Sunday, November 19, 2017

Global climate activist Bill McKibben pens a comic cli-fi caper of an antic novel about Vermont in the Age of Trump


Bill McKibben Smiling!


Global climate activist Bill McKibben pens a comic cli-fi caper of an antic novel about Vermont in the Age of Trump

VERMONT — For decades, Vermont environmentalist Bill McKibben has been telling the world about the dangers of global warming and as a diversion from his Cassandra-like quest, he jotted notes about the quirkiness of his home state that has become known for its craft beer, environmental protection and, more recently, its opposition to USA President Donald Trump.




Now, McKibben, in his early 60s, whose book “The End of Nature” is considered the first book for general audiences about climate change, has turned those 1989 musings into a debut 2017 humor novel, “Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of the Resistance.”


[He dedicated the novel with a coded dedication reading "For Spunky Knowsalot" on the book's dedication page, and when some alert readers in the USA and overseas wondered who Spunky Knowsalot is, word leaked out from sources deep inside the New York publishing scene, confirming that she is McKibben's wife, the writer Sue Halpern.]






It focuses on a character who is the sole host of “Radio Free Vermont,” which broadcasts from “an undisclosed and double secret location” hidden among the hills and dales of the state advocating that Vermont secede from the United States and form an independent republic.
McKibben, who lives in the rural mountain town of Ripton but travels the world as part of his climate work, told an AP reporter in a recent interview that Trump’s electionin 2016 prompted him to finish the book, which was published on November 9.




“It felt like this was the year to publish it because everybody else that I knew was kind of depressed,” McKibben told the AP. “It’s as if Trump has been reverse Prozac. He makes us sad and anxious.”
McKibben said it was not a good year to publish a book filled with grim facts so he set out to publish his first novel and make it funny.
“The other (reason) is to publish a book that is kind of a love letter to the resistance that I have spent the last 10 years helping build and that has really blossomed and burgeoned in the last year,” he told the AP. “I think that’s the best thing that’s happened this year. Lots of people have suddenly shown up to understand that they have to take part in our civic life or it’s going to get even more screwed up.”
University of Vermont Professor Mary Lou Kete, who teaches about American dissent, said McKibben’s book, which she hasn’t read yet, is part of a long tradition of American literature on the subject.


“Democracy depends on consent and consent means nothing unless you can say ‘no,'” Kete said. “These books, probably like McKibben’s, are really important to America because they remind us and they model to us that if we want our yesses, our assents, to mean anything, we have to be able to say ‘no.’ It’s by saying ‘no’ that we are able to change the course of society.”
So McKibben builds his novel around the things he loves about Vermont, including an opening chapter in which his hero, Vern Barclay, hijacks the sound systems of 19 Vermont Starbucks to promote locally owned coffee shops. Mask-wearing activists hijack a beer delivery truck and empty out 1,200 cases of imported domestic beer before sending the driver on his way with some Vermont microbrews.
The story also includes what McKibben, who is not really advocating that Vermont secede from the United States — at least not yet — believes is the only cross-country ski chase scene in American literature.
“I’ve tried hard to understand why Vermont is a different place, we are very rural and very white we probably should have been very Trumpish,” he said.

Cli-Fi novelist Jesper Weithz in SWEDEN writes a very moving poem -- English here with Swedish version below

You gave me so much.
You gave me socialism...
And a boundless love for ice cream.

You gave me subscriptions to
Children's book club,
The worker,
Disney's book club,
Arena,
Warehouse Aftonbladet culture,
Finn & Kitty,
A book for all-and ambush månadsböcker
Because you understood my desire to read.
You gave me solidarity.
You gave me the opportunity to see the beauty
In the dangerous and threatening
When you drove us down to the sea
So we could see the ovädersblixtarna on hold.
You gave me a loving look at
The wounded and the abandoned.




TO DAD


You gave me a room.
Where I didn't have to choose
Between being a boy or a girl.
You gave me wernströms
Serfs-books when I just
Wanted to read about ghosts and monsters.
You gave me the existentialism.
You gave me a sensitivity
As some days are a burden,
Other the finest I have.
You gave me feedback on what I wrote
And often said I should read
He that fuacku you had read when you were young.
You gave me a bad conscience when I said that
Fuacku's name is foucault.
You gave me the music.
You gave me everything I wanted.
But not all I needed,
For like many of
The injured and the abandoned
Missing the language required.
You gave me everything I wanted.
But not the language we needed,
To talk about you.
You gave me everything I wanted.
But not all I needed,
And the moments I was mad at you,
Was I afraid I wouldn't grieve?
The day you weren't here anymore.
Today is the day.
The tears are for you.
Fulgråten is for you.
In every word I've ever written
Are you and my despair
Over a society that is said to be rich
But can't satisfy a child
Basic needs.
The words are for you, dad.
I hope you're in peace now.
I love you.

