Ursula Le Guin clears it up for readers of The Oregonian:
In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, plainly titled “Amitav Ghosh: where is the fiction about climate change?” the “serious” fiction writer Ghosh stated,
When the subject of climate change occurs, it is almost always in relation to nonfiction; novels and short stories are very rarely to be glimpsed within this horizon. Indeed, it could even be said that fiction that deals with climate change is almost by definition not of the kind that is taken seriously: the mere mention of the subject is often enough to relegate a novel or a short story to the genre of science fiction. It is as though in the literary imagination climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.
What the hell? How does any author alive today make such a grossly ill-informed comment about fiction that addresses climate change? There are hundreds of novels and stories about climate change. You should read more, Ghosh. Start here, or here.
He asks, “Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world? Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”
Barques? Really? Maybe one of the reason “serious” fiction writers don’t write much about climate change is because they’re too busy contemplating how to use 19th century words in the 21st Century and don’t have the inclination to look ahead. Continue reading
I have always wanted to find a fitting tribute for Ray Bradbury to express how much I loved his writing and how grateful I was to have discovered him when I was a young reader. I wish I had come up with a tribute while he was living, but nothing is perfect and it’s never too late to celebrate greatness so I am going to make my tribute on his birthday–August 22nd–and I invite you to join me.
Until Bradbury’s death in 2012 he entertained and enthralled us during his long career with novels like Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, collections like The Martian Chronicles, and dozens and dozens of short stories. Before I had read any of these works–I must have been around 7 years old–I remember seeing the film Fahrenheit 451 on TV. I didn’t understand much of the movie, but I was really intrigued by the ending where everyone was memorizing books and reciting them, in a camp in the woods.
A few years later, when I read the book, this idea about the fundamental importance of reading deeply impressed me. For the first time in my life, I felt it was not only okay for me to do it, but it was actually important. Bradbury opened a door for me that changed my life, and I know I wasn’t the only one.
So here’s my idea. Let’s celebrate “Ray Bradbury Day” (#RayDay) on August 22nd by memorizing a short excerpt from any book you cherish. Record your excerpt on audio or video and share it with your friends in any way that makes sense to you. Here’s an example.
If you clicked on that last link you saw me recite a little from Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s not a climactic scene, but for all we associate with Bradbury — Martians, space, the future, horror — that novel is a testament to Bradbury’s ability to convey love for messy human beings through tender and thoughtful writing. Who better to celebrate and how better to celebrate the importance of the written word — an issue close to Bradbury’s heart — than taking cherished written words, preserving them in our minds and sharing them with others.
Can you feel it? The slow, inexorable increase in anxiety among homo sapiens? We live in tense times, and I believe I speak objectively, though this observation is certainly a subjective perception, too. Worldwide fear of terrorism, climate change, economic collapse, technological breakthroughs without brakes. Maybe the only thing we are not afraid of is an external predator, an unfriendly visit from a superior species, but why should we fear that when we are far more likely to create one right here at home?
When I began reading Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (on the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel published in 2015) I was immediately impressed at how well the novel resonated with the gloomy thoughts noted above. But, even if you don’t share in my personal sense of the zeitgeist, you should give this book a read and enjoy the literary risks the novel takes and survives.
The story begins with the actions of scientist Avrana Kern, who has little regard for human beings and the damage they have wreaked upon the earth and each other. Kern is faced with the rebellion of a key scientist on her team who does not agree that Kern or anyone should be altering the evolution of species with the sophisticated technology at their disposal. To ensure that her plan to seed intelligent life on a habitable (“terraformed”) planet goes forward, Kern blithely destroys a space port, resulting in the deaths of many people and forcing her to enter cryogenic sleep in a pod that will orbit the planet until a computer rouses her to witness the outcomes of her experiment. What Kern doesn’t know is that her precious monkeys, the subjects she had selected to reboot civilization, don’t make it to the planet. The virus she’s engineered to enhance and speed up the monkey’s evolution does.
A reader might conclude that if Kern died during that unimaginably long and lonely sleep, it would have been good riddance to bad rubbish. With his cynical and arrogant god-scientist, who nevertheless risks all for her precious monkeys, Tchaikovsky clearly makes a point about the dangerous and awesome capacity of human beings loose in the universe. Still, there was something so cartoonish about this deluded scientist that I nearly missed the point and was worrying in the back of my reader’s head that the novel was sliding toward farce. Luckily the author managed to correct course before I threw the book down, and later, when I was more comfortable with where the story was going, I better appreciated his persistent black humor directed at the human characters and their mishaps. Continue reading