a story not only with a character but with a sense of place.

In writing My Last Continent, Antarctica itself became a character of sorts—in the novel, the continent becomes part of a love triangle between Deb and Keller, who are both so strongly connected to Antarctica in their own ways, for their own reasons. For Deb, Antarctica is part of who she is, and there is no place else she can imagine being.

Visiting and researching Antarctica taught me so much about those who spend their time at the bottom of the earth—and most intriguing to me, I think, are the non-humans who live in Antarctica: whales, seals, seabirds, and particularly penguins. It’s hard not to love such adorable creatures, but what I love most about penguins is that they are among the most persistent animals in the world, striving every season to raise a new generation as they face a world that is less and less hospitable to them.

Antarctica is experiencing climate change more rapidly than nearly any other place on earth, and yet there is still great hope for the continent and its creatures—as long as we all realize that despite its location at the end of the earth, we are all very closely connected to this faraway place, and we need to do all we can to protect it.

“Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?” Elizabeth Bishop asks in her poem “Questions of Travel”—the same question I am asked often when I talk to readers about My Last Continent. Would it be better for Antarctica if we all stayed at home?

Antarctica is not a country and has no permanent human residents. Yet in the twenty-first century, it is becoming a hot spot for travel.

The first 57 citizen-explorers visited Antarctica in 1966, and by the time I visited in 2004, the continent was seeing about 20,000 visitors a year. According to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), by 2012, Antarctic tourism increased to nearly 27,000, and it was around 40,000 in 2019—down from the busiest season the continent has ever seen, which was 46,265 in 2007-2008). Now, the global pandemic has given the continent a break—but when travel resumes around the world, should we be going to Antarctica at all?

While My Last Continent is about a catastrophic shipwreck, travel to the Antarctic is historically quite safe; however, this does not mean it is without danger. Despite such technological advances that make polar travel easier and more comfortable, a ship is only as safe as her captain—and due to the capricious nature of ice and polar weather, even an experienced captain isn’t immune from human error or the whims of the wild seas that surround Antarctica.

And, as the story of My Last Continent makes clear, when it comes to polar cruises, bigger is most certainly not better. This article in The Guardian (titled “A new Titanic?”) made the point very clearly: “If something were to go wrong it would be very, very bad.”

Another issue with big ships is their environmental impact. All travelers should carefully vet their tour operators, making sure they follow the guidelines of IAATO, and choose a company with vast experience in ice-filled waters. The Southern Ocean is highly unpredictable, and an experienced captain, crew, and staff makes all the difference—not only for the safety of passengers but for wildlife as well. Check out Friends of the Earth’s Cruise Ship Report Card before booking a trip (in its 2020 report, no major cruise line earned a grade higher than a B-minus; most grades were Ds and Fs).

Better yet, enjoy the last continent from afar. Web-based citizen science programs like Zooniverse offer virtual experiences—for example, a chance to count penguins and identify individual humpback whales in Antarctica. From our computers, we can “travel” the world, see incredible sights and creatures, and contribute to ongoing research efforts.

Sometimes it takes visiting a place to fall in love with it and become inspired to help save it—and this may well justify our carbon footprints in the end. Which brings me back to the question: Should we stay home? There is no easy answer. But those of us who have the luxury of asking the question might consider that, for the sake of the planet, the oceans, and for future generations, the road less traveled—or not traveled at all—does make all the difference.

Antarctica is sometimes misunderstood as a plain, vast, white place—which, of course, it is—but it’s also a continent brimming with amazing colors (among them: the reds, oranges, and violets of its sunsets; the bright greens of the aurora australis; the reds and greens and browns of its algae; and the myriad shades of blue and white that comprise icebergs).

Also among the most amazing—and the most overlooked—aspects of Antarctica are its sounds. For example, listen to the sounds of icebergs rubbing together here. It sounds a bit like furniture breaking apart, and then a little like a penguin colony from far away, and finally it becomes something completely otherworldly.

