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What Is Eco Fiction? These Books Imagine The Scary Future Of Climate Change

By Kristin Hunt

The scene is future Los Angeles, and it’s a bit of a nightmare. Water is a precious commodity, more expensive than gas. Violence and fire are widespread. Society has devolved into all-out class warfare, where the rich live in gated communities, hoarding the precious few resources left on Earth. Life on another planet seems to be humanity’s last hope.

That’s the premise of Parable of the Sower, a 1993 book by Octavia Butler that imagined the consequences of mass tornadoes, blizzards, and drought. Parable of the Sower falls under the niche category of “eco fiction,” a literary genre that’s developed quite the canon in the past few decades.

Eco-fiction, also called environmental fiction or “cli-fi,” has many definitions, but one of the most popular ones is attributed to Mike Vasey. He described eco fiction as, “stories set in fictional landscapes that capture the essence of natural ecosystems… [They] can build around human relationships to these ecosystems or leave out humans altogether. The story itself, however, takes the reader into the natural world and brings it alive…. Ideally, the landscape and ecosystems — whether fantasy or real — should be as ‘realistic’ as possible and plot constraints should accord with ecological principles.”