Dystopian fiction – along with a good dose of feminism

CoverI read The Handmaid’s Tale a long time ago, but could only stomach the first season on the box.  Maybe it feels a bit more real or even possible, or perhaps the dramatisation was all a bit much, but I just couldn’t cope with more terror or the gruesome relentless treatment of the women.

Dystopian fiction has always had a following, the stories are gripping and usually paint a vivid picture of a life in the margins. The Handmaid’s tale has been the most well-known book with a feminist perspective, but P.D. James wrote a book called The Children of Men in 1992 which was about a world with plummeting birthrates –  no children and no future, and The Parable of the Sower was written by Octavia Butler in 1993 and set in 2025 when communities have to protect themselves from marauding scavengers and roaming bands of ‘Paints’, people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape and murder.

In recent years a good deal more titles have been published and range from women coping with climate change, war, isolation and issues around fertility. A bit of a “trend” perhaps, but one that more and more seems to have the fiction set in reality.

Read more: The remarkable rise of the feminist dystopia The Atlantic Weekly

Check out my BiblioCommons list of Dystopian feminist fiction.

9780571342211  9780446675505  9780440000785  9780316434812  9781472241702  9780451493583  9781472153364  9781911215950

 

Podcast – Antarctica

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

The latest episode deals with issues relating to Antarctica:

  • Ice melt
  • Climate science and climate change – ice core research
  • Antarctic Treaty and international cooperation
  • Antarctica as a place – vistas, cold etc
  • The role of New Zealand and Christchurch in Antarctic exploration

This show was recorded at the Centre of Contemporary Art and includes discussion with Bryan Storey of Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, Dan Price (Pole to Paris) and Karen Scott from University of Canterbury Law School.

Transcript of audio file

Find out more in our collection

Cover of Dispatches from Continent Seven Cover of Antarctica An Encyclopedia Cover of Antarctica in International Law  Cover of Dogs of the vastness Cover of Our far south

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Podcast – COP and Climate change

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around the UN climate change conference, the “Conference of Parties” or COP 22 which is underway in Marrakech and questions whether it’s an effective way of combatting climate change. Also discussed are –

  • scientific and political understandings of the realities of climate change
  • carbon budget
  • History of COP especially COP-3 (Kyoto), COP-15 (Copenhagen) and COP-21 (Paris)
  • The Paris Agreement – What? Why? How has it been received?; the Agreement as enabler for grassroots environmental advocacy
  • New Zealand’s climate record

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Hamish Laing, Jeff Willis and Pubudu Senanayake.

Transcript of the audio file

Mentioned in this podcast

Find out more from our collection

Cover of Atmosphere of hope Cover of The Climate Fix Cover of The carbon crunch Cover of This changes everything Cover of Towards a warmer world Cover of Energy and climate vision for the future Cover of Climate change and the coast Cover of The politics of Climate change

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Atmosphere of hope – WORD Christchurch

What I inevitably find out at book festivals is how little I actually know! Yesterday my lack of literary knowledge was found to be lacking and today I feel equally challenged at the Tim Flannery Atmosphere of hope session. Perhaps the only thing I can say in my defence is that at least the sessions have made me think and will inevitably lead me to new books and subjects.  Maybe this is the strength of book festivals in that they engender a sense of curiosity?

Tim Flannery. Photo by Damien Pleming. Image supplied.
Tim Flannery. Photo by Damien Pleming. Image supplied.

Tim Flannery has published over 30 books, including the award-winning The Future Eaters. He has been Australian Humanist of the Year and Australian of the Year. He is co-founder and chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, Australia’s Chief Climate Commissioner, and co-founder and head of the Australian Climate Council.

This man is impressive, but I found myself at times struggling to hear him. Simon Wilson has this big booming voice whereas at times Tim Flannery “mumbled in his boots” as my mother used to say.

Cover of Atmosphere of hopeAs the title of this session suggests Tim Flannery believes there is some hope in the climate warming situation.  This has to be carefully negotiated however because if you have too much hope then you breed complacency, but too much despair and people give up. He has great faith in innovation and believes that “the commonsense of people is our greatest resource”.  He wants to see governments having impressive innovation funds, and managed to flatter the audience by talking about how clever and innovative Kiwis are.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I learnt is that emissions growth has flatlined for the first time when an economy has been growing, and this is in large part due to the role that China is playing, having started closing down old and inefficient coal fired industries and developing clean air technologies.  This is certainly not what you hear through mainstream media.

Question time was busy …I am always interested in how many people use this time to voice their opinions rather than actually ask the speaker a question, but perhaps they know more than me?

More WORD Christchurch

2050 – WORD Christchurch

Contemplating what condition the world will be in midway through this century seems a bit premature. But, in the grand narrative of history, the halfway point of the 21st century its not too far away – 35 years. So it is a tad irresponsible to push such ponderings into the back of our minds, given the ecological problems we face.

So, to help us consider our foreseeable circumstances in 2050, the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival composed a panel of masterminds to discuss some implications. Chaired by Kim Hill, environmental scientist Tim Flannery, environmental policy pro Dr Bronwyn Hayward, legal expert Mai Chen and indigenous rights advocate Sheila Watt-Cloutier discussed the relationship between environmental issues, indigenous rights, ethnic diversity and citizenship.

