New sci-fi books drown us in the terrors of climate change
Cli-fi — coming soon to a planet near you
The awful attraction of climate-based science fiction, or “cli-fi”, is that it’s only borderline fiction. In real time we are witnesses to the formative aspects of the story, though we don’t want to believe what we see. Good cli-fi serves a vital purpose: literature may help to shake us from ignorance, indifference or inaction.
Two new novels do that, potently. Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, set just a few years from now, imagines a UN-affiliated body that starts to take matters into its own hands to mitigate the ruinous behaviours of wealthier nations and the global elite. The 2084 Report by James Lawrence Powell projects further ahead on the assumption that most governments and citizens scorned the science until it was too late, and then their 21st-century efforts at alleviation were utterly inadequate.
Robinson, hailed by The New Yorker as “one of the greatest living science-fiction writers”, has dedicated much of his life and literary career to raising awareness of the Anthropocene. He knows how to compel interest: The Ministry for the Future has a horrifying opening 10-page chapter in which global warming crescendos as a hellish scenario in provincial India, killing 20 million people...