Imagining Australia’s Climate Change Dystopia (a science fiction essay)

It’s been over a year since the last Climate Change Dystopia Australia notes, and science has progressed and so has the books being published. So following on from Continuum, at which I spoke at length and unstoppably about climate change dystopias in Australia, and in light of the fact I’m going to be speaking on climate change and science and science fiction at the NSW Writers’ Centre Speculative Fiction Festival in July (!!), here is an update from the original (which you can find here in the Toast).

You can download the new and improved updated article on stephanielai.net: Imagining Australia’s climate change dystopia – a 2015 update.

The main points of the updates, if you don’t want to read it all again:

Ballooning will increase. I know you already love spiders, but you’re going to love them even more when areas that experience flooding are covered in ballooning spiders, sending out cobwebs in order to escape the rising waters. Once caught by the wind, ballooning baby spiders can travel up to 3 kilometres off the ground and so many kilometres along the ground.

The solar power battery storage is great, and where we assumed we were going, that ability to sleep and charge during the day with minimal electricity use, and then let that electricity out during the night when we’re awake and doing things. Maybe we’ll even still have air-conditioning, or at the very least, fans! But storage is going to be expensive, at least for a little while, even though the cost payback period will decrease. So it’ll still be focussed on the richer communities, on the larger businesses. Electricity, despite this technology leap, will still be a resource primarily available to certain groups.

There will still be gated white people communities, with their guards and their electricity and their carefully hoarded water.

There will be electricity theft, a connection running to a cable as carefully and subtly as possible.

There might still be public transport – trains run on solar, on wind. Trams run on solar, probably not wind. 

In the near future, how our tourism works will change. An increase in cycle tourism will see a change to the structure of country towns. V/Line will still be a jerk about letting your bike on the train, though. This will help as we transition to a bicycle transit community, but it won’t help enough; cars will still take a long time to disappear off the landscape.

Our deserts will, at times, still be green. Australia isn’t like the European climate tradition – when will we decolonise our understanding of the seasons? – and neither will our climate change dystopia be.

Non-fiction reading:

The CSIRO climate projections. FOREVER THE BEST. ILU BoM and CSIRO, please don’t get (more) defunded. 

SFF Australian Climate Change Dystopia Reading list:

The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood. I am currently reading this. No opinions as of yet.

The Bride Price, Cat Sparks. I bought this on the weekend and haven’t read it yet, but Cat is great so I have high hopes.

A Town Called Dust, Justin Woolley. Read recently. Loved the world-building and a lot of the concepts, really great sense of place and climate and dystopia. When you get to the thing I got mad about, call me – I ambushed him in a panel we were on, but I have been sufficiently reassured. 

Nightsiders, Sue Isle. FOREVER RECOMMEND. Gender stuff, medical stuff, Perth, the tyranny of distance, all in our climate change future.

Clade, James Bradley. Generational fiction, unexpected but fun. I saw Bradley talk recently and he spoke about how it was less about climate change and more about family, and it is, but it was also a lot about climate change and I liked it.

A Wrong Turn on the Way to the Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson. This book is fantasy in many ways but still an interesting exploration of Australia (and Melbourne’s inner city) in the climate change future.

SELF PIMP: The Dàn Dàn Miàn of the Apocalypse, by me, in the Review of Australian Fiction, 14:4. Only $2.99 and comes with bonus story by Tansy Rayner Roberts. 😀

Continuum ramble:

We touched on why we write dystopias in the Unrealistic Dystopic Futures panel. I’d meant it to be a lols panel, shaved underarms and easy access to showers, that sort of things – I originally called it ‘I know what babies taste like’ because of the ridiculousness of Snowpiercer – but we ended up going a more serious route, and looking at why we write dystopias. I write them because my work is in climate change adaptation, and my passion is in saving the world, and my reading of the science is that we have to or we’re doomed. Sometimes my job really gets me down, those days when I worry there’s no chance of survival. So my writing is about processing that. There’s always hope, there’s always a future to survive in. Otherwise what am I even doing, I may as well go and drink more coffee. 

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