The way these issues connect will become much more evident over the next 35 years, as our current refugee/migration crisis will be exacerbated by burgeoning climate change migration. Basically, as seas rise and ice melts – ruining homes and food procurement – people will have to find somewhere else to make a home.

Sheila discussed the fact that indigenous peoples are often the least responsible for climate change, but also the least well equipped to adapt to the circumstances it foists upon their way of life – a life which is almost totally contingent on a very intimate relationship with healthy ecosystems.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Image supplied.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Image supplied.

Within their own regions, these small populations are often at the behest of larger non-indigenous populations and market forces. Therefore, they have little say in how environmental issues are tackled.  

Mai Chen added to this by highlighting the increasing number of displaced indigenous people groups who must escape environmental crisis, but can’t achieve citizenship in other countries very easily. This is a bit painful, given developed countries are often the largest CO2 emitters and responsible for driving environmental degradation, but also have a strange reluctancy to receive new migrants affected by environmental crisis.   

Mai Chen. Image supplied.
Mai Chen. Image supplied.

Relatedly, Dr Hayward underscored the way in which developed and developing countries are obsessed with economic growth. And this growth is usually achieved via resource intensive economic activity. Basically, we must wean ourselves off the growth model and scale back our consumer economies. Which sounds painful!

Bronwyn Hayward. Image supplied.
Bronwyn Hayward. Image supplied.

Scientist Tim Flannery had SOME good news!

He noted that in the last two years carbon emissions had stabilized, and although this wasn’t cause to get back into our SUVs, it could mark the beginning of a downward trend in CO2 emissions! He attributes this to new technologies, as renewable energy sources (wind etc) are attracting more investment than fossil fuels, and such technologies are seeing increasing utilization.

Tim Flannery. Photo by Damien Pleming. Image supplied.
Tim Flannery. Photo by Damien Pleming. Image supplied.

That being said, the worst case scenario still looms.

CoverCover

Find books in our collection by:

WORD Christchurch

Climate change: a hot topic?

Cover of Climate Change 2013It seems on the subject of ‘climate change’ one is firmly in the ‘believer’ or ‘non-believer’ camp, and ne’r the twain shall meet.

What struck me in the lead-up to our recent election was that the subject of climate change was not a ‘hot topic’. I wonder if this may have something to do with the fact that the downfall of the recent Labor government in Australia, under the leadership of Julia Gillard, may be connected directly to the introduction of a carbon tax which has since been repealed by the current Liberal government. It appears it was hugely unpopular with voters.

Hot topic? Maybe like a hot potato too hot to handle?

Where is the voice from the people of New Zealand ? Which camp are you in? What are your thoughts and ideas on the subject of climate change ?

Consider this quote:

A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.
Ankita Singhal

If you want to become better informed, the library gives you access to several useful resources, such as:

Why We Argue About Climate Change Cover of Global Warming: A Very Peculiar History : With No Added C02 Cover of Confronting Climate Change: Critical Issues for New Zealand

For yet more resources:

Sex and climate change

Cover: SolarIt’s high time that climate change got sexed up. Off the top of my head, I can think of no more effective passion killer than those two words introduced in the heat of the moment (as it were).

Of course the library has heaps of tomes on climate change and you are at liberty to wade your way through them. But I’m talking about fiction that uses the theme of climate change to entertain us and, believe it or not, this unlikely coupling exists. Christchurch Libraries has no fewer than thirteen adult fiction books on this theme and two of them are by authors with serious literary clout:

  • Solar – Ian McEwan
  • Flight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver (Yes, we’ve bought the American copy with the funny spelling)

Both these books do the seemingly impossible: they connect the reader to environmental problems through the sexual antics of the main characters. In Solar, Michael Beard is a short, bald, unattractive-looking academic with enormous sexual pull. Don’t say you haven’t met any men like this because I nearly married one, and I don’t believe I’m that unusual. He does the Ecological Conference Circuit presenting papers on his specialisation: wind turbines for domestic use. If you’ve read other McEwan books, prepare to be taken by surprise, as this book is very, very funny.

In Flight Behaviour, Dellarobia is Kingsolver’s main character. She is a feisty young woman who has sexual longings of great intensity for men other than her rather endearing husband. This is not a sexually explicit book, but the yearning, the longing is palpable. She describes her marriage this way:

It’s like I’m standing by the mailbox waiting all the time for a letter. Every day you come along and put something else in there. A socket wrench, or a milkshake. It’s not bad stuff. Just the wrong things for me.

Cover: Flight BehaviorBehind her home on a  Tennessee smallholding, a massive colony of butterflies makes an unexpected appearance. This event, and its effect on the small town and Dellarobia, is conveyed absolutely beautifully: God’s Will is given a long leash and then reined ever so subtly in, Science comes out of its corner pulling no punches, and relationships shift before our very eyes. But at heart, this book is a song of praise for education. Dellarobia needed it – desired it even, but her school, her community and her fertility all conspired against her.

So how do these two books differ? In Solar, you learn about Michael Beard through the subject of climate change. In Flight Behaviour, you learn a lot more about the subject of climate change through Dellarobia. I loved them both.