Putting the life back in science fiction

Hot Earth Dreams, 2.5 years on
June 22, 2018, 4:26 pm
Filed under: futurism, Hot Earth Dreams, Uncategorized | Tags:

Sorry for not blog posting.  We’ve been in the middle of a housing blitz, wherein developers, aided and abetted by the County of San Diego, are trying to ram through a bunch of high end, environmentally damaging housing developments.  They realized we’re slow to respond, so they’re trying to inundate us.

Still, I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about Hot Earth Dreams, which was published back at the end of 2015.  Before I published it, I seriously considered sending it to a conventional publisher.  Aside from its unconventional format and my lack of a guaranteed audience as a Celebrity Scientist, the problem with conventionally publishing  was that (given the normal one year lag between submission and appearance) it would have been published in December 2016.  While I didn’t think we’d have the politics we currently have, I did think it would disappear in the media noise.

The book’s sold pretty well.  While it didn’t sell well enough to immediately make the jump to commercial success, it’s still selling a few copies every quarter, all over the world.  The reviews on Amazon have been mostly positive, too, surprisingly for a book on climate.  Thanks to all who reviewed it!

Hot Earth Dreams actually changed my life, in good and bad ways.  One good (?) way is that it got me seriously engaged in climate activism.  I’d originally intended the book more as a source-book for writing cli-fi, but once I had some idea of where we’re likely headed, I couldn’t just sit back and profiteer off it.  I had to get involved.  One bad (?) change is that I’ve had to deal with anxiety issues ever since.  You can’t live with even a speculative apocalypse for three years and not be affected by it.  My coping strategy is meditation, and it does help quite a bit.

But I’ll bet you might be wondering what comes next, and the answer is yes, I am planning a substantial rewrite. A lot has changed since I started writing in 2012.  Back then, I was struggling, a chapter at a time, to understand what was going on.  After sitting with all the information for years, I have a better idea of how all my half-formed ideas fit together.  Rather more importantly, there’s been quite a lot of scholarship since the 2012-2015 timeframe I was writing in, and some of it has been quite useful.  And then, of course, I got a bunch of comments.  Most of them were about typos, but a few were substantive, and all were welcome.

So yes, there will be a new version of Hot Earth Dreams coming out sometime.  I hope it will be in 2019, but given politics and life, who knows?  It will be a different book, one aimed a bit more at helping people, as well as a source-book for the distant future.  Perhaps this gives you something to look forward to?


4 Comments so far
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Yes, very much looking forward to such a book!

Comment by Petra Gallert

After absorbing HED1, it strikes me that the current problems at our southern border with gang refugees is a pale prelude to what we’ll be facing with climate refugees. That one will surely test our liberal-progressive leanings. Comment?

Comment by chasland

What’s that quote, for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong?

We’ve got two migrant problems at the moment. The big one is wealth flowing rapidly from one country to another, disrupting systems for short-term, marginal profits and disrupting efforts to rein it in. The other problem is poorer people looking for a new life. For fairly obvious reasons, people who are benefiting from the first kind of migration are trying to train our attention on the other kind of migrants.

The next question is whether one is a climate fatalist or not. If you’re a climate fatalist (e.g. serious climate change will happen due to inertia and human stupidity, there’s nothing we can do to stop it), then this can be used to justify all sorts of monstrous behavior, on the assumption that the monsters will be the last people standing on the ash pile. The problem is that Darwinian selection works on human institutions as much as on DNA. Just as being monstrous to pests and pathogens has selected for species that can take everything we throw out them and still thrive, I suspect that being monstrous to the harmless refugees will ultimately favor cultural systems that can overwhelm any wall or institutional response we put up, especially if our responses are clumsy and underfunded. Imperial civilizations have seen this happen repeatedly. Think the Romans and the Huns, Vandals, Visigoths, the Chinese with the Mongols, Manchus, the Indians and the Mamluks, Sassanids and the Turks, etc. The bottom line is that, while I expect more and more walls and fences to be erected, I don’t think they’ll be any more successful for us than they were for our predecessors (and here I’m thinking about India barricading off Bangladesh as an example).

If you’re not a climate fatalist, then dealing with migration crises as humanely as possible might be one way to keep really destructive cultures from developing. People are going to migrate, and nation-state borders are a problem with this. What are the kinds of things we can do to ameliorate this problem and fit more people in, as well as damping the rate of climate change to slow down the increase in migrant numbers?

Comment by Heteromeles

Gave my copy of hot earth dreams to my son to read. It’s on his bookshelf, though I doubt he has read it. So I’m looking forward to a new and improved edition to buy so I will once again have a copy in house. We are experimenting with nomadism so there will not be such a thing as a bookshelf on our truck. Most likely, whatever hardcopy I will be reading will share storage space with socks and underwear.
Re migration, border enforcement by nation states is a feature and not a bug in their software as it is portrayed to be by the media.
Which is not to say that I am not sympathetic to the plight of migrants. My own family just prior to my birth had to cross borders illegally with forged documents to avoid forced relocation by the Russians.
In any case, I do not think it is reasonable to expect nation states to stop controlling their borders. I much prefer a future in which nation states cease to exist and the earth is too sparsely populated for any group of people to oppose migration in response to climate change. Migration of the Navajo from the north to what is now the south western US is a good example of this type of migration.
Mass migrations forced by unfortunate circumstances on a densely populated earth are never going to be pretty especially when everybody’s fortunes are declining.

Comment by Wolfgang Brinck

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