When the Larsen B Ice Shelf broke up in 2002, NASA’s satellite imagery showing the 35-day disintegration of 1,255 square miles of ice did more than just knock the wind out of Dan
Linehan, the author of the new multimedia serial novel ”The Princess of the Bottom of the World.”
This catastrophic gut punch made the severity of climate change crystal clear to Linehan,
leading him on a path to Antarctica and to other unbelievable adventures.
In 2006, he scheduled an expedition to Antarctica and the surrounding regions set to last
for 37 days so that he could study and write nonfiction about climate change and other severe
environmental issues. Instead, his journey lasted 63 days.
He hiked a glacier-covered mountain in Antarctica behind his shirtless expedition leader,
watched penguin chicks pant from the excessive heat, encountered seals being strangled by
plastic pollution, investigated a cruise ship accident in Antarctica’s Deception Island where the oil spill was covered up, weathered a deadly and devastating storm in Argentina (one of those 100-year or 500-year severe weather storms that now seem to happen multiple times every year), and more.
His experiences got him recognized by Participant Media, the filmmakers of the documentary ”An Inconvenient Truth”. He credits the documentary’s use of personal stories and multimedia in his approach to addressing climate change. He’d even rewatched it en route to Antarctica. As part of he 10-year celebration of the film, Participant made a short video of his work.
“Ever since becoming a professional writer, writing about social justice issues [has been]
extremely important to me, and it also defined my long-term goals,” he stated in a recent video of a presentation he gave to the California Writers Club about using fiction and multimedia to tell unconventional stories.
Curiously, Linehan, who is known for covering science, nature, and the environment in
writings such as ”SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History,” which has a foreword by Arthur C.Clarke and a cover blurb by Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson, has written his new book as a work of cli-fi fiction instead of nonfiction.
Over the years, he has specialized in using multimedia to
communicate complex and challenging science to wide and diverse audiences.
Why the change?
After beginning his career as a superconductor researcher and then as a microchip
engineer — specializing in contamination control and chemical processes — he switched in 2000 to become a writer and quickly found his background gave him unique insight into critical issues negatively impacting society at an environmental level.
Linehan believes that there is more than enough scientific evidence about climate change
to make the right choices for humanity and the planet. He became increasingly frustrated by how so many people embraced the products of science and technology, but turned their backs on the scientific and technological when it came to repercussions that were unfortunate for them to hear, as if the laws of physics no longer applied to the problematic.
The Monterey, California, resident decided his unimaginable experiences were best told
using fiction, as had been done by local writer John Steinbeck in ”The Grapes of Wrath” and
“I found that to tackle such a critical issue as climate change, it was important to spread
the message using multiple mediums. In addition to documentaries and presentations, things like music, art, film, and literature can make strong connections with people,” he writes on his website. “Some approaches can better reach people who would ordinarily tune out something about climate change. This is when my writing about what I faced in and around Antarctica transitioned from nonfiction into fiction.”
So, he approached his series by giving ample sugar (laughs and romance) while not
making the medicine too unpalatable.
He writes in ”The Princess of the Bottom of the World:”
“This was exactly the type of severe weather event that scientists predicted from climate change caused by global warming. Climate was like a yo-yo on a string. Sometimes up and sometimes down and sometimes in the middle. The yo-yo changed all the time but only worked along the length of string. Even yo-yo tricks fell within a predictable range. Global warming was like cutting the string. Now, once you flicked the yo-yo out of your hand, you didn’t know what it would hit or where it would land. Because Earth’s climate was such a big yo-yo, it only took very small changes in the average
global temperature — just fractions of a degree — to make dramatic changes.”
Though the impact from burning fossil fuel began as the industrial revolution shifted into
high gear, it wasn’t until the digital age that scientists discovered its scope of effects on the
climate. Linehan’s multimedia ”The Princess of the Bottom of the World” is undoubtedly his
ambitious digital attempt to raise awareness and inspire positive action.