Author: John G. Smith

More Cli-Fi Films for Your Viewing Pleasure

With the summer movie season officially kicked off, I thought I could share a few movies that I know of with themes of climate change and its effects.

Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (Godzilla vs. Hedorah) (1971)

GODZILLA-VS-THE-SMOG-MONSTER

Watching Godzilla fight a monster created due to human carelessness and pollution? Do you need any more reason than that?

Mad Max (1971), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Mel Gibson in Mad Max 2.

 

Once again, humanity in its unfaltering stupidity has ruined the environment with war and pollution creating a world that’s a deserted wasteland. As everyone struggles to survive with oil being the main commodity, Max wanders the landscape fighting for himself and others.

Also, Mad Max: Fury Road comes out in the next few days… Just saying.

Judge Dredd (1995) and Dredd (2012)dredd

Like in the Mad Max films, the word in these films is a desert wasteland that humanity created with only a few Mega-Cities keeping everyone in. This creates more crime than can be handled, but humanity is left to deal with the consequences.

These are just a few off the top of my head. I’ll post more if I can think of any.

Final Blog Audit

Another semester is done and my time at Temple University has come to a close, and what a unique way to end it. When I first heard the class was about “climate fiction,” the groaning that when on my head was almost deafening, but everything really did seem to work out and I found a few interesting new authors.

Being a fan of science fiction, a lot of the novels were directed towards my interests, and the fact that part of the story was about the climate didn’t really change how I would have normally analyzed the books. I probably would’ve completely missed the climate stuff if I was just reading some of these books on my own. What really made this class unique was the blog.

I, personally, love blogging. I’ve been writing film reviews for a few years now, so the opportunity to do the same with books and get graded on it was right up my alley. I said on my last audit that writing these reviews was a great way to get my thoughts in order before class. Reading other blogs also helped at times to see other points of view on the books or maybe look at some parts that I hated or loved in a different light.

While I could do without some of the readings and would have liked to have explored a few more genres, I will say that this was a worthwhile class to take. What really stands out was my discovery of both Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood, both of whose novels I’m going to try and read more of. My only one regret is that I didn’t use the blog as much as I should have.

Hurricane Fever: Action, Sci-fi, or Just Plain Pulp

After reading a lot of really difficult works in this class, it was refreshing to sort of take a breather with Hurricane Fever. I feel like this is one of those books that you would see people reading at the beach or on their porches when they’re just trying to enjoy a lazy kind of day and escape from the real world. That being said, there is more to this book than just a quick adventure in the Caribbean. Tobias Buckell has infused themes of race, climate change, and corporate deceit into a book that could have ultimately winded up being all too easy.

Nisi Shawl’s article brings up two classic spy characters in her write up, Ian Fleming’s James Bond and Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne. One of the major similarities between these two is their being white. In Hurricane Fever and Buckell’s previous work, the main protagonists are black. This makes me wish that these would be made into movies because it would be really cool to see a spy series featuring black characters, which this day in age shouldn’t even be an issue. Buckell also uses preconceived notions about race well in his book, like when the hotel patron hands her towel to Roo thinking that he works for the hotel. Instead of losing his cool, however, Roo uses it to his advantage which shows that he isn’t just level headed and calm, but also takes advantage of every situation.

What’s also surprising about this book that I can’t really say about a lot of the other stuff we’ve read this semester is just how subtle it is. Maybe I’m just a little bit more than clueless, but I had no problem believing that the sunken islands in the story were actually sunk in real life. The best kind of fiction is fiction that makes us believe in what we’re reading, otherwise we’re reading an outlandish story that probably may not even be worth the paper that it’s printed on. I loved The Year of the Flood for creating a future world that shouldn’t exist, but may actually one day. Hurricane Fever did the same thing. It created a world that isn’t exactly like ours, but may mirror the world we will live in within the next decade or so. All of this is done without Buckell lecturing or providing us with tedious facts that really only seem to exist to make the book longer. I’m looking at you Climate Changed

I want to step away from what the book is about for a moment and focus on the style that it’s written in. This is the only flaw I can see with this book, but it’s a flaw that was big enough to keep me distracted through some of the reading. First of all, there were times where I didn’t believe in the character of Roo. After Delroy is killed, he sort of shifts into overdrive with his mission for revenge and only brings up his pain a few times during the book. I would’ve like to see Roo in pain more over Delroy to make me really want to see him get his revenge. As it stands, it just wasn’t used enough to really grab my attention, and I just didn’t really care about Delroy all that much to begin with. Also, the writing could be a little choppy at times. This definitely helped move the book along, but I would have liked to see some nice descriptions or just more elaborate. That’s just a matter of taste, however, and not an objective flaw.

