I write fiction about the future, but that doesn’t mean the future I invent is fictitious.
And while I can’t study the future the way historical novelists can study the past, I can, and do, extrapolate today’s trends into future possibilities. And I say possibilities, because it’s my hope that in some small part, my books will inspire today’s young readers to adjust and course-correct where some of those trends are heading.
And the one that concerns me the most right now is water.
I used to live in California, a golden state that has had a long and complex relationship with water (if you don’t know what I mean, watch Chinatown!). And while I lived there, literally beside the Pacific Ocean, I was very aware of how unsustainable Los Angeles was – it’s essentially a desert populated by about 9 million people and seemingly as many garden sprinklers.
And after years of below average rainfall, the state finds itself in a drought emergency.
“At some point we have to learn to live with mother Nature,” says California Governor Jerry Brown.
Introducing environmental themes into stories is not new. Moria Young did it brilliantly with her Dustlands trilogy, Philip Reeve pains a bleak landscape in his Mortal Engines books, and author Piers Torday writes about the difference between “cli-fi” and “sci-fi” in the Guardian, here. While many books in the YA category can be called ‘dystopian’ fiction, there’s a higher bar for stories that underpin their narrative on environmental uncertainty. Because the environment is being challenged today, every day. And that makes for a tough read.
Books are the perfect media to introduce and explore tough concepts. In ‘The Dead Are Rising’ (MetaWars 2), I bring my main characters to Los Angeles years after it’s been evacuated due to drought. It’s a stark and unforgiving landscape, set just a few doors down from where I used to live.
I introduce the reader to the concept that you cannot live somewhere if you don’t have water to drink. My hope is that through fiction, we can experience tomorrow’s climate today, and together work to build a sustainable future….not a dystopian one.