Saturday, May 12, 2012

OPED New York Times (submitted) "Cli fi' novel about global warming is chilling

This oped piece was sent to the New York Times for publication in print and online.

'Cli fi' novel about
global warming
is chilling

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

the story

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

calls them.

“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

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