Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II

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Table of Contents

Everything Change:

An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II

Edited by Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich

Center for Science and the Imagination, Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II. Copyright © 2018 Arizona State University.

ISBN 978-0-9995902-7-0

The copyrights for individual short stories and essays are owned by their respective authors, as follows:

“Editors’ Introduction,” by Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich. Copyright © 2018 Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich.

“Monarch Blue,” by Barbara Litkowski. Copyright © 2018 Barbara Litkowski.

“The Last Grand Tour of Albertine’s Watch,” by Sandra Barnidge. Copyright © 2018 Sandra Barnidge.

“Half-Eaten Cities,” by Vajra Chandrasekera. Copyright © 2018 Vajra Chandrasekera.

“Darkness Full of Light,” by Tony Dietz. Copyright © 2018 Anthony Dietz.

“Luna,” by David Samuel Hudson. Copyright © 2018 David Samuel Hudson.

“Tuolumne River Days,” by Rebecca Lawton. Copyright © 2018 Rebecca Lawton.

“The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World,” by Jean McNeil. Copyright © 2018 Jean McNeil.

“Orphan Bird,” by Leah Newsom. Copyright © 2018 Leah Newsom.

“The Office of Climate Facts,” by Mitch Sullivan. Copyright © 2018 Mitch Sullivan.

“Losing What We Can’t Live Without,” by Jean-Louis Trudel. Copyright © 2018 Jean-Louis Trudel.

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Center for Science and the Imagination, Arizona State University
PO Box 876511
Tempe, AZ 85287-6511

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Contest Management

Ebook Design

Cover Design

Business Operations

Leadership for the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative


Lead Judge

Scientific Editors

Literary Editors

Associate Editors

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By Kim Stanley Robinson

This year’s finalists for Arizona State University’s Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest form an unexpectedly coherent collective accomplishment. The mood of these stories, repeated again and again, is grief at the damage climate change is doing to some particular place and culture. The specificity in these stories, the deep knowledge they display as they describe the places and cultures being lost, make them acts of love. The love is expressed as a kind of paying attention, as the detailed articulation of 10 beloved places and cultures in imminent danger of being lost. If they aren’t lost yet, they are likely to be lost soon—so soon that even if our global civilization were to start immediately to do everything possible to slow, stop, or even reverse climate change, these most vulnerable places and cultures are probably doomed. They are walking dead—not zombies, but rather condemned prisoners of history and geography.

In many of these stories, the palpable sense of loss is supplemented by descriptions of more or less desperate emergency measures, taken in the hope that something might survive the devastation. Such vivid slingshot endings make me think that these writers want to have hope, and want their readers to share that hope, even in the face of unavoidable loss—and yet without being unrealistic. It’s a problem shared by all fiction, but climate fiction in particular. People have to create whatever meaning there is in this universe, if they can, and that’s what stories are for. And yet to be meaningful a story has to match the facts of the situation—it has to be “realistic.” If it doesn’t include and somehow face up to catastrophe, tragedy, and death, it won’t really be creating much of a meaning. Meaning has to be constructed against the most enormous pressures of meaninglessness.

Climate fiction confronts a specific instance of this general problem. We have already initiated climate change, so there will losses for people, animals, plants, and ecologies. Some of the losses won’t be recoverable—they will be extinctions, and despite the interesting work of the de-extinction movement, worth pursuing for what we might learn from it, most extinctions are final and unfixable. Whatever it was that existed, extinction means it goes away; it’s death not just for an individual but for a species, a biome, or whatever it might be. Then whatever meaning that life-form once held will be gone, or at least contained in the past, its meaning a matter of memory.

Literature has to face up to this situation. Even escapism, so-called, lives in a relationship with what it is trying to escape from—as Tolkien once remarked, no doubt after hearing fantasy literature described as escapist, very often what one is trying to escape from is a jail. In any case, even if literature can sometimes be used (or misused) to try to escape reality, more often it is trying to engage it—even to change it. In this effort, all kinds of desperation may be manifested in the texts involved, because changing reality is not an easy project. But human reality is profoundly influenced by what we think about it, so the act of trying to create meaning is real and important, no matter how desperate it sometimes feels.