Hurricane Fever is more than just an action/spy novel. It explores important themes of climate change and race that gave the novel some backbone. While being smart with its themes, however, it never bogged me down in too much preaching or lecturing. It kept up a quick pace and I’m very thankful for that. I just wish there was a little bit more to the book in terms of description and emotion. Still, it’s definitely worth a quick read and provides an ample amount of information for discussion. It’s certainly one of the more entertaining books we’ve read.

The Year of the Flood… Woah…

After reading The Windup Girl last week, I was really in the mood to read a science fiction book that really engaged me and made me feel immersed in the world of the book. Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood was exactly what I needed. From the very beginning I was intrigued by the language, the companies, and the different factions that made up the world. This is a perfect example of how to create a fictional environment that feels real.

One of the strengths of this book is the fact that it’s told from two different perspectives. That way we get two different views and opinions on the world, and as a reader, I was able to make my judgements based on the two sides. Toby felt seemed to feel more speculative while Ren seemed to be completely wrapped up in the world around her, and what a world it is. I haven’t read too many books based around cults, so this really grabbed my attention. The Gardeners were a peaceful people, but their occasional hypocrisies and unwillingness to come to solid decisions made them a little uncomfortable as well.

As for the different organizations and companies, I just couldn’t get enough of the names like HelthWyzer and the Sea/H/ear devices. That’s very clever and consistent. Also the different kinds of animals like the genetically modified sheep and the liobams are something to be remembered and vividly imagined. Even though this was a book, I felt like there was so much to see and experience.

While the book dragged on a little bit, it is my favorite thing we read along with Forty Signs of Rain. I’m certainly interested in picking up the other two in the trilogy since I did feel like I was missing out on some stuff. Still, it was a great book.

The Windup Girl: Still Processing…

As of now, The Windup Girl is, in my opinion, the most difficult book we’ve read in this class. That’s including taking in all of the politics and science that make up Forty Signs of Rain. Not only is the the world completely different in the book, but all of the technology and the characters all seem to mush together to make up the story. This left me feeling kind of uneasy about this novel, but part of me thinks that I would’ve enjoyed it more if I had more time to read it and really understand it.

The biggest obstacle I had was actually reading through the first hundred pages or so. I had a ridiculously difficult time trying to picture and understand the world that Paolo Bacigalupi created to set his story in. It’s highly technologic, yet it also seems like a lot of the technology has also devolved. It’s a really interesting kind of science fiction, but we’re just thrown right into the story without anytime to really figure out what kind of setting we’re stepping into.

So, while I think Bacigalupi’s approach to the story in The Windup Girl could have been done better, it’s still a really interesting and intriguing story full of everything you could want with a novel. There’s betrayals, unlikely friendship, violence, and loads of imagination. I said before that I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had more time to read it and that’s what’s been really preying on my mind. There’s so much corporate and military intrigue taking place in a world I don’t quite understand, but would like to fully appreciate.

The Windup Girl is definitely not an easy book, but the themes, characters, and science mixed with the imagination make it one to be remembered… and possibly even baffled by.

Forty Signs of Rain: Boring in the Best Way

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain is not destined to become a summer blockbuster nor is there adventure on every turn of the page. If there was, I’d think the book was pretty weird and missed the point completely. As it stands, this is a really intriguing start to a trilogy with a powerful ending that matches the rest of the book.

There’s something about the goings on of Washington that really interests me, but I never had the chance to explore the scientific side to politics, or the very little that politicians seem to know about science. This novel sort of acted like a scientific/political procedural complete with meetings, offices, talking, and meetings. There was even some interesting stuff about biology that didn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with the story, but was still interesting to read about.

Now I do have gripes with the book. Like Kingsolver did in Flight Behavior, there is some rambling on about things that really meant nothing to me. What does breast pumping and Charlie’s sex life have to do with anything? It was just black on a page to me at that point. In fact, most of Charlie hanging out with Joe at the park was pretty pointless to me too, and I forgot about until just now that Charlie, at one point, saved Joe from getting hit by a car. It just wasn’t important to the story and might as well have never happened.

Still, Forty Signs of Rain is my favorite of all the books we’ve read so far, and I’m actually interested in finishing this trilogy and picking up some other works of Robinson. Just the way people talked to each other about the science and the politics was very interesting and made me want to keep reading. It also succeeded at making climate change and global warming realer than any other book so far.

