A Year Without a Winter

Named one of the top art books of 2019 by The New York Times

Today, weather extremes brought about by climate change pose relentless cognitive and imaginative challenges. Beyond news media, what are the cultural registers of this phenomenon? How can artistic and literary engagements with destabilizing natural patterns summon new planetary imaginaries—reorienting perspectives on humanity’s position within the environment?

A Year Without a Winter brings together science fiction, history, visual art, and exploration. Inspired by the literary “dare” that would give birth to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein amidst the aftermath of a massive volcanic eruption, and today, by the utopian architecture of Paolo Soleri and the Arizona desert, expeditions to Antarctica and Indonesia, this collection reframes the relationship among climate, crisis, and creation.

The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, enveloped the globe in a cloud of ash, causing a climate crisis. By 1816, remembered as the “year without a summer,” the northern hemisphere was plunged into cold and darkness. Amidst unseasonal frosts, violent thunderstorms, and a general atmosphere of horror, Shelley began a work of science fiction that continues to shape our attitudes about emerging science, technology, and environmental futures.

Two hundred years later, in 2016, the hottest year on historical record, four renowned science fiction authors were invited to the experimental town of Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s prototype eco-city, to respond to our present crisis. A Year Without a Winter presents their stories alongside critical essays, extracts from Shelley’s masterpiece, and dispatches from expeditions to extreme geographies.

Edited by: Dehlia Hannah
Fiction Editors: Brenda Cooper, Joey Eschrich, and Cynthia Selin
Science fiction by: Tobias S. Buckell, Nancy Kress, Nnedi Okorafor, and Vandana Singh
Published by Columbia University Press, as part of the Columbia Books on Architecture and the City series.
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