So these short stories, grounded in grief, and often trying to leap in their final sentences toward some kind of hope, seem to me in many cases to be longer stories still in the making. They are in effect the first chapters of novels. As such, readers are invited to write the extensions in their heads; and the writers should consider adding to them as well. Caught between the ending of one world and the beginning of some other world, as yet unborn and undefined, these stories want sequels.

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Editors’ Introduction

By Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich

Climate change is a cultural and political problem. Solutions to this creeping threat—a clean-energy transition, stricter environmental regulations on industry, changes in agricultural practice, even, perhaps, a transformation in our voracious relationship with consumer culture—are all eminently possible. What’s more, enacting them would have immediate (as well as long-term) positive effects on the global economy, far from the crisis predicted by opponents of climate action.[1]

We often imagine climate change as a scientific and technological issue: a predicament we’ve created for ourselves, abetted by our many technological achievements, that we could also simply climb out of with the right suite of technological fixes. This assumption is built right into the structure of public discussion around climate change—when you read or hear about it in the news, it’s almost always confined to the science section, while “green” gadgets of all stripes, from renewable power breakthroughs to Energy Star–certified dishwashers, are covered in the technology section.

Since launching the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative in 2014, hosting leading thinkers on climate and society, organizing and judging climate fiction contests, and collaborating with researchers and scholars, it’s become increasingly apparent to us that this struggle is about stories. The tales bound in books of fiction like this one, sure, but also the stories at the heart of political speeches, party platforms, news-media coverage, high school science lessons, and social media maelstroms. We have the tools and knowledge—the science and technology—we need as a species to avert catastrophe. The challenges that remain are about persuasion, ideology, indoctrination, virality, emotional appeals, and fostering empathy. About changing priorities and creating a sense of urgency. To achieve the cultural groundswell and political momentum to change ourselves in the face of a changing climate, we need stories.

We certainly invented and innovated and disrupted our way into our current dire situation. And technologies like efficient solar panels, wind turbines, and other forms of sustainable infrastructure have a central role to play in digging our way out of this mess. But our Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest, and the larger Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, operate on the belief that emotionally resonant stories are the most powerful tool we have. Stories about futures shaped by climate change have the potential to root this global crisis, which often seems diffuse and abstract, in specific, irreparable physical places under threat, and in the experiences of individual people coping with displacement, terror, loss, ennui, or glimmers of hope. Reading fiction, specifically, sharpens our empathy, transporting us to unseen vistas and broadening our experience of reality to encompass other lives, other minds.[2]

This goal of increasing empathy has led us to develop a contest that invites submissions from people around the world. So far, we’ve published two anthologies featuring stories of climate chaos, environmental destruction and transformation, and human responses set in far-flung locales around the world. We hope our stories make these distant places immediate and newly emotionally real, reminding us that climate change is both multifarious and monolithic. It makes itself known differently in different places—a drought here, a species die-off there, a hurricane here, a mudslide there, a refugee crisis here, a forest fire there—but it’s also one big thing that we’re all living through.

Following that logic of diversity, we enthusiastically welcomed submissions from across a variety of literary genres, expanding our scope beyond science fiction. Each genre has its own set of perceptual tools and expressive capabilities. We wanted to ensure that submissions to the contest could incorporate the broadest possible set of perspectives on climate change and its effects on us, our Earth, and our future.

We called for submissions that explored the impact of climate change on humanity and the Earth, in the present or near- to moderate-term future, and that in some way reflected current scientific knowledge about climate change (with the understanding that writers would embellish, imagine, and invent their own fictional conditions and situations as well). We also suggested that writers create stories that illuminate or invite reflections on climate-related challenges or decisions that individuals, organizations, or societies face today, or might face soon, including things like daily decisions and behaviors, policy-making and politics, strategy and planning, moral responsibility to the future, investment in research and development or technologies, and public health issues. The idea was to keep our ambit broad, but simultaneously nudge authors to create works that prompt critical engagement and ethical exploration, and address themselves cogently to our present climate emergency.

The response was, as with our first contest, overwhelming: over 540 submissions from over 60 different countries. Again, paralleling the inaugural contest, our pool of authors reflects incredible diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, life experience, and professional background.

