Science fiction and "literary" approaches to climate change

1 minute read

NPR did a segment on how “literary” authors are using climate change as a plot hook: So Hot Right Now: Has Climate Change Created A New Literary Genre?”.

Writers can be sneaky in this way. Read all 300 pages of Odds Against Tomorrow, and you won't see the phrase "climate change" once. Rich says that was intentional: "I think the language around climate change is horribly bankrupt and, for the most part, are examples of bad writing, really. And cliche 'climate change,' as a phrase, is cliche. 'Global warming' is a cliche."
As far as Rich is concerned, climate change itself is a foregone conclusion. The story the suspense, the romance is in how we deal with it.

Ann Althouse comments:

Rich says "the novelist," but he means the literary novelist. This superior individual is the one who understands that it is his job to understand deeply what is happening deep inside. Those sci-fi genre writers might describe what happens to the exterior world, but the literary writer describes what that world does to us... to the heart... the human heart.

Personally I was amused by the idea that this “literary trend” was started by Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. That would tend to indicate that the main qualification for “literary” is “money”. This is another skirmish in the timeless battle between highbrow and lowbrow.

Of course, science fiction has been on the topic of climate change for a very long time. One way of looking at the genre of “science fiction” is that it treats scientists and science literate people as characters instead of caricatures. Verisimilitude about the science-literate invites a deeper consideration of the motives and blind spots that emerge in the minds of intelligent, skeptical people.