American climate activist Bill McKibben has entered the cli-fi world, with a debut novel titled “Radio Free Vermont.”
Way back in 2005, McKibben was calling for novels and movies about cli-fi, but it took him another 12 years to write his own entry in the cli-fi sweepstakes.
When he wrote the Grist essay titled ”What the warming world needs now is art, sweet art” in 2005, the cli-fi term had not yet been coined. But fast foward to 2017 and McKibben is aboard the train now, using a semi-comic novel to reach readers worldwide, as the book will be translated into 25 languages over the next several years.
Starting November 7, which was the novel’s official publication date, McKibben embarked on a nationwide book tour to promote the novel, and you can expect both glowing book reviews from climate activists and progressive literary critics as well as darkly negative reviews from climate denialists and rightwingers with their heads in the climate sands.
McKibben, a religious Methodist who has been a Christian all his life, is the founder of the environmental organizations ”Step It Up” and 350.org, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. In 2010 The Boston Globe called him “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist.”
As the host of Radio Free Vermont — a pirate radio station that is “underground, underpowered, and underfoot” — an elderly man in his 70s named Vern Barclay is currently broadcasting from an “undisclosed and double-secret location.” With the help of a young computer prodigy named Perry Alterson, Vern uses his radio show to advocate for a simple yet radical idea: an independent Vermont, one where the state secedes from the United States and operates under a free local economy. But for now, he and his radio show must remain untraceable, because in addition to being a lifelong Vermonter and concerned citizen, Vern Barclay is also a fugitive from the law.
In this entertaining cli-fi, McKibben, no spring chicken himself, expands upon an idea that’s become more popular than ever: seceding from the United States of America. Along with Vern and Perry, McKibben imagines an eccentric group of activists who carry out their own version of guerilla warfare, which includes dismissing local middle school children early in honor of ‘Ethan Allen Day’ and hijacking a Coors Light truck and replacing the stock with local brew.
Witty, biting, and terrifyingly timely, ”Radio Free Vermont” is Bill McKibben’s fictional response to the burgeoning resistance movement created by the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016. It’s cli-fi with a comic twist, as only Mckibben can twist it.