I prepared this content for the panel I attended at the Sci-Fi conference Where Worlds Collide in Calgary, Alberta – August 2019. I decided to turn it into a blog as it has some valid points.

Is eco-fiction simply a new fad or does it reflect a cultural awakening to current environmental issues? Like any other subject in the SF world (e.g. space exploration, time travel), the eco-fiction has its own place. Renown authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140), Paolo Bacigalupi (The Water Knife), Emmi Itaranta (Memory of Water) made inroads into the eco-fiction genre. There is a strong and successful precedent. New literary work has to have at least the same level of craft and ingenuity. Also, eco-fiction is based on reality more than a regular Sci-Fi novel that usually predicts new technologies or innovative concepts without a start yet in what we call ‘real world.’ We see the hurricanes, the tornados, the melting of the ice caps, it’s all around us, undeniable reality, so what we do as writers, we exacerbate that aspect of nature because deep inside us, our intuition tells us that if we don’t change the way we live and act, the end result is the one we write about: catastrophic and irreversible.

What role does eco-fiction play in storytelling and defining ourselves. Who are its readers and why? Like for any other genre, while we write our eco-fiction story, we better understand our point of view vis-a-view a cause that is related to environment (e.g. ocean pollution, species extinction, fracking). We can strengthen our opinion during our research and find new angles. Our eco-fiction storytelling could set-up a novel eco-system that hasn’t been imagined before. Mystics and even scientists are saying these days that we create our own reality, meaning that there is the danger of all the catastrophic events we write about to become an undeniable reality because we already imagined them.

Readers are also drawn by a label attached to an author, which sometimes could be detrimental for that particular author. What I mean is: is it under the Sci-Fi genre, it is under Steampunk genre, or the general fiction? Certain authors write with a definitive Sci-Fi plot but they stay away from that kind of labelling fearing that the number of their readers will shy away - Michael Crichton and even Margaret Atwood took this approach.

Should eco-fiction educate? Definitely. Eco-Fiction is not differently from any other sub-genre. It has to have a solid idea and excite the reader. Teach her something new. Take Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior for example: we learnt a lot about the Monarchs butterfly and also about the mindset of a small-town community.

How can an eco-fiction writer prevent it from becoming polemic? I am not sure if I would like to stay away from polemic. When I write I think is important to express my point of view through one of the characters and incite the discussion in such a way that the polemic starts. I want to bring forward the subjects that divide the communities and countries on the environmental issues, and provide different angles to the same problem. We have to put the reader into an uncomfortable position, and see things from the opposite perspective. Understanding the other person’s POV is the smoothest path to eliminate conflict without conflict.
I was told to stay away from being labelled an environmental activist. The moment they do that the conversation ends and ‘their’ perception of you changes radically. But I ask you, if you are an emphatic human being how can you not care about the oil spills in the oceans, about the Amazonian forest being decimated, about the elephants being slaughtered, and the kids getting sick from poisoned water and air?
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