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Matt Hilliard responds to my own response to Mark Newton's post earlier this week, and offers a more thorough look at the barriers to more widespread climate sf:

As always in these genre discussions, there’s a frustrating lack of empirical data to work with, so whether or not you find the above paragraph persuasive, concede for the moment that climate change is underrepresented. Why might that be? Is it just because the process is too slow and subtle? That doesn’t help, I suppose, but I’m willing to go a lot farther and assert that concern about climate change is philosophically alien to most science fiction authors and readers. Before I go into the reasons why, I will disclaim that this is going to entail the sort of unprovable, sweeping generalizations that tend to piss people off, especially those who feel said generalizations leave them out. The SF community is diverse (at least in some dimensions) and I’m not saying there aren’t people who love SF and are enormously concerned about climate change. I’m saying a subset of the community would prefer to read and write about something else. How large and influential the cultural subset I’m describing is (and whether it exists at all) something you’ll have to decide for yourself when I’m finished.

I'm running out of time this week, so I'm not able to respond as fully as I'd like. I'm not wholly convinced by his top-level analysis of the environmental movement as conservative, but several of his specific points do strike me as legitimate issues. That said, and with reference to the paragraph above, I continue to be wary of downplaying the amount of relevant sf that already exists. I suppose to sum up this week's post, so far as criticism goes I'd like to see more of two things: first, an openness to identifying and discussing ecological themes as an important part of the novels that contain them, in part by contextualising them in a history of this sort of writing (ignoring whether it is published as genre or YA or 'mainstream'); and second, a willingness to bring an ecocritical perspective to bear even on novels that aren't explicitly about climate change or other ecological challenge, to identify that lack.



Niall Harrison is Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons.
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