Our judging process spanned five rounds, including 30 people representing expertise in sustainability, environmental history, oceanography, chemistry, conservation, renewable energy, public policy, natural resource management, political science, cognitive science, creative writing, and literary theory. Experts were drawn from Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, School of Earth and Space Exploration, School of Life Sciences, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, School of Molecular Sciences, Department of English, and Center for Science and the Imagination. As with our first contest, the final round was judged by science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson, author of a number of foundational works of climate fiction, including the Three Californias trilogy, Green Earth, The Years of Rice and Salt, New York 2140, and more.

Our grand prize–winning story, “Monarch Blue” by Barbara Litkowski, joins nine other compelling, thought-provoking takes on what it might be like to live in a future shaped by climate and environmental chaos, dispatches from a world in flux. We’re incredibly proud to feature them in this anthology and to share them with you. At the end of the book, you’ll also find the names and titles of the other 21 semifinalists. We received so many great submissions, and we hope and expect to see some of them published in other venues, swelling the tide of climate fiction stories out there in the world.

This year’s winning stories share a number of common themes and points of emphasis. For one, several of the stories in this anthology are concerned with reproduction and the effects of environmental degradation on women’s bodies. This might reflect a growing awareness that climate change is not merely an atmospheric phenomenon or a cataclysm eternally happening in an unspecified “elsewhere,” but a force that promises to reshape our everyday lived environments and wash through our bodies. Our authors are keenly aware that human bodies are fused with the grander cycles of the natural world, and that we’re degrading along with it. The focus on women’s bodies in particular is poignant in a year marked by cascading awareness of and attention to the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women, with the climate joining a number of forces intruding and preying upon women’s embodied experiences.

As in our first Everything Change anthology from 2016, the ethics of reproduction and childbearing continue to haunt the characters of our stories. Pregnancies, like natural environments and many human lives, are precarious, a point of acute vulnerability in a world stripped of its old certainties by a rapidly changing climate. That same uncertainty makes the very act of childbearing an open ethical question. After all, what kind of lives will these young ones grow into? Can would-be parents justify the additional carbon burden that another human life, especially one in the carbon-intensive developed world, puts on a planet already hopelessly out of whack?

Water is also a particular locus of anxiety, with stories about drought and scarcity, but also about floods and megastorms, and water-related diseases, tainted water, voyages at sea, even human societies built deep underwater, utterly cut off from the land. For many of us, ever-present thirst is perhaps our most immediate visceral connection to the slowly unfolding climate crisis—along with the horror of tremendous floodwaters, more present than ever in an era of record-setting hurricanes, freakishly swelling rivers, and always-on ubiquitous news media covering the carnage.

In the face of all this terror, most of our stories approach climate chaos not with anger or fear but with wistfulness, a gentle nostalgia for what we’ve lost and continue to lose. In a moment of scandalous climate inaction, even in the face of mounting danger to ecosystems and communities, most of this year’s crop of stories are elegies, not exhortations to the barricades. We’re reminded of the AIDS crisis, where mourning and shared grief were precursors to and catalysts for action.

We hope that these stories are stepping-stones to action, reminders that climate chaos has deep human costs that look different from afar and across borders but tie back to the same globe-spanning cause, testaments to how our collective fate is tied inextricably to the natural world. Living through this climate crisis will require first changing the stories we tell about our dwelling on this planet as a species. We’re honored to share these stories in an effort to help kindle that change.

[1] A 2018 report from The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate—an international group of economists and policy and business analysts—estimates that the world could garner net savings of $26 trillion by 2030 through a global shift toward sustainable development. Read more at newclimateeconomy.report. [Back]

[2] Two remarkable, recent scholarly articles make the case for this connection between reading fiction and increased empathy, encompassing both behavioral research and neurological studies: librarian Dora Byrd Rowe’s “The ‘Novel’ Approach: Using Fiction to Increase Empathy,” in Virginia Libraries, vol. 63, no. 1, 2018, dx.doi.org/10.21061/valib.v63i1.1474, and cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley’s “Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds,” in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 20, no. 8, 2016, doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2016.06.002. [Back]

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About the Contributors


Sandra K. Barnidge is a writer based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and her work is published in Atlas Obscura, Nimrod, Heron Tree, and elsewhere. Before moving to the Deep South, she was a science writer in Wisconsin, and she’s passionate about using storytelling as a tool for educating the public about environmental and social issues. She’s currently pursuing an MFA degree in creative writing at the University of Alabama.