And scientists have recorded the wonderfully eerie sound of wind whipping across the Ross Ice Shelf, which creates an unearthly humming noise. These recordings were gathered by scientists who spent two years recording the “singing” of the ice via 34 seismic sensors. They realized the winds caused the vibrations on the ice, creating a constant hum that will help researchers study changes in the ice shelf, such as melting, cracking, and breaking.

What I found most remarkable about Antarctica is the silence—that is, the sounds of spaces with no human presence at all. It’s impossible to capture in a video or audio, but I did try to capture the feeling in My Last Continent: “…we listen to the whistling of the wind across the ice and the cries of the birds. I savor the utter silence under those sounds; there is nothing else to hear—none of the usual white noise of life on other continents, no human sounds at all…”

There are very (very) few places on the planet that are as free of human sounds. Nearly every single sound is natural, whether it’s the wind, the rush of the sea, the calving of icebergs, or the sounds of penguins.

Much like the character of Deb in My Last Continent, I’m concerned with how the penguins are faring in a world of chaos (including climate change and, until the pandemic, increasing tourism). So, how exactly are the penguins doing?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, of the eighteen species of penguins listed, four are stable (the Royal, Snares, Gentoo, and Little penguins), two are increasing in numbers (the Adélies—in 2018, a “supercolony” of 1.5 million Adélie penguins was discovered in the Danger Islands—and the Kings, who are widespread, from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic, and yet, according to one study, are being forced to travel farther for food, which means that their chicks will be left on shore to starve). The status of the Emperors is classified as unknown, and when it comes to the remaining penguin species of the world, their numbers are all decreasing—and in some cases, they are decreasingly alarmingly fast.

The penguins in the most danger of becoming extinct are the Galápagos penguin (with an estimated 1,200 individuals left), the Yellow-eyed penguin (with fewer than 3,500 left), and New Zealand’s Fiordland-crested penguin, also known by its Māori name, Tawaki, meaning crested, which the IUCN lists at between 2,500 and 9,999 individuals (yet local researchers’ estimates are of only 3,000 individuals).

These are pretty scary numbers—and the itinerant lives of each of these endangered species make them very hard to accurately count, which means that while there could be more than we think, it’s likely that there could be far fewer than we realize.

So, what can we humans do for penguins to help make the world a better place for them? Here are a few ideas to start.

  • Re-think our consumption of seafood—especially krill (and health supplements containing krill) and farmed fish, who are fed krill. Overfishing is one of the biggest causes of penguin death, whether it’s because humans are eating their food (krill numbers have declined 80 percent in the last 50 years) or because they are killed by fishing nets and longlines. Even “sustainable” seafood has an impact on the oceans and wildlife.
  • Be a thoughtful traveler and a respectful birdwatcher. If you must travel to see penguins (and it’s pretty irresistible), choose places that can handle your human footprints—and always go with eco-friendly tour companies. Once there, always pay close attention to guides and naturalists who know how to keep a safe distance. If you’re traveling without a group or guide, be sure to study up; learn about the birds’ habitat so you can be sure to stay out of their way.
  • Do all that you can to combat climate change. (See the Climate Reality Project and Cowspiracy for some good tips.) Over the last six decades, scientists have observed an average increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade on the Antarctic peninsula. For the penguins especially, climate change isn’t an abstract, faraway notion: It’s happening before our eyes, chick by chick.
  • Learn more by visiting such organizations as Oceanites, and support such organizations as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which protects all oceans and creatures, and such conservation efforts as the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, which monitors penguins and works on the ground to ensure protections for them.
  • Become a citizen scientist. Penguin Watch is a completely addictive website that uses citizen science to help study penguins. Be warned — you may lose hours to penguin counting! But at least you’re doing it for science.

You can find out more about My Last Continent here.

Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

Midge worked in publishing in New York before moving to Boston, where she taught communication writing at Boston University for six years. She has taught creative writing at Boston’s Grub Street Writers, Seattle’s Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink. She has also published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.

Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press.

Climate Change in the News

The Paris climate pact is 5 years old. 5 youth activists share their hopes for what’s next. [Vox]

The Biggest Climate Wins of 2020 [Gizmodo]

How to Defeat the Fossil Fuel Industry [The Nation]

Paris climate agreement: 54 cities on track to meet targets [The Guardian]

UNEARTHED – essay by League member James Bradley [Meanjin]

League member Kate Kelly’s top eco-adventure story writing tips [The Guardian]

How Fiction Can Persuade Readers that Climate Change is Real [Euro News]

Interview with S J Morden

Gallowglass by S J Morden was published this month by Gollancz. I talk to the author of the adult sci-fi novel about his new release, and his motivations for writing about climate change.

Tell us about your new book.

Gallowglass is a standalone near-future SF thriller about commercial asteroid mining – if you want an elevator pitch, think “Treasure Island in Space” – and while it’s set in the same timeline as my previous books One Way and No Way, there’s only a couple oblique mentions to events in those books.

We’ve moved into the second half of the 21st century, and private corporations are slowly colonising Cis-lunar space: it’s a real gold rush scenario, with fortunes to be made but often on the back of some terrible working conditions that can and do kill people. Regulation is almost non-existent and what there is tends to be ignored if it gets in the way of profits. Throw in a multi-trillion dollar asteroid, a crew of blue-collar miners with dubious pasts and a captain who is far from what he seems, and there’s ripe conditions for a lot more than shenanigans.

How does climate change play into the plot?

In two main ways. Firstly, it provides a backdrop to what’s happening out in space – whole populations (mainly poor, mainly brown or black) are being shifted north or south by increasingly intolerable summer temperatures, while rich northern and southern countries are desperately trying to preserve what they have by throwing up barriers at their borders and mitigating climate effects within them. Secondly, it gives motivation to the more mercenary-minded crew that if they can just hit one big payday, then they can sit above the chaos on their pile of money. Some of the characters are a lot more altruistic than that, but there’s a core belief in all of them that cold hard cash in their own hands is better than it being in someone else’s.

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

As with all my books, but this series especially, I’ve left no stone unturned in my search for scientific veracity: hard SF uses science to force the characters to make choices that otherwise they wouldn’t if the background was a little more flexible. There’s no hand-waving away problems – this is Macguyer or die territory. My spaceships are, while fictional, the kind of thing that we can either build now, or are looking to build in the future, and I’ve spreadsheets and plans and delta-v calculations and everything: orbital mechanics can be singularly unforgiving.

Asteroid microgravity is something that I’ve theoretically known about, but when coming to actually write about it, is the most terrifying thing ever. Not enough gravity to help, but just enough to really ruin your day. And that’s before the cohesiveness of the asteroid itself is considered. The whole place is a deathtrap waiting for a mistake.

But most relevant here is that at the start of every chapter is a quote – all taken from primary sources, all cited – about climate change: the science, the opinions, and the way private briefings within the petrochemical industry contrasted with their public press releases. You’d almost think there was a deliberate covering up of the problem, from back in the 1950s and onwards.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change?

I think the first book I read that had what could be described as environmental themes was probably Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965). Arrakis is a desert planet whose indigenous people dream of a wet, fertile world, but the rest of galaxy relies on to remaining dry as it is the only source of the drug Spice.

There were other early books too: JG Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962) and John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes (1953). What’s striking are their publication dates: climate change and people’s reactions to it have always been a topic for fiction – it’s far from a new thing. I suppose it’s only over the last decade that it’s become politicised, although that’s not the fault of the science, nor of those who follow it.

Can you remember when your journey with climate activism started?

I studied geology at university: that conditions on Earth were always in flux was simply a given, but it was taught that the climate changed only gradually, over millions and tens of millions of years. Overlaid on that was the newer idea that volcanic events and meteorite strikes could disrupt the climate in a very short time and that those effects would last for thousands and tens of thousands of years.

