Thursday, October 05, 2017

An excerpt from an interview with Nancy Lord in Alaska about her new cli-fi novel, ''pH''

An excerpt from an interview with poet and climate activist Nancy Lord in Alaska about her new cli-fi novel, ''pH''

THE INTERVIEWER IN CANADA ASKED: Your newest work of fiction, the cli-fi novel pH, involves marine scientists working in Alaska on ocean warming and acidification. Can you tell us something about the novel? How much of your real-life experiences inspired this novel?

Nancy: After writing mainly nonfiction in recent years, I decided to tackle ocean issues in what might be a more interesting and compelling way for readers.

pH is a comic cli-fi novel, with characters in conflict and a plot surrounding institutional corruption. I hope that it has some resonance right now, since it addresses ways of knowing, the manipulation of facts, and ethical choices. The science behind it is all real—the oceans are being affected by warming and acidification. The first section takes place on an oceanographic cruise; I spent a week on one in 2010, which provided the basis for what I describe as work on the ship. It’s hard to pick out, otherwise, what personal experience fed into my imagined world and the lives of my characters.

INTERVIEWER: can environmental literature appeal to readers these days, especially with the glut of global narratives coming at us in every direction – many of them having valid appeals for us to be concerned about so many issues?

Nancy: I think that environmental fiction can have great appeal these days because it can tell compelling stories without being heavy-handed with message. Readers are suffering from “bad news syndrome” right now—inclined to turn away from reading (or hearing) about every new disaster and every thing that we’d doing to damage the Earth and its creatures. Fictions that can tell humorous or inspiring stories seem much more palatable—and can still inform readers about serious issues. Some cli-fi novels in this line that I admire are Ian McEwan’s Solar, Ann Pancake’s Strange As This Weather Has Been, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, and T. C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done. Of course, there’s still room for every kind of environmental literature, including reporting; I just think that cli-fi is having its day.

The featured image is credited to photographer Stacy Studebaker.

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