At one point in his life as a novelist, the British sci-fi writer JG Ballard became dissatisfied with linear narratives, and even wrote one book later in his life ”as a series of paragraphs each with a heading, each with a cryptic self-contained episode,” according to literary sources.
He felt that at the time that ”Robinson Crusoe” was written, readers in those days would have found Crusoe to be as exciting as modern movie and TV newsreels of the surface of the Moon brought back by Apollo astronauts. But he faced an enormous question: In today’s world ”a writer of fiction is in competition with enormous media systems, news cameramen, newspapers, news magazines, advertising.”
So how can a novelist today write a novel about runaway climate change in the face of all this?
Compare this question with that facing sci-fi writers and cli-fi writers in 2020 about how to address runaway climate change and global warming: How to adequately cover these issues involved in a novel with real characters and compelling storytelling? It’s not an easy task, maybe an impossible one.
Is this why we have so few good cli-fi novels? And sci-fi novels as well?
Back in 1970, JG Ballard famously said: “How long has the American Vietnam War been going on? As a serious war it’s been been going on about five or six years; as far as I know not one serious work of fiction has been produced by it, which is very strange. I know it takes a while, but it may be that the Vietnam War will not produce any fiction?”
So did the Vietnam War ever produce any serious fiction? Will climate change and global warming ever produce any serious fiction?
It’s a question we don’t have Mr. Ballard around now for, since he passed away long ago. But the question still lingers, and someone has to answer it.
Who will it be?