The realisation that human activity could fit between those two timescales, that over the course of two to three hundred years produce not just a measurable effect, but an existential and global threat, was just coming into view while I was studying for a PhD in the late 1980s. A speaker from the UK Meteorological Office came to the department to give a lecture, laying out the foundational science and trying to extrapolate trends into the future. Those early predictions are now seen as rather optimistic and generous, but I still remember the sense of disquiet I had afterwards. Then as the 90s progressed I kept up with the science. Honestly, it’s not looking good, is it?

Why is it so important for you personally to see climate change discussed in fiction?

It’s problematic. People tend to react to the crisis in front of them. If there’s an earthquake or a fire or an industrial accident, then it’s much more straightforward to plan and then behave appropriately. Climate change is a slow-motion disaster, and it’s almost impossible to comprehend its seriousness because of its decades-long timescale. Even when we accept its scientific validity, it remains in an emotionally-distant future.

Which is where fiction comes in. By telling stories that are set in that future, our emotions are engaged – the theoretical becomes a vicarious reality, and it helps us re-orientate ourselves and our expectations. When we feel it in our bones, that tomorrow is not going to be the same as today, we can start making long-term decisions.

Of course, all this is moot to those who are already in crisis: in poverty, in precarious employment and housing, struggling to keep food on the table and the lights on. Too many people are rightly distracted by their current conditions to worry about what might happen in ten years or twenty years.

What message do you hope readers will take away from your work? What steps would you like them to take to be more involved in climate activism?

Oh, this is hard, because I don’t want them to take away a ‘message’: novels are for entertainment, and if I wanted to preach, I’d find myself a pulpit. But the idea that art is somehow value-free and apolitical is nonsense on a stick. Obviously, I’ve brought things into the plot that I want to discuss, that I want to explore and dissect, and I want my readers to be engaged in those topics too, better to understand their own views, and yes, perhaps to challenge them. Most of all, I want them to experience what the characters are going through, so that they can incorporate them in their own experiences. That’s how we change and grow as human beings. Someone who’s never read a book lives just one life.

The most constructive act that someone can do at the moment is simply this: vote for a political party that takes climate change seriously, and has a plan to (not going to say ‘fix it’ because I think we’re beyond that point) reduce its effects by a rapid decarbonisation of the economy. Climate change isn’t something we can solve as individuals: it’s a global problem and it needs a global solution.

You can find out more about Gallowglass here.

S. J Morden

Gateshead-based Dr Simon Morden trained as a planetary geologist, realised he was never going to get into space, and decided to write about it instead. His writing career includes an eclectic mix of short stories, novellas and novels which blend science fiction, fantasy and horror, a five-year stint as an editor for the British Science Fiction Association, a judge for the Arthur C Clarke Awards, and regular speaking engagements at the Greenbelt arts festival.

Putting a Positive Spin on Rising Sea Levels by Clare Rees

It was a work-avoiding youtube wormhole. I can’t now remember what work it was that I was trying so hard not to do- marking, cleaning, lesson-planning maybe- but I was definitely being successful. I’d probably started off on a comedy cat video, but somehow, within a few clicks I’d ended up watching highlights from a Trump supporter rally. I can still remember that ‘don’t click you’ll only hate yourself’ feeling but, meh, why else do you watch youtube? I clicked.

A MAGA cap-wearing man was standing facing the camera with a stadium of flag-waving people behind him. Everything he said elicited cheers from the crowd, and all of his statements were short. It was the usual series of vague promises I think- but then he started to talk about climate change. And unusually, he was fully prepared to concede that climate change was real. It was at this point that I started to pay attention properly. Not only was it real and happening he admitted, but it was A GOOD THING (cheers from the crowd). It was happening in America right now he told them, and that’s fine, because it had already happened before in the Bible (more cheers. Lots of flag-waving).

