Not Our Familiar World

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“The scientists have done their job — they’ve issued every possible warning, flashed every red light. Now it’s time for the rest of us — for the economists, the psychologists, the theologians. And the artists, whose role is to help us understand what things feel like. These stories are an impressive start in that direction, and one shouldn’t forget for a moment that they represent a real departure from most literary work. Instead of being consumed with the relationships between people, they increasingly take on the relationship between people and everything else. On a stable planet, nature provided a background against which the human drama took place; on the unstable planet we’re creating, the background becomes the highest drama. So many of these pieces conjure up that world, and a tough world it is, not the familiar one we’ve loved without even thinking of it. Those are jolts we dearly need; this is serious business we’re involved in.” — Bill McKibben, from his introduction to I’m with the Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet

There are two new fiction collections that heed Bill McKibben’s call to enlist our unstable planet as a key character and source of fiction’s highest drama. I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet, edited by Mark Martin, collects ten tales “shaping an emotional response to the deterioration of our global habitat.” Several leading contemporary writers lend their voices, along with authors from the realm of science fiction, such as Kim Stanley Robinson and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Science fiction is front and center in Welcome to the Greenhouse: Strange Tales of Climate Change, edited by Gordon Van Gelder. Both grim and hopeful futures are imagined in sixteen speculative stories by authors such as Brian W. Aldiss, Gregory Benford, Bruce Sterling, and Alan Dean Foster.

To borrow Bill McKibben’s phrase, science fiction often provides the jolts we dearly need. Here are just a few more provocative books from the Land Library’s shelves:
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The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse by Dale Pendell, set in California’s future, long after sea levels have risen, Sixty Days and Counting, the third in Kim Stanley Robinson’s climate change trilogy which also includes Forty Signs of Rain, and Fifty Degrees Below, and Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, a collection of cautionary stories for the planet from the author of the award-winning The Windup Girl.

Who knew the Land Library would have a Sci-fi section? We do, and we hope we can delve deeper into those earlier cautionary voices that spoke clearly of the times we are now living in. We would like to see this section grow. After all, we do love science fiction enough to know that the only way to close is to sincerely say to all — live long and prosper!

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