September 17: Paolo Bacigalupi to imagine Southwest water futures at ASU

This story originally appeared at ASU News. It was written by Jason Franz, Senior Manager of Strategic Marketing and Communications at ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.

September 17, 2015
7:30 – 9:00 pm

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In Paolo Bacigalupi’s most recent science fiction novel, The Water Knife, Phoenix is dried up and California and Nevada are not too far behind. The millions of people who rely on the Colorado River to survive are not only thirsty, but fighting for their lives.

It’s a compelling story that captures a not-so-distant future. Will Phoenix eventually collapse? Will the river dry up?

As part of Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, a partnership between the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and Center for Science and the Imagination, Bacigalupi will visit ASU on Sept. 17, to share the inspiration behind “The Water Knife” and discuss how he uses creative writing to imagine the future of the Southwest.

Bacigalupi follows award-winning author Margaret Atwood as the second guest lecturer for the initiative.

Bacigalupi’s visit will include a free public lecture titled “The Imagination Drought: Speculative Fiction as a Tool of Warning and Empowerment” at the Tempe Center for the Arts, and will feature a reception and book signing after the the writer’s talk. Tickets for this lecture are available beginning Aug. 25.

“We are very excited to have Paolo Bacigalupi come to the setting of his latest novel and talk with students, faculty, researchers and residents about the state’s environmental challenges and how they relate to his gripping tale,” said Patricia Reiter, executive director of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative seeks to develop multiple narratives surrounding climate change. Bacigalupi is a perfect example of how the arts and sciences combine to help us visualize our future.”

After being exposed to environmental issues as High Country News’ online editor, Bacigalupi has become a leader in the emerging climate-fiction genre. His first novel, The Windup Girl, explores a world where fossil fuels are depleted and big corporations bioengineer food and people.

“Bacigalupi’s work exemplifies the broader mission of the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative to open up our thinking about what might be possible,” said Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and Imagination. “His arresting, deeply imaginative visions of the planet’s future are both soaring and gritty, anchored by deeply compelling characters struggling and thriving in the aftermath of climate change. Stories like his are vital to understanding what kind of world we’d like to live in and help us reinvent the present to reach that future.”

Bacigalupi’s second novel, a young-adult piece called Ship Breaker, tells the story of a young boy who strips stranded oil tankers for parts in the Gulf Coast.

“In writing for teenagers as well as adults, Bacigalupi shows us that an awareness of environmental issues must be cultivated across generations,” said Jewell Parker Rhodes, Piper Endowed Chair and founding artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. “His fearless and intelligent novels are compelling, not only for their adventurous plots, but for their artistry in evoking raw and complex emotions for their deeply human characters.”

For more information and tickets, visit