In the Bible, he reminded us, God had razed whole cities to the ground due to their immoral behaviour. The MAGA speaker was, of course, specific and strangely enthusiastic about what that behaviour was, but I can no longer recall the details (indeed, as I’m writing this during lockdown, it just makes me feel jealous). God had also made sea levels rise before (cheers). Yes, sea levels rising was nothing new, the speaker reassured the crowd, because Noah and his family had faced that exact challenge. God had made sea levels rise in the past as a way of washing the earth of sin, and getting rid of all of the sinners (epic cheers). He finished by reassuring the crowd that America was ready  for climate change, sea levels rising, and it would be fine because God would take care of them, just as he had taken care of Noah in the Bible.

It wasn’t so much rage I felt, as absolute shock. I couldn’t believe there was somewhere people genuinely thought a Noah’s ark situation might be a good one for humanity or the world. I can only assume the stadium, and the speaker, were quite a long way inland, and maybe somewhere mountainous. I’d never met anybody like that and was shocked that so many people obviously thought drowning billions of people was a sensible idea- or were confident that they’d be some of the ones to survive. I spent  a couple of days muttering to myself when stopped at traffic lights, or when pushing the trolley round the supermarket, but then- and I get that this is how conspiracy theories/ extremism work- I started wondering whether maybe it had really happened before. Whether the MAGA man could be right, and if Noah’s ark could possibly be true.

It was a short skip from that to writing a book about a group of people trapped on top of a giant, killer, jellyfish following sea levels rising (plus, maybe, a couple of other missing stages). Jelly’s take on Climate Fiction is deliberately silly and bizarre- but then so was MAGA man’s. I think it’s important to explore our climate change future by looking at the possibilities in a range of different ways, and sometimes we can consider change the best when looking at things through absurdities. I also don’t think a climate change future is entirely bleak, because that’s not how humans work.

Gallows humour is a key feature of some very important books:

·        The Decameron- frame narrative is set in the black death

·        A Modest Proposal- satire about the poverty in Ireland

·        Candide- includes the Seven Years War and the Lisbon earthquake

·        Catch 22 (and so many other war satires, including Blackadder)

In the coronavirus nightmare we’re currently living, humour has been a coping strategy for many.  I think humour is going to be a key feature of how we deal with climate change- as it is a key feature of how humanity has always approached negative situations. Gallows humour has been what has got many of us through the past year and, yes, if there ever was actually a zombie invasion, my survival plan does include a couple of dad jokes (What do vegan zombies eat? GRAAAIIIINNS. Where in the house is the best place to hide from a zombie? The living room).

What MAGA man and his youtube clip of horror did remind me, is that we as humans always deal with situations differently- both in terms of our reactions to them, and also in our solutions. We can see that right now in the way different countries have dealt with the current pandemic, or even in people’s differing attitudes to whether the vaccine is a good thing or not. I think books offer us a safe way of exploring those possible futures and solutions without having to actually deal with them- which is why I think Climate Fiction is particularly important.

Despite coronavirus, it’s climate change that is probably the most important issue of our lives, and the lives of future generations. And if we’re at the stage now where even radical Trump supporters can fill stadiums by talking about it, then it’s a pivotal concern even to groups who have previously denied its existence. Hopefully it won’t result in mythological sea monsters rising from the deepest parts of the ocean with the intention of killing us all, but it is unlikely that the experience will be as good as MAGA man and his supporters hope.

Books obviously won’t prevent ecological disaster, but they will help us think about it and explore both the human consequences and strategies for survival. Some of that survival will depend on being able to see humour and absurdity in the world because, for some people, that’s a way of coping with disaster.

So, why are sea levels getting higher? Because the sea weed.

Twitter: @ClareRees3

Clare Rees

Clare is the Head of English in a Berkshire school. She has enjoyed a varied career so far, including spending two years teaching in Ethiopia and seven years in inner London comprehensives. She loves working with teenagers and is particularly keen on the aspects of her job which involve the promotion of reading and writing for pleasure.

