Climate Fiction, or Cli-Fi, is a growing branch of science-fiction literature that deals with the effects of climate change on human society. Looking to dive in? Here are few suggestions to get you started.
Claire Vaye Watkins
Perpetual drought has baked California to a crisp. While most Californians have opted for government relocation to more habitable regions of the country, some stick it out, armed maniacs and severe dehydration be damned. Ray, a war veteran, and Luz, a former poster child for the Bureau of Conservation, are two of them. They’re living off cans of soda and squatting in abandoned mansions when they hear rumors of a dowser who can still find water in the parched Earth. They set off into the desert to find him, braving armed maniacs and government authorities along the way.
Climate change has almost completely destroyed Helsinki. The subway tunnels have flooded out, and tropical diseases are running rampant among what’s left of the population — mostly those too stubborn to quit the city or don’t have enough money to evacuate. Tapani, a struggling writer, is one of the former. Two days before Christmas, Tapani’s wife Johanna, a journalist, disappears. He worries that she might have fallen victim to a serial killer that she was investigating. Desperate to find her, Tapani sets out into the chaos for an investigation of her own.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Sea levels rose after the last of the polar ice caps melted, and now much of New York City lies under water. The streets have become canals, and the skyscrapers islands. Still, New Yorkers are a tough breed, and are unwilling to abandon this great American metropolis — flooded or not. As everyday residents struggle to adjust to a new normal, the barons of the finance industry plan to make a healthy profit, unaware that rebellion is just around the corner.
Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy is set before and after a great plague kills most of humanity, but the Earth was in trouble well before that. Failure to halt climate change has created an out of control weather system where fierce storms and tornadoes are all to common. The coastlines are flooded, and there’s no seasons anymore: just one long, sticky, miserable summer. Those few who survived the plague scrounge for left-over faux foods (almost everything is soy-based) while dodging genetically modified creatures gone feral, like “wolvogs” and “pigoons”.
Climate change is a theme in much of Paolo Bacigalupi’s fiction. It’s hard to choose just one work by him to feature here, but The Water Knife is as good a candidate as any. Angel Velasquez is an assassin and enforcer in the drought-struck western United States of the future. She’s not exactly a good person, as you might gather. Her job is to maintain her wealthy land developer client’s monopoly on the region’s scarce water supply, and she’s damned good at it. When her path crosses with a refugee from Texas and an investigative journalist, Angel finds her loyalties tested.
Curious about other sci-fi/fantasy subgenres? Check out all of our So You Want To Read lists – we’re adding new ones all the time!
Claire Vaye Watkins