Getting the Science Right for Climate Activist Fiction
By Stephan Malone, Guest Author
Are you considering a new project that involves human induced climate activist fiction? You may have all the tricks ready to deploy that make a great story, such as characters the reader cares about, staying in the correct tense throughout the manuscript, a good feel for story flow cadence, excellent world-building talent, a critical pivot point somewhere, or even comic relief side characters. But there is one little thing that you need to do first, and that is to review the science behind actual climate change, and the machinery behind it, for if you don’t, your book will almost certainly bring to bear a lot of negative feedback. And you really don’t want that.
The fundamentals of climate change really are not that hard to pen into your story. For example, the carbon count is only 0.04% of the atmosphere but accounts for all life on earth. Without that tiny fraction of carbon dioxide, the entire planet would be one giant ball of ice. We all know that a tiny increase in carbon dioxide results in a greatly amplified effect on the world’s climate systems.
Remember too that climate prediction is difficult. Some areas will be desertified while others will go underwater. Still other places will become sub-tropical and over-run with runaway foliage and insect life. Storms may become far stronger than humans have ever experienced, but also there is the possibility that they may be fewer in actual number. Many places perhaps could go years, decades, centuries without a single storm and then be utterly levelled to dust by a singular super-storm.
Some quick suggestions since my keyboard battery is dying on me here, for your amusement:
→ Climate changes will probably not be terribly noticeable to most of the world population until sometime after 2100. Consider pushing your timeline far ahead. It is tempting for an author to make the story as “close” as possible to today, but this will have the opposite effect of being what I call passively preachy. You don’t want to preach or admonish your readers; you want to entertain them.
→The primary driver for climate change is the artificial elevation of atmospheric CO2 levels, and it is small, measured in parts per million. For characters, you may want to avoid regionalizing this, and what I mean by that is avoid characters accenting on carbon counts (example – southern girl says “gosh dang them partz per millionz or whatever iz high!” – sounds divisive and trite). It’s actually a turn off for the casual reader, so if you want to educate your reader consider doing it creatively and with more boldness. How would you integrate this into, say, a sex or romance scene? Such a task is not for the unskilled novice, but you will get out of it what you put in.
→Consider the social impact on future climate changes. Are people going to be the same Facebook-staring, phone-texting zombies that we currently enjoy? Or will they be more resourceful, leaner, maybe even a little sexier than the average person in recent days? The reason I bring this up is that in 2400, people are not going to be dialoging about “climate change” because it will be already an (ancient) sociological given. Think about this. In 1905 everyone was talking about how amazing the new “autocars” are. Today, we drive our car like it’s a job. See the difference? Climate destruction will perhaps not be a fantastic subject, but rather as mundane and everyday as talking about what the best fabric softener is to us.
→ Research *everything* about your stage that you set. Everything from toothbrushes to clothes to power sources. What are they made out of? Who makes them and how? Does the model *fit* logically with a low energy world of the future?
→Consider tapping into resource materials. Search for “climate change guide” on Amazon and read through a book or two as a primer. Heck, you may even get some great story ideas along the way.
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