Audit

Personally, I love blogging. It’s a great way for me to get my thoughts in order about something I’ve just watched, read, or listened and if no one even bothers to read what I wrote I still feel like I have a clearer understanding. That being said, it’s a great way to layout a class because I believe it’s an excellent tool for people to get their thoughts organized.

The books in the class have definitely been varied, and as I expected a good deal of them can be a chore to get through. There are some weeks where I’m just not down with the whole cli-fi topic, but sometimes the books do pull through as just being well written and interesting besides all the climate stuff. For example, Forty Signs of Rain is so far just an intriguing book in how procedural it feels, climate aside.

I do just need to get my ass in gear with other posts. I find it hard to motivate myself to find articles about climate change and other topics related to that when I have other things I know I have to or would rather be doing. The semester isn’t over yet, however, so I have a lot more work to do before I get that final grade and kiss Temple University good bye.

Flight Behavior: Small Town Life & Big Time Changes

Wow, this is a dense book. Every page has so much to say on it and that both works for and against Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingslover. Sure, this is a book about climate change and the dangers that lie ahead of us, but it’s also a really intimate story of a family, and an even more intimate story of a woman just trying to get a grasp on reality and figure it all out.

The story begins in a very strange way, in the sense that it felt like I was missing out on very important information. What this did, however, was allow me to piece together information as I kept reading. For example, the complications of Dellarobia’s marriage, her miscarriage, and her strange relationship with her mother-in-law, Hester. I didn’t really like thinking about this book as a story and a warning on climate change like some of the others that were read in this class, instead I enjoyed more focusing on the lives of the characters.

There are many times throughout the book where Kingslover pushes the characters forward in situations that feel all too real, but also in clever ways as well. For example, when Cub and Dellarobia go Christmas shopping, different items and areas of the store seem to create another layer in their argument. It’s an intelligent way of writing that unfortunately also goes a little overboard. Dellarobia certainly has a wandering mind, and there are many times where I found myself skimming through paragraphs so I could just get on with the story instead of Dellarobia, more or less speaking for Kingslover, talking on and on about her viewpoint and opinions.

While this book did feel a bit too long and crowded with tangents that went on and on, it was a very memorable story. The characters felt more real and three dimensional than any others that we read about in this class. There’s also a lot of great imagery with the butterflies, but also with much smaller family scenes. It felt like it took me forever to get through Flight Behavior, but it’s a story I won’t soon forget.

Parable of the Future is Awful

Much like all of the works we’ve read so far, I really didn’t know what I was in for before reading Parable of the Sower. After last week’s dry reading assignment, I was hoping for something with a little bit more flair, and I got exactly what i wished for. This is an intense, moving, and often gut wrenching novel by Octavia Butler.

The science fiction in this novel is present, but certainly not overwhelming. Never does anything seem unrealistic nor does the futuristic atmosphere upstage the story. In fact, it’s a nice blend of styles. There’s large corporations and types of futuristic technology, but there’s also the frightening dystopian hell hole of world that all of it exists in.

What’s more important is the how memorable scenes are. The first time Lauren and her small group first steps on the highway and it’s described was almost like watching a movie. I could perfectly envision what it would look like and how different it is from what a highway should be. There’s also scenes of relentless brutality, and Butler is not afraid to describe something awful because some of what happens is really, really awful.

Parable of the Sower is shocking without being over the top or gratuitous. It paints a future dystopian society that freaked me out like no other one that I’ve ever read. While hope is talked about and dreamed about in this book, I felt a complete lack of hope most of the time I was reading it. To use a cliche that just so happens to describe this novel very well, it was a real page turner.

Earth Abides, The Dude Does Not.

Earth Abides is a shockingly quiet and slow burning novel that shows an eerily realistic depiction of Earth after most of humanity has been wiped out by some sort of disease. The title is a sort of backhand to people feeling to comfortable with their own invincibility, saying that human and all life will eventually die off, but Earth will be there still. Judging by the mood of the novel and context clues from other readings, Earth will abide as humans slowly kill themselves off without even understanding how.

While it’s never explicitly stated what killed the human population in Earth Abides, it’s made quite clear that humans were the cause of it in one way or another. In Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, she states that humans are creating a massive chemical imbalance that is far from what is naturally an acceptable environment for life to survive. She mentions in the second chapter that a chemical that is being overused is DDT and other kinds of pesticides and insecticides. These are chemicals to kill pests, but how much is too much when it comes to controlling unwanted creatures? Even in Earth Abides, wether it was put in consciously or not, Ish is guilty of using DDT to a sort of outrageous degree at the point where ants and rats are invading his house.

