The right climate for climate fiction

30/08/19 | By Grant Price

"Price has crafted a gripping, evocative future thriller packed with high-octane action which isn't afraid to confront difficult issues and address moral imperatives . . . a towering achievement that pulls no punches." - Starburst Magazine (9/10)

WANTED: Men and women willing to drive through the valley of the shadow of death.

The world’s population has been decimated by the Change, a chain reaction of events triggered by global warming. In Europe, governments have fallen, cities have crumbled and the wheels of production have ground to a halt. The Alps region, containing most of the continent’s remaining fresh water, has become a closed state with heavily fortified borders. Survivors cling on by trading through the Runners, truck drivers who deliver cargo and take a percentage.

Amid the ruins of central Germany, two Runners, Cassady and Ghazi, are called on to deliver medical supplies to a research base deep in the Italian desert, where scientists claim to be building a machine that could reverse the effects of the Change. Joining the pair are a ragtag collection of drivers, all of whom have something to prove. Standing in their way are starving nomads, crumbling cities, hostile weather and a rogue state hell-bent on the convoy's destruction. And there's another problem: Cassady is close to losing his nerve.

"A brutal world, vividly depicted . . . Price employs clever, precise writing that's evocative and atmospheric without venturing into gory horror. This truly grim version of the future will keep readers riveted." - Publishers Weekly

The right climate for climate fiction

By Grant Price

Here’s how you time your novel to make sure it rides the crest of the Zeitgeist once it finally gets published: 1. You scour the news to find related articles that are receiving a steady amount of attention from readers; 2. You put your clairvoyant hat on to look three years into the future to determine how those articles will evolve; 3. You hammer out your magnum opus at a speed that sends smoke rising from the keyboard; 4. You cross your fingers like you’ve never crossed them before. Works every time.

Except I’m lying. There’s no sure-fire way to tell if what you’re writing now will resonate with the public if and when it is published. Keep this in mind: once you’ve spent a year writing your book, revising it and going through it with a fine toothcomb, you’re probably going to need the better part of another year to contact agents, amass a hearty collection of rejections, and—just as you’re about to give up on the whole fickle writing business once and for all—receive that one beautiful email informing you that someone is willing to pay real cash for the publication rights to your work. After that comes the 12-18 months required to actually produce the thing and promote it (interviews, reviews, articles and so on). That’s three to three-and-a-half years, not including delays, setbacks, further revisions, etc. In other words, don’t worry about predicting the future. Do your own thing, work hard and you might just get lucky.

I did get lucky. My novel, By the Feet of Men, is the latest addition to the fledgling genre of climate fiction, or cli-fi, which was coined in the late 2000s by journalist Dan Bloom. Its publication coincides with the heart-wrenching devastation of the Amazon rainforest, the arrival of climate activist Greta Thunberg in New York by boat to strike outside the UN building, the revelation that northern parts of the UK may not have enough water by 2035, and onset of the third heatwave in Germany this summer. I didn’t plan for By the Feet of Men to appear amid all this. If I had my choice, none of these things would be happening (yes, even Greta—if politicians acted responsibly and for the good of the world, she wouldn’t have to be an activist). But this is our reality, and my hope is that my book will make its own contribution—however modest—towards encouraging people to talk to one another about the climate crisis.

Where climate fiction perhaps differs from other genres is that the messages it is putting forward are of relevance yesterday, today and tomorrow. Take any cli-fi novel off the shelf and you will find within its pages a critique of our current wasteful/soporific/despondent lifestyles (in the West and developed Asia, at least). Oval by Elvia Wilks, for example, lays bare the hypocrisies inherent to corporate social responsibility and the absurdity of green economics in its current form. American War by Omar El Akkad shows how quickly national borders become meaningless once the effects of the climate crisis truly start to be felt (surprise, it’s a phenomenon that affects literally every living being on the planet). The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh addresses the effects of toxic masculinity on a fragile ecosystem. My book, if I may be so bold, criticises the mentality of ‘looking out for number one’ that seems to be de rigueur among certain governments and subsections of the population at present. And so on. This is a genre that is urgent and fresh, which has something to say about how we are failing to take action which is utterly essential to preserving our way of life. Its power lies in fictionalising the huge obstacles we are currently facing—scientific, physical, psychological, existential, etc.—giving them a concrete dimension and making them comprehensible. And when we understand an obstacle, we can begin to devise a plan to overcome it.

All in all, climate fiction is having a moment, and for good reason. Now is the time to delve into the genre and read those stories that might give us some ideas on how to change our mindsets and our behaviors. Now is the time to open ourselves up to new voices—films, documentaries, novels, climate scientists, philosophers, journalists, activists, movements—so that we may take part in the climate-related discussions around us, and encourage, challenge and educate. Now is the time for people to drop everything, dust off that clairvoyant hat and have the courage to truly look to the future. Because it’s getting closer with each day. And when it does arrive, nobody will be able to say they hadn’t been warned.

About the author

Grant Price (b. 1987) is a British-German author currently living in Berlin, Germany. After spending too many years translating and writing copy, he started writing fiction full time in 2015. His first novel, Static Age, appeared on Kindle in 2016. His second novel, By the Feet of Men, is due to be published by Cosmic Egg Books in September 2019. His work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph and a number of magazines and journals. He has taught writing at the University of Gießen in Germany.

"Like a good action movie that keeps you on your toes . . . highly recommended." - The Future Fire


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