Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dystopian cli-fi novel set in 2080 walks fine line between 'Mad Max', 'The Road'

ARTWORK credit to - Deng Cheng-hong (c) 2012

Science fiction stories and novels have a long history and date way
back. People like to imagine the worst and rewrite for the best.

'Now a new genre of science fiction is coming out, and it's sometimes referred to as "cli-fi" -- climate
science fiction.

One of the best practictioners of this new type of sci fi genre is American writer
Jim Laughter, 60, who has
peered into the future -- and please note, he’s not laughing. In his new novel, the
retired grandfather of four envisions so-called ”polar cities” for future
survivors of devastating climate change disasters worldwide.

Does this have any connection to you? Well, in the distant future
-- some say the near future -- our world will see millions of climate refugees from southern regions trekking northward, and even the USA itself might be under threat
from the devastating impacts of ''climate chaos'' -- from rising sea
levels to scarcity of food, fuel and shelter.

Enter “Polar City Red,” Laughter’s 250-page cli-fi
novel that is set to debut in paperback and ebook
versions this year. The book is set in Alaska in the year 2080, but it
could just as well be ''Anywhere, USA''. Global warming is borderless,
and so are our fears.

Forget missions to Mars, and start thinking about mass
migrations of ''climate refugees'' north to Alaska, Norway, Iceland.
(By the way, the
term "climate refugees" was coined by
Robin Bronen, a woman professor in Anchorage, Alaska.)

"Global warming is no laughing matter," says Laughter, a 20-year
veteran of the U.S. Air Force who was stationed
in Japan and the Philippines, among other places.

"You know, I met a man just the other day who told me, who insisted,
that global warming is just a myth,” Laughter, author of ten sci-fi
novels and a resident of Oklahoma, told this reporter. “He saw
a program on television that said it’s a scare tactic to direct
people’s attention away from truly serious issues such as the economy
and the state of international affairs. He’s right about one thing;
it’s a scary subject. And if projections are correct about the amount
of carbon dioxide polluting our atmosphere, we’d better be scared. We
may not be at the point of panic yet, but the day is coming when this
is world is going to turn its back on us and invite us to leave

“So I’m putting my heart into this new book,” Laughter added. “It’s
for my four grandkids. I hope it helps to wake the world up, too!”

“Polar City Red” is a not book written by a scientist, ”since I am no
scientist,” Laughter is quick to add. “But I am approaching the story
as a family man concerned about the future of our planet. If my sci-fi
story can reach a small audience at first and later reach an even
greater readership worldwide in translation, I’ll be happy.”

Laughter says ”Polar City Red” is just a good old-fashioned yarn for
the average lay person, but adds: “I’m sure scientists many times
smarter than I am will read the book and say, ‘I could have said that
better.’ But I hope climate researchers will also enjoy the book,
without being too critical. Hollywood screenwriters might want to take
a peek, too. It’s the day after ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ but based on
global warming rather than global cooling. I think a visionary film
director could have a field day with this.”

Laughter says that as a fiction writer he is straddling the fence. “I
hope the message I’m trying to convey isn’t overshadowed by criticism
and skepticism from climate denialists and skeptics,” Laughter says.
“You never know when a scientist or activist studying global warming
might read something in the book and realize their life hasn’t been
wasted trying to warn humankind of our folly when we burn billions of
tons of fossil fuels every year and expend dangerous levels of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere. Global warming is no laughing matter.”

Or so says Jim Laughter.

“I’m not smart enough to scientifically explain the intricacies of
global warming,” Laughter adds. “But neither am I stupid enough to
ignore the signs around me. I’ve driven through a few stop signs and
traffic lights in my life, only to be stopped by policemen alert to
the situation. The human race had better start paying attention to the
signs around us if we want to leave a habitable planet for generations
to come.”

Sci fi fans will likely be the first and most avid readers of "Polar City
Red" since it's set in a "Mad Max" kind of climate dystopia just
outside Fairbanks in the not so distant future.

Is it science? No, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to
understand that climate chaos is going to have a direct -- and
chilling -- impact on all of planet Earth.

But for now, Laughter's book is just an old-fashioned cli-fi yarn, so
there's nothing to be afraid of. Still, it's food for thought. If
nothing else, you can always tear the pages
out and line your bird cages with them.

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