I started writing this blog nearly seven years ago. It doesn’t feel that long, but I just checked my spreadsheet to make sure. In that time, I’ve written approximately 110,000 words – about as many as are in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Between this blog and Mid-Course Correction Revisited, I think it’s fairly safe to say that, professionally speaking, I’m a part-time writer. That said, I’ve never written any fiction. I’ve kicked a few story ideas around with my wife, and I actually think some are good, but I haven’t taken the plunge. I never took a creative writing class in school, so I am completely untested and untrained in the world of fiction writing. The field continues to intrigue me though, and I think one day I’ll try to bring one of my story ideas to life.
Recently, there’s been a growing interest in climate change as a topic for fiction writers, with Goodreads.com having its own categorization for it. It even has a nickname – cli-fi. I haven’t read any of these works yet, but I did get Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future as a Christmas present, which I’ll be diving into soon. My guess is that as the climate crisis becomes even more prominent in society in the coming years, more and more authors will venture into this genre.
Grist is even democratizing cli-fi with a writing competition that I saw recently. It’s called Imagine 2200, and they are soliciting stories between 3000 and 5000 words that imagine what climate progress looks like in the next 180 years. If you want to give it a shot, here is a link to the submission guidelines. And it might even earn you some coin, with $3000 going to the winner of the competition.
There’s a troublesome trend in the climate space though, and I fear that cli-fi could accelerate the trend. It’s called climate doomerism, and it’s exactly what you think it is. Now, to be clear, I am very concerned about the various projections for climate impacts like sea-level rise, increased disease vectors, and more severe weather events. There is good science backing them up, and we can’t wish away the harms that the climate crisis will inflict on society (and those it already is).
Unfortunately, some in the climate space focus exclusively on the direst climate projections, dedicating little to none of their efforts on solving the problem. Social media seems to be their primary habitat, and these doomers detract from the valuable conversations we need to be having about climate solutions. It would be like a doctor telling you how bad your condition will get without actually treating it. Worse, some climate doomers exaggerate the negative climate projections beyond what is scientifically valid, which undercuts the scientific foundation of the whole climate movement.
That’s why I’m glad to see that Grist’s Imagine 2200 wants positively-oriented stories. As their Q&A says, “We’re not likely to publish any stories about a planet that burns and a future that sucks.” Fiction that pulls our hearts and minds toward an apocalyptic future is not helpful. There is simply too much work to be done to solve the climate crisis, and that work can become unbearable without a positive vision to work toward. Fortunately, fiction can also help us more fully imagine that positive vision.
So to the writers painting the mental picture of the world we want for our grandchildren, I say thank you! And to the writers who instead can’t help but write about a world in which humanity fails to reverse global warming, I say … OK doomer.