1. DAN BLOOM, blogger at ''The Cli-Fi Report'': I've noticed a trend in last few years. Lawyers and law professors, you, for example, and Ed Rubin at Vanderbilt University, writing sci-fi or cli-fi thriller novels with climate themes. What do you think accounts for this literary trend? Of course, lawyers are good with language, they know how to set a table with language in a court case or academic paper, but what else might account for this trend?
- SAM BLEICHER, AUTHOR: I agree lawyers have the writing and storytelling skills, but I think some other important factors are involved:
(a) People who are interested in future-oriented issues hope to spread their ideas to a wider audience than just those who read footnoted non-fiction books.
(b) Futuristic fiction can paint a picture of a world that might await us, expanding readers’ vision and imagination in a way that non-fiction projections of the future can’t.
(c) In the climate change arena, a novel can bypass the arguments with climate deniers and “Garden of Eden” nostalgic environmentalists and present the real world as the author sees it, without proving every statement with a footnote.
3. What's the plot of The Plot To Cool The Planet? How about a short elevator pitch, 60 seconds or so, or a longer stab at it?
“The Plot To Cool The Planet” begins in the year 2020 with the assassination of a charismatic climate scientist who forcefully advocates geoengineering to save humanity. Her death shocks the world. The two Canadian investigators are under pressure to find both the murderer and those behind it. The notorious murder also angers a handful of diplomats frustrated by institutional paralysis on global warming. They take matters into their own hands, organizing a rogue geoengineering experiment without international knowledge or approval. Their goal is to save their small island states, risking their own careers and lives. The project uncovers another surreptitious climate intervention, which ignites Great Power military conflict and diplomatic confrontation on global governance of geoengineering.
4. When did you first come across the new genre term of cli-fi, and did you know that NPR radio did a five-minute radio segment on it in April 2013? Is it a useful term for your new novel?
“Sci-fi” has been around forever, but I hadn’t run across the term “cli-fi” until very recently, even though I have read numerous books that fall in this category. The first climate change novel I read was Arthur Herzog’s “Heat” (1977), which I read shortly after it was published. I was a senior official at NOAA at that time, so it came to my attention. Newly available remote-sensing satellite data and quantitative computer modelling were just beginning to shape our knowledge of the real parameters of the climate change threat.
I do think the “cli-fi” category is useful. At this point there is more than enough novelistic material to justify a category that separates “cli-fi” from the more established robotics and space travel sci-fi literature. And there will inevitably be more in the coming decades.
5. There's a popular movie titled ''Snowpiercer'' set in the distant future that is also about a cooled planet. Did you see it or hear of it yet?
No, I haven’t. From what I glean from Amazon, “Snowpiercer”, like “Watermelon Snow”, which the authors call cli-fi, only qualifies in the sense that climate conditions form the backdrop in which his story takes place. “The Plot To Cool The Planet” directly focuses on the science, engineering, policy, diplomacy, and politics of geoengineering.
A lot of my current reading is non-fiction, like ''The Uninhabitable Earth” and ''The Sixth Extinction.” I want to make sure of the science so that I can correctly articulate the science I am relying on in my novel.
6. How do you plan to promote your novel in this era of Donald Trump? Newspaper interviews, radio interviews, bookstore signings? TV interviews? Op-ed columns in newspapers? Letters to editors? College lectures?
By beginning in 2020, “The Plot To Cool The Planet” minimizes direct confrontation with the Trump administration (although the assassinated climate scientist has strong hostile opinions about climate deniers in and out of the government). It assumes that a Democratic Party President with a more rational perspective is elected in 2020. Nevertheless, the events in the story force him to come to grips with difficult decisions about the governance of geoengineering.
As for methods of promoting my book, aside from my teaching and family commitments, I’m happy to spend all my time promoting it every way I can, through book signings, radio and TV interviews, Newman Springs Publishing’s web page, Facebook, and Twitter (@BleicherSamA). I am writing some articles, but they are non-fiction ones about climate change. I hope my book and these columns will reinforce each other.