Saturday, May 12, 2012
OPED New York Times (submitted) "Cli fi' novel about global warming is chilling
'Cli fi' novel about
by Ememt Matridah
I have seen the future and it's dank, dark and dystopian -- and it
takes place in Alaska. At least in one Oklahoma author's eyes, it
Last year, as a newbie book producer, I commissioned novelist Jim
Laughter in Oklahoma to write a book about mankind's shaky future on
this third rock from the sun, and he immediately said yes. The novel,
titled “Polar City Red,” is out now, and the entire story, from page
one to the final paragraph, belongs to Mr. Laughter. His name is on
the book cover, not mine, and all profits, if any, go to him. It's his
What did I do? I gave it its title, and I suggested, as a former
Alaskan, its theme and its setting in Fairbanks. Jim wrote the entire
yarn, creating his own cast
of characters and giving it his own time frame. I originally suggested
setting it in 2500, some 30 generations from now. Jim decided to set
in 2075, to give it a more immediate and closer to home feel. He was
right to do so.
Having read the book, I can tell you this: climate denialists are
going to say it's not science, and die-hard climate activists are
going to say it's just fiction.
Laughter's “polar Western” is set in the Last Frontier just 60 years
from now, and it poses a very important and headline-mirroring
question: Will mankind survive the “climapocalypse” coming our way as
the Earth heats up over the next few centuries? The end is not coming
in 100 years, but it might happen by 2500 A.D.
In Jim's book, sea levels rise and millions of “climate refugees” make
their way north to Alaska. Think scavenger camps, “Mad Max” villages,
and U.N.-administered “polar cities” — cities of domes, as the author
“Polar City Red” is more than mere science fiction. Laughter, a
retired grandfather of four, comes across as a probing moralist and a
modern Jeremiah. His worldview befits a former Christian pastor who
built two churches and finds in his inherited religion both an anchor
and a place for hope.
And his book is not just about climate change or northern dystopias.
It's also about the moral questions that must guide humanity as it
tries to keep a lid on global warming's worst-case scenarios while
also looking for solutions to mankind's worst nightmare: the possible
final extinction of the human species due to man's own folly and
extravagant ways. Can a small 150-page novel do all that? No, it's
just entertainment, fiction, science fiction, a good book to put on
your summer reading list.
Writing the novel took Laughter seven months of research and
keyboarding, but I have a feeling that what he wrote will last 100
It's more than a “cli-fi” thriller. It also exposes the underbelly of
humankind's most terrifying nightmare: the possible end of the human
species and God's deep displeasure at what His people have done to His
The book is prophetic, futuristic and moralistic. As a reader, you
will get through this one alive. But will our descendants, those in
Alaska and those in the Lower 48, survive the Long Emergency we find
ourselves in now? That's the question that Laughter poses. And you
don't have to believe in global warming to enjoy the story.
I can tell you this: the book ends on a note of hope and redemption,
so it's not a downer at all. “Polar City Red” might inspire you or it
might annoy you, but as the world heads closer and closer to climate
chaos, even in Alaska, Laughter's book sounds an ominous note. I'd
read it if I was you.
Matridah is a former editor of Capital City Weekly in Alaska and now works as a
book producer and packager. His climate blog can be accessed at
Posted by DANIELBLOOM at 4:32 AM