”Burning Worlds” is American literary critic Amy Brady’s monthly literary column dedicated to examining trends in climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” in partnership with Yale Climate Connections. Subscribe to her free monthly newsletter to get “Burning Worlds” and other writing about art and climate change delivered straight to your inbox.
‘It astonishes to think just how long humans have known that the Earth is getting warmer,” began her first column in February 2017. “The term “global warming” didn’t enter public consciousness until the 1970s, but scientists have studied our planet’s natural greenhouse effect since at least the 1820s. In 1896, a Swedish chemist named Svante Arrheniussome concluded that human activity (like coal burning) contributed to the effect, warming the planet further.
”And yet, here we find ourselves in 2017, still wrestling with manmade climate change like it’s a new phenomenon. Why have we not acted sooner? The answer may lie in what [Brooklyn-based] author Amitav Ghosh calls humanity’s ‘great derangement’: our inability to perceive the enormity of the catastrophe that awaits us.”
”That’s where fiction writers come in,” Brady, who has continued writing the column for three years and is still writing in 2020, shared in 2017.
For years, authors have been writing climate change fiction, or “cli-fi,” a genre of literature that imagines the past, present, and future effects of climate change, she said, adding: “Their work crosses literary boundaries in terms of style and content, landing on shelves marked “sci-fi” and “literary fiction.” Perhaps you’ve read one of the classics: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain. Then there’s Ian McEwan’s Solar and J. G. Ballard’s 1965 novel The Burning World, from which this column derives its name. Each of these novels — like others in the genre — help us to “see” possible futures lived out on a burning, drowning, or dying planet.’
”Here at the Chicago Review of Books, we feel it’s time to give ‘cli-fi’ more attention. To that end, we bring you “Burning Worlds,” a new monthly column dedicated to examining what’s hot (sorry) in cli-fi. It’ll feature interviews, reviews, and analyses of the genre with the hope of generating a larger conversation about climate change and why imagined depictions of the phenomenon are vital to the literary community — and beyond,” she wrote in 2017.’
And then came three years’ worth of monthly “Burning Worlds” columns in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with new columns underway in 2020 and possibly the rest of the 2020s. Featured novelists and activists have included James Bradley, Jeff VanderMeer, Amitav Ghosh, Maja Lunde, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Ashley Shelby and Naomi Booth, among 35 others from around the world.