Clare holds an MEd in International Education and an MA in Late Medieval Literature, and has had educational resources published by Pearson, AQA, Teachit and Zigzag. These have included co-authored books, lesson resource collections and teaching units. She has also written education articles for The Independent and ‘Secret Teacher’ blogs for The Guardian. She has a particular interest in, and has carried out research into, the development of literacy skills across the curriculum.

Jelly is her first novel and was published by Chicken House in August 2019.

Climate Change in the News

Lauren James Launches Climate Fiction Writers League [Tor] – an interview about this newsletter, and taking inspiration from the Women Writers Suffrage League

If you’d like more climate fiction in your inbox, check out journalist Amy Brady’s monthly newsletter Burning Worlds, where she interviews writers and artists who are thinking about climate change in their work

Lorde’s essay on travelling to Antarctica to learn about the climate crisis firsthand [Rolling Stone]

Temperature analysis shows UN goals ‘within reach’ [BBC]

Why Science Fiction Authors Need to be Writing About Climate Change Right Now by League member Charlie Jane Anders [Tor]

Writing Fiction in the Age of Climate Catastrophe: A Conversation Between League members Anne Charnock and James Bradley [LA Review of Books]

What I learned from preparing for the end of the world by League member Carys Bray [The Guardian]

Interview with Cara Hoffman

The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield by Cara Hoffman was published this month by HarperCollins. I talk to the author of the middle grade novel about her new release, and her motivations for writing about climate change.

Tell us about your new book.

The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield is an environmental fable about frog and his doctor cousin who live in a Louisiana swamp. Their lives are happy until many of the creatures in the swamp become sick and it’s up to them to find out the source of the illness and protect their world. I couldn’t have anticipated when I started writing a second children’s novel about a singing frog, a mysterious illness and an uprising—that we would be living with a mysterious illness, with multiple uprisings throughout the country, and that our children would be confined at home, audience to the collective anxiety of the nation; to California burning; to the tears of parents who lost jobs, family, faith in better society. Children live and adapt to the terrors of the adult world.

Part of the reason I wrote The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield is because Children alive today have the biggest challenge in front of them—adapting to the climate crisis. And adults should respect the depth of their burden, support them and also give them cause for joy because joy helps assure survival. As a writer, and just as a fellow creature on this planet, the most important work I can be doing now is in aiding the people who will be left with the crisis—helping them to understand it and withstand it.

How does climate change play into the plot?

The narrative arc of the novel is about a changing landscape, extinction events and then discovering the source of the problem and working together, even with people you disagree with, to help fix that problem. Most of all I wanted kids to see that the red and blue, the binary, the black and white world that has taken over the collective imagination in our country can change. We can work with people we disagree with to make a world in which all can live. I wanted to write about resourcefulness: lemmings who can sew their own parachutes, frogs who can hop trains, and water rats who can outwit alligators. We all need a little of that resourcefulness right now in taking on the climate crisis.

What kind of research did you do when writing it?

I researched the bayou and did extensive research on frogs. Most of the research for this book was part of work I had done as an environmental reporter.

What are some of your favourite books about climate change?

Elizabeth Kolbert’s work is some of the most important on climate change. I try to avoid book on the subject that are dystopic, stick to what’s realistic. There is an amazing book for children written by the astronaut Sally Ride, Mission: Save the Planet which looks at the interdependence of ecosystems. This message is essential for kids—we’re all in it together. As Tubs says, “A creature is a creature.”

Can you remember when your journey with climate activism started?

I worked for about twelve years as an environmental reporter in the rust belt and in rural New York State. This kind of reporting is mostly covering corporate crimes; illegal dumping—and sometimes all too legal dumping by industries. I covered racist and class-based redlining that causes increased cases of cancer and other illnesses in certain neighborhoods. I covered industrial farming practices that cause ocean dead zones and soil erosion, extinction, and illness among humans. It was an education.