Reading this after reading and discussing Philippe Squarzoni’s Climate Changed was kind of like reading a fictionalized representation of the warnings predicted by the scientists Squarzoni interviewed. Both of these works have similar themes in terms of controlling what we are producing (although that is pretty implicit in Earth Abides) and working together to adapt to the circumstances that we are given. There’s a point in the novel that reminded me a lot of people I know when they are confronted with the ideas and implications of climate change. Ish is becoming uncomfortable with how lax everyone is and how no one ever acts on certain ideas to make life better. He keeps saying that something is going to happen that no one is prepared for.

Surely enough, there is a water shortage one day forcing everyone to act even though they are unprepared. At this point, the characters do work together and adapt to the issues, but it should have never happened in the first place. That can be said about what happens in the real world. There are people who claim they want to protect the environment and stop the climate change that is hurting us, but it’s all hollow or half hearted promises. Surely enough, when disaster happens, as it has in the past, everyone comes together to help, but it could have been stopped altogether. To me, this was the most relatable and important part in the entire book because I could clearly see George Stewart’s warning hidden in the guise of a fictional narrative.

While Earth Abides is a slow moving and sometimes impossible book, there are lots of ideas and opinions presented when it was first published in 1949 that still hold up very well. There are many natural things that can hurt us in this world, so it is against our better interests to create more and more by the hundreds each year. Humans need to either stop or at least control what they are producing or how they are living or adapt to a much more hostile environment. Unfortunately, there’s no way we’d be able to adapt faster than airborne chemicals and poisonous environments. So what is it we can do before it’s too late?

Source: https://sites.temple.edu/clifi/files/2015/01/from_Silent-Spring.pdf

Climate Changed: A Man, His Dog, and Everyone is Evil

Before reading Climate Changed, I was naturally expecting to be bored out of my wits. I mean, a 400+ page graphic novel that goes into great detail to say why the world is going to end sooner than we think? I thought it was going to be one of those preachy pieces of work that induces groans more than makes me think, and I was partially right. Between all of the groaning, I did feel like I was getting some useful and eye opening information from all the right sources.

From beginning to end, Squarzoni offers a lot of information from facts about the atmosphere to what the governments of the world aren’t doing about climate change. It was also pretty depressing to hear certain dates being thrown around, which pretty much means the powers that be know when considerable and negative changes will be happening, but are doing nothing to stop it. Instead, they throw around empty promises about how they are taking steps and “going green” when all of this is just a show so that they can keep lining their pockets.

To me, that was the most interesting part and also the most concerning. To people who don’t know what’s really going on and they hear a company is going green, they probably think its great and that as consumers, they are part of the effort to save the environment. The fact of the matter is that the environment can not be healthy in a consumerist society, so people need to choose between what they want and what they need. I know I certainly don’t want that responsibility.

The only issue I have with this graphic novel is that it gets too repetitive. It easily could have been 100 pages shorter by cutting out people saying more of the same thing. Still, it was a surprisingly interesting read that points a lot of fingers, but for a very good reason.

The Time Machine and It’s Legacy

Since H.G. Wells had his novella The Time Machine published in 1895, there has been a string of adaptations and works that have been inspired by it. Wether it be the 1960 film starring Rod Taylor, a BBC radio production, or a reference on a popular tv show, the reach of this classic science fiction novel seems to never end.

Reading it and having seen the films are completely different experiences, though, as reading the book feels like one man actually telling a story about his travels through time. It wasn’t always an easy read with a severe lack of dialogue for around 70 pages or with overwhelming descriptions of things that didn’t feel too important, like when the Time Traveller was exploring the ruins of a museum that was lost to the impacts of time. Looking past these moments of groan inducing descriptions lies a really important novel to the genre of science fiction, but also to people who may agree that it’s very possible that the world is going to shit.

As cool as it is to just think of the Eloi and the Morlocks as surreal and memorable creations, Wells is also presenting a fairly exaggerated but altogether realistic warning. I didn’t read The Time Machine as a warning involving the climate, but more so as a warning to mankind not to get too comfortable. Many times, the Time Traveller complains that the Eloi have gotten so dumbed down because of their complacency and ridding themselves of disease and work. This has made them weak and childish. I interpreted this novel as Wells’ fears in narrative form that instead of going forward, we will ultimately move backwards, especially considering the track we’re on with the economy, technology, and other sciences.

The Time Machine wasn’t always an entertaining read, but for anyone with any kind of interest in literature, I feel like it’s a necessity. Like E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, it feels very ahead of its time in terms of the lore of the story, but also the opinions of the author and his fears for the future, especially in the early years of technological advancement following the Industrial Revolution.