By Ed Finn
Climate fiction, or “cli fi,” can be a dreary genre. Storytellers like to make a grim business of climate change, populating their narratives with a humorless onslaught of death, destruction, drowned monuments, and starving children. Margaret Atwood is the conspicuous exception, somehow managing to tackle the subject, including these familiar elements, with deadpan wit and an irreverent playfulness, making it both more interesting and believable. The flood is coming, her MaddAddam trilogy promises, but there is hope.
Atwood’s intensely literary, human focus on environmental issues and the future of the planet is shaping a more optimistic vision of cli fi, one that sidesteps the blame games and the “will-they, won’t-they” battles over carbon emissions. Her response is clear and compelling: The planet is changing. We need creativity, ambition, and some powerful new stories to understand how we can change with it.