I’ve noticed an interesting literary trend in the last few years where more and more lawyers and law professors are writing literary novels, thrillers, cli-fi novels and science fiction novels with climate themes. Two American writers come to mind: Edward Rubin, a law professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and Sam Bleichner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School in Washington.
Bleichner has a new novel coming out on April 22, titled “The Plot to Cool The Planet,” so I asked him what he thought about this literary trend I’ve noticed.
“What do you think accounts for this literary trend?” I asked him, adding: “Of course, lawyers are good with language, they know how to set a table with language in a court case or an academic paper, but what else might account for this trend?”
He told me: “I agree that lawyers have the writing and storytelling skills, but I think some other important factors are involved:
(a) People who are interested in future-oriented issues hope to spread their ideas to a wider audience than just those who read footnoted non-fiction books.
(b) Futuristic fiction can paint a picture of a world that might await us, expanding readers’ vision and imagination in a way that non-fiction projections of the future can’t.
(c) In the climate change arena, a novel can bypass the arguments with climate deniers and “Garden of Eden” nostalgic environmentalists and present the real world as the author sees it, without proving every statement with a footnote.”
I’m looking forward to reading Bleichner’s cli-fi thriller when it is released in April.
Meanwhile, Rubin’s novel, “The Heatstroke Line,” published a few years ago but still available from Sunbury Press and Amazon, was, Rubin told me in an email “intended as a warning to us all, but it was also intended to be an entertaining read from a man who is a life-long fan of science fiction. ”
“This book belongs to a genre known as post-apocalyptic science fiction,” Rubin says. “It includes a number of sci-fi classics such as ‘Earth Abides,’ ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz,’ ‘The Day of the Triffids,’ and ‘The Road,’ and some recent best-sellers like’ Oryx and Crake,’ ‘The Wind-Up Girl,’ and ‘Station Eleven.'” None of these books, however, not even the recent ones, portray the disaster they envision as resulting from the real danger that we face, which is simply the increasingly temperatures. More significantly still, these works tend to use the disaster to clear away the technological and bureaucratic features of the modern world and tell an adventure story of one sort or another. In ‘The Heatstroke Line,’ the result of the oncoming disaster isn’t a primitive world filled with long journeys on foot and hand-to-hand combat. There are still governments, still cars and factories, and still all the mundane details of modern existence. It’s simply that life has become much worse for nearly all Americans. In other words, this is a realistic picture of what life might look like in our country if we allow global warming to continue unabated.”
“‘The Heatstroke Line’ is an adventure story of its own,” Rubin adds. “Fiction can teach us many things, but it won’t work unless it has an engaging plot and convincing characters. In my novel, the main character is an entomologist at one of the few universities left in the former United States. He is sent to the South (below “the heatstroke line”) to investigate an outbreak of biter bugs — vicious, flesh-eating insects that have developed as a result of the increased heat. Once there, he is taken captive, for reasons that are a mystery to him, by the frenetic, disaffected and sometimes vicious people who have clung on in this nearly uninhabitable region. The action in the book involves his efforts to survive, his plans to escape, and the mysterious young woman who he meets there. She has written a post-apocalyptic novel of her own (part of which appears in the book), filled with standard science fiction tropes. The contrast between her teenage fantasies and the “real world” that the main character encounters reveals the mystery of his capture to him and motivates the action that brings the novel to its close.”
“I hope people enjoy reading my book as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I also hope that at the end of it, they will feel as concerned as I do about the future of our nation and our planet,” Rubin said.