The new year’s finally here! You may have already celebrated with some of your favorite New Year’s Eve traditions: counting down to midnight, drinking champaign, making resolutions for the new year. Now that 2019 is in full swing, I invite you to join me in one of my favorite year-end traditions: looking back at the best examples of the past year of climate fiction.
Climate fiction, or cli-fi, is a literary genre that includes any work of fiction that addresses human-caused climate change. The stereotypical approach to this genre involves telling heavy-handed disaster stories with climate change as the main culprit. If done well, those types stories can still be interesting and meaningful cautionary tales about climate realities (and social realities) that may very well await us in the near future. However some of the most compelling tales take the theme of climate change in an entirely different direction.
What does climate change look like on the small scale, in the daily life of someone whose experience of it you may not have considered? What’s an unexpected turn that it might take? What do some of the solutions look like? What happens when you throw in elements of sci-fi and fantasy such as aliens, zombies, robots, and time travel?
The answers to these and other questions can make for a delightful, thought-provoking, inspiring, and at times terrifying reading experience. This holds true whether the reader is a cli-fi enthusiast or simply enjoys a good story.
The following is my list of the top eight climate fiction books for 2018. Technically, one was published in 2017, and another in January 2019. But both of those titles had enough to contribute to the genre that I included them in my end-of-year round-up for 2018.
No matter what your preferences are as a reader, there’s a story here for almost everyone. Some are down-to-earth works of present-day literary fiction like Heart Spring Mountain that would fit well on any general interest literature reading list. Others like Blackfish City are futuristic tales with dramatic speculative elements that artfully draw out the theme of climate and the potential impacts of climate catastrophe on human society. Most are somewhere in between. Whatever your taste in tone and genre, there are works of climate fiction out there that can entertain and captivate you while also engaging you with what may well be the the most far-reaching social and environmental issue of our time. I hope you enjoy the works that I’ve selected as the best of the year.