Back in 1973, when YA Guy was … well, considerably younger, I read a book titled Dar Tellum: Stranger From a Distant Planet, by James R. Berry. It tells the story of a boy who communicates telepathically with an alien (Dar Tellum), and it’s got lots of appealing sci-fi elements for younger readers. From the perspective of today, however, what’s most striking about it is the central conflict:
“It seems that the planet Earth was right in the middle of a big crisis. Dozens of cities were in danger of becoming flooded. Already one city in some eastern country was almost covered with water. And the reason for this flooding was that the oceans were getting higher.
From what I understood, and I’m sure there are gaps here and there, the smoke from cars and factories goes into the air. A part of this smoke called carbon dioxide gets into the atmosphere of Earth. It lets the sun’s heat in, but it won’t let much heat out. This carbon dioxide makes a kind of one-way lid on Earth. Heat in, but not much out.
And this extra heat was warming up the north and south poles. So the ice was melting and the oceans were getting higher.”
Yes, folks, there it is, in a children’s book from the early seventies: global warming.
Dar Tellum, in other words, is an early example of what’s come to be known as “cli-fi”: fiction having to do with climate change. Some (though not all) cli-fi is also sci-fi, and (as a science fiction writer myself) that’s the kind I prefer.
A gentleman by the name of Danny Bloom (@polarcityman on Twitter) introduced me to the genre of cli-fi. I hadn’t known it was a genre beforehand.
Which is odd, since my own debut novel is cli-fi.
Survival Colony 9 is set in a future where war and environmental catastrophe have turned the world into a desert. Though I didn’t set out to write a book about climate change--and though the book is certainly no polemic--it’s impossible for me to imagine the story without that desert setting, which possesses not only visual but thematic significance. In fact, the setting was the first thing that came to mind when I started the story way back when, and everything else grew from it.
There are lots of great YA sci-fi cli-fi novels out there. Here’s a sampling of new and forthcoming titles (listed alphabetically):
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (@MindyMcGinnis)
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith (@Sherri_L_Smith)
Rootless by Chris Howard (@chrisH0WARD)
SeaBEAN by Sarah Holding (@SeaHolding)
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (@paolobacigalupi)
Some Fine Day by Kat Ross (@katrossauthor)
Starvation Ridge by Risa Stephanie Bear (@risa_s_bear)
Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan (@KimKlavan)
It's great to know there are so many others exploring climate change in their writing. It's great to be part of a movement.
And my hat's off to writers like James R. Berry, who planted the seed so many years ago.