Climate fiction is a burgeoning genre in the crowded literary landscape – but it has been making waves lately. Think pieces on the growth of this particular flavor of storytelling abound, films like Snowpiercer use “cli-fi” as a backdrop for action and adventure, and earlier this summer the award-winning digital magazine Matter featured a series of essays and short fiction exploring futures shaped by climate change, including a lengthy contribution from Margaret Atwood.
Now, a definitive collection of short climate fiction can be found in the new anthology Loosed Upon the World, edited by John Joseph Adams. Featuring stories from new voices and luminaries in the field, including Atwood, Kim Stanley Robinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and several Hieroglyph contributors, the book provides provocative, sometimes-startling images not so far removed from today’s reality.
In his introduction to the anthology, Paolo Bacigalupi posits that overly sunny techno-optimism is too easy a position to take in the face of a looming crisis. Dreaming of a futuristic innovative solution is easier than mindfully confronting the social, cultural, and political challenges that bedevil us right now — several of which are examined by the authors included in the collection.
Stories featured in Loosed Upon the World include “The Precedent,” in which author Sean McMullen offers a vision of future eco-justice that rivals 17th century Salem; Tobias S. Buckell’s “The Rainy Season” considers one particularly strange side-effect of bioengineering a species to deal with human pollution; and Charlie Jane Anders’ “The Day It All Ended” (originally published in the Hieroglyph anthology) provides a satirical view of rampant consumerism.
While none of the twenty-six tales here provide a turnkey solution to the problem of climate change, the collected works offer a human perspective on a topic that is so often saddled with divisive rhetoric. While it’s all too easy to ignore policy briefs on climate change, narratives about the struggles of our fellow humans have power to move and unite us. Storytelling might well change the future – but it requires an engaged audience to turn imagination into action. Loosed Upon the World and its writers have taken the first step in publishing this collection. The stories within remind us that what happens next is up to all of us.