by Judith Curry
There is a fledgling new genre in fiction.
Michael Crichton’s State of Fear was a blockbuster best selling novel with the debate over global warming serving as the backdrop for the book. Wikipedia has this to say about State of Fear:
State of Fear is a 2004 techno-thriller novel by Michael Crichton concerning eco-terrorists who attempt mass murder to support their views. The novel had an initial print run of 1.5 million copies and reached the #1 bestseller position at Amazon.com and #2 on theNew York Times Best Seller list for one week in January 2005. The book contains many graphs and footnotes, two appendices, and a twenty-page bibliography. Most climate scientists dispute Crichton’s science as being error-filled and distorted. The novel itself has garnered mixed reviews, with some literary reviewers stating that the book’s presentation of facts and stance on the global warming debate detracted from the book’s plot.
While the literary crowd may have criticized the book’s presentation of facts and stance on global warming, this novel seems to have spawned numerous skeptical investigations amongst the afficionadoes of the technical thriller genre.
In 2010, Rachendra Pachauri penned a racy romance novel entitled Return to Almora, referred to as a ‘spiritual potboiler’ by the Times of India. Other than the Times of India, the reviewers were not kind: Telegraph, Words Uttered in Haste. I’m not sure who the intended audience for this book is; perhaps frustrated IPCC authors? Coming on the heels of ClimateGate and GlacierGate, this novel did not help the reputation of Pachauri, or by association, the IPCC.
So, can a climate scientist pen a racy novel about climate change and not hurt their reputation? The answer seems to be yes, at least if you are retired and your target audience is cool dudes.
Rex Fleming holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Michigan. In the 70’s and 80’s he held administrative positions in NOAA, and in the 1990’s was employed at NCAR. He has a few research papers, but most of his career has been in either gov’t project management/admin or the private sector.
Exposure is a fast-paced emotional thriller where the hero must outwit criminal and terrorist elements trying to stop him from his final testimony to expose the global warming fraud. Hot love story with lots of drama about a charismatic scientist who overcomes grief and considerable opposition to expose the global warming fraud – helping the United States back to economic recovery.
Further details from the amazon site:
A secular debate will be the final battlefield to maintain the fossil fuel warming theory. The battle will be hard fought as there is much at stake. There has been a 40-year buildup of hype on the issue with many constituents benefitting professionally and/or financially from the false theory. High drama builds as the debate draws near, and the lives of the hero and his wife are at stake.
The only reviews I can find are 5 reviews on amazon.com, 4 of which are 5 stars and the other is 4 stars. Amazon cites these reviewer comments as most helpful:
- “What really makes it work is that while you are being informed, you are also entertained by mystery and intrigue. ”
- “Exposure is a fast action thriller of many memorable scenes with interesting and fleshed-out characters. ”
- “Once I got to the love-making in Paris, I could hardly put the book down.”
I’ve known Rex Fleming for decades, and I have read Exposure. Here are a few additional descriptive comments.
The hero, Ryan Foster, received his Ph.D. under Steve Schneider and went to work at a fictitious NCAR for a few years before moving to DC and becoming an environmental consultant. Foster is not your run of the mill climate scientist, but has distinct Mitch Rapp – like tendencies.
Unlike the sex in Return to Almora, the romance/sex in Exposure is of the “tasteful”, Christian variety (description from one of the amazon reviewers). There is a strong Christian/God theme in this book.
The end of the book is a John Galt-like speech by the hero on the flaws of climate science and what to do about U.S. energy policy. The science content is consistent with NIPCC, Singer/Avery, Svensmark.
So, if you have a cool dude on your XMAS list, Exposure could be just the ticket. If you are not a cool dude, you probably won’t like this. It will be interesting to see if Fleming’s novel gets any ‘mainstream’ attention.
Ian McEwan has written a book entitled Solar, From the description at amazon.com:
Michael Beard is a Nobel prize–winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming.
A complex novel that brilliantly traces the arc of one man’s ambitions and self-deceptions, Solar is a startling, witty, and stylish new work from one of the world’s great writers.
From the editorial reviews on amazon.com:
Critics expressed decidedly mixed opinions about McEwan’s latest work. While most critics on either side of the pond praised the author’s intelligent plot (especially his command of science) and ample storytelling gifts, the majority agreed that Solar is not his best novel to date. But most contentious of all was the satirical, comic tone superimposed on the very serious subject of climate change. Though Solar is a worthy inquiry into truth, morality, and the future of humanity, some critics could not get past McEwan’s approach.
I’ve read this book, and found it to be a thought provoking yet entertaining inquiry into the motivations of scientists.
In what may be the first novel to realistically imagine the near-term impact of “global weirding,” Barbara Kingsolver sets her latest story in rural Appalachia . In fictional Feathertown, Tennessee, Dellarobia Turnbow–on the run from her stifling life–charges up the mountain above her husband’s family farm and stumbles onto a “valley of fire” filled with millions of monarch butterflies. This vision is deemed miraculous by the town’s parishioners, then the international media. But when Ovid, a scientist who studies monarch behavior, sets up a lab on the Turnbow farm, he learns that the butterflies’ presence signals systemic disorder–and Dellarobia’s in-laws’ logging plans won’t help. Readers who bristle at politics made personal may be turned off by the strength of Kingsolver’s convictions, but she never reduces her characters to mouthpieces, giving equal weight to climate science and human need, to forces both biological and biblical. Her concept of family encompasses all living beings, however ephemeral, and Flight Behavior gracefully, urgently contributes to the dialogue of survival on this swiftly tilting planet.
Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.
Kinsolver’s book motivated an essay at the Daily Climate From a best selling novelist, something rare: A plot build around climate change.
