Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Climate change fiction is coming of age

Literature that touches on the topic of climate change is reaching maturity. This is evidenced by the latest collection of work just launched by the Weatherfronts project, called Realistic Utopias, in which I have an 8,000 word story, For The Greater Good.

Whether you call is climate fiction, cli-fi, stories for change or have your own pet name, it really doesn't matter. It is now such a broad church that this collection includes poetry, a very funny children's story (with illustrations), speculative fiction, human interest and domestic drama.

The book is a free download:

There was a previous collection last year:

The Weatherfronts project, run by TippingPoint and the Free Word Centre (where the launch happened) in London, is about using the arts to broaden the conversation about climate change, away from the scientific, polemical or political. Five stories were commissioned for this collection.

It grew out of an event that brought together fifty scientists and thinkers and fifty writers in a series of workshops. (Listen to it here.)

"One thing we have seen very clearly is that over the 12 years of TippingPoint’s life, writers' responses to the subject have grown far more sophisticated and increased in their range and scope," observed the director of the Free Word Centre, Peter Gingold, as he introduced the writers to this sold out event.

The audience arrives for the Weatherfronts climate fiction book launch.
The audience arrives for the launch event.

Peter Gingold introduces the Weatherfronts climate fiction book launch.
Peter Gingold introduces the authors.
Each of the authors then read some of their work:

Sarah Thomas reading from her story Rainfell, Fell.
Sarah Thomas read from her story based on her friendship with the widow of the one man who died in the Cumbrian floods of the winter of 2014-15, Rainfell, Fell.

Emma Howell reading from Thrift: A Love Story
Emma Howell read from Thrift: A Love Story about her father's attempts to go green in the 1970s.

Justina Hart reading from her poem sequence Doggerland Rising.
Justina Hart read from her poem sequence Doggerland Rising, in which she imagines (based on archaeological research) the inhabitants of islands that used to exist in the North Sea having to leave their homes when the sea level rose around 9,000 years ago.
Then I read from my story For the Greater Good, set in 2084, in which I imagine the possible side-effects of Britain achieving a goal of feeding its population and satisfying all of its energy from renewables.

But as I'm taking the photos there isn't one of me! Anyway, a number of people said afterwards how affecting the story is. Which was satisfying, so thank you.

Darragh Martin reading from Thumbelina Jellyfizz and the Elephant in the Bathroom.
Then Darragh Martin read from his hilarious kids' tale Thumbelina Jellyfizz and the Elephant in the Bathroom, with vibrant illustrations from Euan Cook:
illustration by Euan Cook

illustration by Euan Cook

There was the inevitable panel discussion, with Durham University's Harriet Bulkley introducing Jane Riddiford, the visionary founder of the amazing Global Generation, a club for teenagers and kids in King's Cross, central London. She explained how she got the children interested in nature.

L2R: Harriet Bulkley, Emma Howell, Darragh Martin and Jane Riddiford,
L2R: Harriet Bulkley, Emma Howell, Darragh Martin and Jane Riddiford,

This led to the following amazing film about their work:

She guides them through periods of silent contemplation and then asks them to write about nature. Three of them came to read their work:

Samika of Global Generation reading her poem on nature
Samika of Global Generation reading her poem on nature.

Aisha of Global Generation reading her poem on nature
Aisha of Global Generation

Rania of Global Generation reading her poem on nature
Rania of Global Generation
Then the audience had to do some work – write their own feelings about what nature meant for them, which was a cathartic experience:

That's me in the middle at the front!
It does feel like writing stories about climate change is no longer weird or unusual. Climate change is here, and all stories now react to it or are situated within a climate changed world.

The stories in this collection are all domestic. They show lives, families, affected by the changing climate and our reactions to it. They help us think about what this means and come to terms with the enormity of it. They let us develop and consider our own emotional responses.

Find out more here: https://www.freewordcentre.com/explore/realistic-utopias-writing!

[David Thorpe is the writer of Marvel's Captain Britain, the sci-fi YA novels HybridsDoc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect and the climate change fantasy Stormteller.]

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