Why is it so important for you personally to see climate change discussed in fiction?

The climate crisis is going to affect everyone personally, whether they are directly experiencing it right now or not. Fiction as a form of art is how humans engage with experiences and emotions beyond those of their immediate circumstances, and it’s how many people come to understand the landscape of their own emotional lives, and learn about other lives and other places. As an act of communication, and a way of communing with and thinking about other beings it’s hard to improve upon.

What message do you hope readers will take away from your work? What steps would you like them to take to be more involved in climate activism?

There are lots of things kids can be doing. The most important thing is changing the way we think about the environment. taking time to be in nature if it’s possible, taking time to notice other forms of life and seeing how interconnected our environment is. The earth doesn’t belong to people, people belong to the earth. I’ve been interested in this project through the National Forest Foundation where people are planting fifty million trees. They are replanting trees everywhere in the country from Florida to Alaska. Their goal is to repopulate the forests. Trees of course help filter carbon out of the atmosphere and help clean the air. Forests help filter and supply water and provide homes for animals of all kinds. They help provide a healthy habitat for four hundred species—including humans. I’d encourage kids and their parents to google the National Forest Foundation to find out more.

You can find out more about The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield here.

Cara Hoffman

Cara Hoffman is the author of Running, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an Esquire Magazine Best Book of 2017, and an Autostraddle Best Queer and Feminist Book of 2017. She first received national attention in 2011 with the publication of So Much Pretty which sparked a national dialogue on violence and retribution and was named Best Suspense Novel of the year by the New York Times Book Review.

Her second novel, Be Safe I Love You, was nominated for a Folio Prize, named one of the Five Best Modern War Novels by the Telegraph UK, and won a Sundance Institute Global Film Making Award.

Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, Bookforum, Rolling Stone, Salon and NPR and she has been a visiting writer at Columbia, St. John’s and Oxford University. She is the recipient of a number of awards and accolades including a MacDowell Fellowship, an Edward Albee Fellowship, and a Cill Rialaig Fellowshp. She is the author of the classic children’s novel Bernard Pepperlin.

She currently lives in Manhattan and Athens, Greece with Marc Lepson and is at work on her fourth novel.

But we all know this stuff. Don’t we?

by Marcus Sedgwick

Almost exactly 20 years ago, I was writing what would become my first published novel, Floodland. Set in a future Britain in which rising sea levels from climate change have seen half of the country disappear under the waves, it came out in March 2000. Obviously, the publication of one’s first book is an intense thing, and there are lots of memories, but one thing that happened surprised me at the time. When the book was published, that year, it was very wet in England. (This is not the thing that surprised me, that’s coming.) In fact, there were epic floods across the country and it was making national news. Such apt publicity for a book release is clearly tricky to arrange – never mind that the kind of flooding I was writing about in the book, due to sea levels rising, was not the kind of flooding that was occurring that spring, which was due to excessive rain fall and rivers bursting their banks as a consequence. Though both, of course, are a consequence of climate change. What surprised me was that many people said to me, quite genuinely, how clairvoyant I must have been to write a book about flooding just before it was about to happen.

To be honest, I found this ridiculous – climate change is not a new story now, and it wasn’t a new story 20 years ago either. (Theories of climate change stretch back to the early 19th century.) The very fact that my slim novel had grown out of a request from a publisher for short stories about climate change showed that this was on lots of people’s minds. But in the strange (I thought) reaction I received to my book’s theme, I learned something important – just because we might think something is well-known, accepted scientific fact, doesn’t mean everyone does.

That’s why it’s very important that we continue to speak (even at risk of boring ourselves) about the vitally important matters that need to change in the world – in this case, climate change. And of course, the best way to do this is to work with younger people.  Most adults, once they have made up their mind about something, never change it, regardless of how ill-informed their choice was, how sparse or incorrect the information they based their decision on. And frankly alarming experiments into confirmation bias show us that once made, even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, most people stick to whatever they have decided is ‘right.’