Adam Trexler is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Exeter, analyzing Cli-Fi books. I stumbled up this blog post The Climate Change Novel: A Faulty Simulator of Environmental Politics. Trexler states that “Over the last three decades, more than 200 novels have been written that try to imagine our future in a climate-changed world.” Of the novels discussed by Trexler, most seem to be of the Sci-Fi scorched earth genre, rather than Cli-Fi. Here are a few that seem to qualify as Cli-Fi:
Arctic Drift, by Clive Cussler: A potential breakthrough discovery to reverse global warming . . . a series of unexplained sudden deaths in British Columbia . . . a rash of international incidents between the United States and one of its closest allies that threatens to erupt into an actual shooting war . . . NUMA director Dirk Pitt and his children, Dirk. Jr. and Summer, have reason to believe there’s a connection here somewhere, but they also know they have very little time to find it before events escalate out of control.
Ultimatum, by Matthew Glass: November 2032. Joe Benton has just been elected the forty-eighth president of the United States. Only days after winning, Benton learns from his predecessor that previous estimates regarding the effect of global warming on rising sea levels have been grossly underestimated. For the United States, a leading carbon emitter for decades, the prospects are devastating: thirty million coastal-dwelling citizens will need to be relocated; Miami will be washed into the ocean and southern California will waste away to desert; the relocation process will cost trillions of dollars. With the world frighteningly close to catastrophe, Benton opts to abandon multilateral negotiations in the Kyoto 4 summit and resumes secret bilateral negotiations with the Chinese—the world’s worst polluter. As the two superpowers lock horns, the ensuing battle of wits becomes a race against time.Ultimatum is a visionary and deeply unsettling thriller that explores the most pressing issue of the twenty-first century—the future of our planet—and boldly predicts the way the world will be in twenty-five years.
A Friend of the Earth, by T.C. Boyle: If, as we are frequently cautioned, ecological collapse is imminent, the future might someday resemble T.C. Boyle’s vision of Southern California, circa 2025: strafing wind, extortionate heat, vast species extinction, and a ramshackle, dispirited populace. But the ever-mischievous, ever-inventive Boyle is all too willing to disoblige; and so, in extended homage to early Vonnegut, his Sierra Club nightmare is rendered, well, comically. Toss in streaks of unabashed sentimentality, a scattershot satire, and several signature narrative ambushes, and A Friend of the Earth only further embellishes the already prodigious Boyle reputation.
An additional title that I found:
Polar City Red, by Jim Laughter: After billions of people die due to the failure of Earth’s ecosystem and the continents are rendered uninhabitable, survivors forced to migrate north must battle nature, raids by hungry scavengers, and man’s folly against himself in a geodesic polar city deep in the Arctic Circle. A medical doctor and college professor rescued from the frozen tundra by a grizzled old hunter is thrust headlong into a life and death struggle for the existence of humanity. Hidden government conspiracies, a secretive military force, and the Earth itself threaten to destroy mankind.Polar City Red is set in an imagined Alaska in the year 2075. But it could just as well be Tokyo or Oslo or Berlin. Global warming is borderless, and so are our fears.
The Science Fiction novelette ‘Truth’ will no doubt be challenging and controversial to many. It draws aside veils to luridly portray social memeplexes, and particulary the social phenomena fuelled by the concept known as ‘CAGW’ in the climate science and media spheres – ‘Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming’, or man-made Climate Change.
My intent with this work was to offer an enjoyable means to make folks stop and think, to prompt questions, to counter the inappropriate yet massive narrative weight of ‘certainty’ surrounding CAGW, and to make visisble the social engine driving this and other similar ‘certainties’. The story isn’t all philosophy though and there’s plenty of action too . For those already clued into the climatosphere, mention of climate change issues appears only slowly, but fear not a lot comes later, and for confirmed sceptics please do not baulk at the first mention of the word ‘denier’, the context will become clear.
I’ve read Truth. The reactions from the WUWT thread comments are bimodal, people seem to love it or hate it. While Truth has a skeptical perspective, the mixed reactions are more to the literary devices used.
Also on the WUWT thread, someone posted a link to another novellete, Harry Read Me’s Christmas Mission by Ahrvid Engholm. ClimateGate afficionadoes will like this one.
JC comments: I suspect that we will see the Cli-Fi genre grow in the future, it is certainly a rich topic to mine for fiction. Of particular interest to me is the way that climate scientists have been portrayed: the portrayal has been very unflattering in State of Fear, Road to Almora, and Solar; whereas Exposure portrays the main hero scientist as a Mitch Rapp like character (which some will find flattering while others will not). Another issue that interests me in particular is the reaction to the use of novels to ‘teach’ the public explicitly about climate science (used notably by State of Fear and Exposure); techno types like it but literary critics seem not to. And finally, the reactions to the use of satire and humor in Cli-Fi gets tangled up in resenting its used given the seriousness of the issue.
Exposure stands out as being of interest since it is written by an atmospheric scientist. I wonder if we will see more climate scientists taking to the pen in this way. While on the subject of scientists writing fiction about their science, I refer you back to an early post of mine Scientists in Fiction, where I discussed the fiction of Carl Djerassi, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Stanford University who is best known for his contribution to the development of the first oral contraception pill. Djerassi’s books are of the genre Science in Fiction (as opposed to science fiction). Djerassi has this to say about his books:
An effective medium for illuminating such topics is the rarely used literary genre of ‘science-in-fiction’ (not to be confused with science fiction), in which all aspects of scientific behaviour and scientific facts are described accurately and plausibly. By dis- guising them in the cloak of fiction, science- in-fiction allows the illustration and dicussion of ethical dilemmas that are frequently not raised for reasons of discretion, embarrassment, or fear of retribution.
As a scientist, i would love to seem more books in the genres of scientists in fiction and Cli-Fi.