Vajra Chandrasekera is a writer from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and a fiction editor for Strange Horizons. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Analog, Black Warrior Review, and Clarkesworld, among others.

Tony Dietz is an Aussie with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Sydney University and a doctorate from Oxford. He served in the Royal Australian Air Force and has worked as a research scientist for NASA. Tony currently lives, works, and writes in Arizona, where he collaborates with the Central Phoenix Writing Workshop. The first line of “Darkness Full of Light” came from his daughter’s fifth-grade “What I Did Last Summer” essay. The rest of the story arose from his fascination with the deep, the future, and the tale of Joseph and his coat of many colors.

David Samuel Hudson is a Maltese author and journalist. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, where his manuscript was shortlisted for the Janklow & Nesbit prize. His short stories have appeared in Schlock, Scribble magazine, and others, and his flash fiction in Ad Hoc Fiction books. He has been longlisted for the international Bath Flash Fiction Award. He mostly writes science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism, and is currently working on his debut sci-fi novel.

Rebecca Lawton is a writer, fluvial geologist, and former Colorado River guide. She’s won the Ellen Meloy Award for Desert Writers, WILLA for original softcover fiction, Waterston Desert Writing Prize, and residencies at Hedgebrook, The Island Institute, and PLAYA. She received a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair to research her second novel, 49 North, about international water crime. Her first collection of essays, Reading Water: Lessons from the River, was a San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area Bestseller. Her latest book, The Oasis this Time: Living and Dying with Water in the West, is due out from Torrey House Press in 2019.

Barbara Litkowski holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University. Her short fiction has appeared in Subtle Fiction, Blue Lake Review, and Luna Station Quarterly. She was selected as a finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress Competition and is a former recipient of the Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Program grant. She lives with her husband in Zionsville, Indiana.

Jean McNeil has been writer-in-residence in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, aboard ship-based expeditions to Greenland, Norway, and Iceland, and across the Atlantic Ocean. Her travelogue and memoir of Antarctica, Ice Diaries (ECW editions), won the 2016 Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. Her most recent novels are set in east and southern Africa, respectively: The Dhow House (2017) and Fire on the Mountain (2018). She lives in London, UK. Learn more at www.jeanmcneil.co.uk.

Leah Newsom is a fiction writer and Arizona native. She is an MFA candidate in fiction at Arizona State University.

Mitch Sullivan is a science fiction enthusiast and writer from Australia. He completed a PR major at university that he has since used exactly once, which was in the creation of “The Office of Climate Facts.”

Born in Toronto, Jean-Louis Trudel holds degrees in physics, astronomy, and the history and philosophy of science. Since 1994, he has authored (alone or, in collaboration with Yves Meynard, as Laurent McAllister) three novels, four collections, a historical guide to science fiction in Quebec, and twenty-six YA books, as well as numerous short stories in French and a smaller number in English. His cli-fi story “The Snows of Yesteryear” appeared in Carbide Tipped Pens, edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi (Tor, 2014), was reprinted twice, garnered an honourable mention in Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and became the title story of a cli-fi collection available in English and Italian.


Angie Dell is the associate director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, and a writer, editor, letterpress printer, and book artist. She is also on the board of the NonfictioNOW conference, and owns and runs Shut Eye Press. Her creative work is interested in challenging objectification and disassociation, both through an ecological lens and through the human body, and her books and writing have been published or featured in various collections, libraries, journals, and galleries.

Joey Eschrich is the editor and program manager at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. He’s also an assistant director for Future Tense, a partnership of ASU, Slate, and New America that explores emerging technologies and their effects on policy, culture, and society. He is the coeditor of Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere (2016), Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction (2016), The Rightful Place of Science: Frankenstein (2017), and Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures (2017), which was supported by a grant from NASA.

Lead Judge

Kim Stanley Robinson is a science fiction writer. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the international-bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently Red Moon, New York 2140, Aurora, Shaman, Green Earth, and 2312, which was a New York Times bestseller nominated for all seven of the major science fiction awards—a first for any book. He was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers’ Program in 1995, and returned in their Antarctic media program in 2016. In 2008 he was named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages and has won a dozen awards in five countries, including the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. In 2016 he was given the Heinlein Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and asteroid 72432 was named “Kimrobinson.” In 2017 he was given the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Imagination in Service to Society.

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