It is for this reason that I was delighted that Floodland was later accepted as part of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s Power of Reading project, and has been actively used in primary schools for most of its life. The work that CLPE do across the board is both powerful and well thought out. Kicking against the pricks of successive ill-informed education ministers with their unworkable and ineffective schemes – phonics, ‘learning objectives’, all the National Curriculum box-ticking exercises – CLPE produce excellent material that primary teachers can use in the classroom, based around the use of ‘real’ books, which are read in their entirety over the course of a term, perhaps, and then explored and expanded in a variety of ways: through art, drama, science, music and so on. The work I am still sent every week from teachers who’ve worked with the book makes me happy enough; the letters I get from young students bring tears to my eyes.

Incidentally, thinking back to confirmation bias, other research shows that people’s minds are more easily changed by fictional accounts (ie books and films) than by factual accounts (ie news stories and scientific pieces). So working with books like the ones on this site is a genuinely positive step for change.

That’s why I am pleased to be able to offer here the CLPE’s (recently updated) scheme of work for Floodland, for you to share with whichever primary teachers you happen to be, or know. Thank you to CLPE for offering this work gratis. If you’re interested in Primary Education, you probably already know about their work, but if not, go here and see more of the resources they have to offer.

Link: Free Floodland resource from CLPE

By Marcus Sedgwick (May 2018, Updated November 2020)

MARCUS SEDGWICK is a writer of novels for adults, novels for younger people and of non-fiction. He even published a couple of picture books once but that’s a secret. He is winner of many prizes, most notably the 2014 Michael L. Printz Award for his novel Midwinterblood.

Climate change fiction by Marcus includes Snowflake, AZ and Floodland.

Climate Fiction in the News

The Ministry for the Future is the most important book I’ve read this year [Vox]

12 Great Books on Climate and Environment to Gift This Holiday [EcoWatch]

The forgotten environmental crisis: how 20th century settler writers foreshadowed the Anthropocene [The Conversation]

Climate Fiction in the news

Recommended books:

STILLICIDE By Cynan Jones (New York Times) – “In “Stillicide,” the through-line is an iceberg headed for London. The novel opens many years after Britain has entered an extended drought, and enough time has passed for one phase of responses to yield to the next. After becoming a target for terrorists, a pipeline to the city has been replaced by a train that carries millions of gallons of water from a distant reservoir, equipped with automatic guns to mow down any moving object near the tracks.”

THE NEW WILDERNESS By Diane Cook (The Guardian) – “Above all, she seems to ask: how will we regard one another once the climate crisis finally becomes the uncontested crucible of our time?”

A CHILDREN’S BIBLE By Lydia Millet (Grist) – “There was just this sort of righteous rage about climate and extinction and other matters of monolithic stature that I hadn’t really observed in my own generation at their age, or even now. People of my general age bracket, we just had this kind of complacency to us. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been willfully turning away from anything that seems overly dramatic, overly earnest, overly serious. I wanted to write about the way that might play out in this particular scenario, where I populate a summer house with this group of families.”

EJECTED By Dawn Pape (Female First) – “Non-fiction books detailing the horrors of climate change abound. But the solutions in these books are often brief, superficial, and too often presented in a textbook-like, unengaging manner. My goal was to create a story with relatable characters who naturally weave complex social and political aspects of climate change together.”


Climate Fiction Festival (Literaturhaus Berlin) – 4th – 6th Dec 2020, online – see their “Why cli fi?” article

Climate fiction shifts readers’ beliefs

Climate fiction competition results

Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest announces winners, forthcoming anthology

With the world on fire, climate fiction no longer looks like fantasy

Ten Eco-Fiction Novels Worth Discussing – “Eco-fiction is a cross-genre phenomenon, and we are all awakening—novelists and readers of novels—to our changing environment. We are finally ready to see and portray environment as an interesting character with agency.”

8 best climate emergency books to help you better understand the crisis