UPDATED; SPUNKY KNOWSALOT code name now confirmed to AP reporter

UPDATED; SPUNKY KNOWSALOT code name now confirmed to AP reporter https://cli-fi-books.blogspot.tw/2017/11/bill-mckibben-has-dedicated-his-debut.html

Bill McKibben has dedicated his debut cli-fi novel RADIO FREE VERMONT to his wife, the writer Sue Halpern ("for Spunky Knowsalot" the dedication page reads with lots of white space)


OTHER FUN LITERARY DEDICATIONS:


***UPDATED 11/20/2017
https://cli-fi-books.blogspot.tw/2017/11/bill-mckibbens-comic-cli-fi-caper-novel.html







Dedications are often deliberately coded, publicly acknowledging an important relationship, while at the same time trying to keep it private. In the case of RADIO FREE VERMONT's dedication "For Spunky Knowsalot," Bill personally confirmed recently to a reporter for a major wire service based in Vermont that Spunky Knowsalot is a coded phrase to stand for his wife. But the wire service reporter felt that that part of his article was not germane to the what the reporter wanted the article to say, so he did not include anything about Sue Halpern or Spunky Knowsalot in the published piece for editorial reasons, according to publishing sources. But word might leak out later in literary blogs and literary websites.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/global-warming-sage-pens-novel-of-vermont-resistance/2017/11/19/bede602e-cd4f-11e7-a87b-47f14b73162a_story.html?utm_term=.6573690eb895


Michael Chabon dedicated ''THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION'' this way:


To Ayelet


Bashert


[Note: Ayalet is his wife's name; Bashert is a Yiddish/Hebrew term for "It was meant to be"]


A dedication is the expression of friendly connection or thanks by the author towards another person. The dedication has its own place on the dedication page and is part of the front matter.


In newer books, the dedication is located on a dedication page on its own, usually on the recto page after the main title page inside the front matter. It can occupy one or multiple lines depending on its importance. It can also be "in a longer version as a dedication letter or dedication preface at the book's beginning". Nowadays, the dedication's function is mainly part of the self-portrayal of the author in front of his or her readers.


Once you’ve skimmed the title page of a book and publishing credits, the first thing you encounter in a book is the dedication. A few sparse words dropped into those preliminary white pages, they are poetic in their brevity, sometimes an enigmatic series of initials or a secretive “for all the reasons she knows so well”. Behind every “For Spunky Knowsalot,” there is a story of the relationship between the author and the person to whom it was dedicated.


Dedications are often deliberately coded, publicly acknowledging an important relationship, while at the same time trying to keep it private.

Book dedications: so few words, but such big stories : see link below from 1982 NYT article in the book section.


So we look here at the poetic history of a book's first few words, which are so often secretly coded by their author.





Some authors, like Bill, dedicate their books to their wives:


FOR EXAMPLE:


Wilbur Smith “For Danielle”,
Brian Moore “For Jean, comme d’habitude”,
F Scott Fitzgerald “Once Again to Zelda”.
Bill McKibben: "For Spunky Knowsalot"


Dedications have been around for as long as people have put pen to paper. Horace and Virgil both dedicated to their wealthy patron Maecenas. Centuries later, Jane Austen, who was contemptuous of the Prince Regent, dedicated Emma to him because one of his circle suggested/ordered her to do so.
Wilkie Collins dedicated ''The Moonstone'' to his late mother, beginning a move towards inscribing to family and friends, often by way of apology for the hours spent scribbling away.


Jeffrey Archer dedicated ''Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less'' to “the Fat Men”, his two sons, then aged three and one.


Some authors say deciding on the dedication is harder than writing the book.





Anthony Doerr: ''We Were Warned'' -- NYT OpEd

Anthony Doerr: We Were Warned


Photo
Credit Illustrations by Cristina Spanò
Boise, Idaho — Twenty-five years ago this month, more than 1,500 prominent scientists, including over half of the living Nobel laureates, issued a manifesto titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in which they admonished, “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
They cited stresses on the planet’s atmosphere, forests, oceans and soils, and called on everybody to act decisively. “No more than one or a few decades remain,” the scientists wrote, “before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost.”
I was 19 years old when their warning was published and though I understood, in a teenager-y, “Rainforest Rap” sort of way, that humans were messing with the planet, the document freaked me out. It was so urgent, so dire. E. O. Wilson had signed it. Carl Sagan had signed it!
So did I act immediately and decisively? Um, I did not. In the ensuing years I wrote checks to some conservation organizations, replaced some incandescent bulbs and rode my bike to work. I hammered together a composting bin that promptly fell apart. I gave a self-important lecture to a neighbor on the importance of using his recycling can.
I also hurtled through the troposphere on hundreds of airplanes (each round trip from New York to London costs the Arctic another three square meters of ice), bought and sold multiple automobiles and helped my wife put two more Americans onto the planet. Our air-conditioning compressor is at least a decade old, my truck averages 15 miles to the gallon and I routinely walk up to a podium, open a brand new plastic bottle of water, take a sip and promptly forget that it exists.
Continue reading the main story

Sometimes I wake at 2 a.m. worrying that my great-granddaughter will have to march through her distant, broiling future gathering all the plastic I ever disposed of.
“You mean he knew,” she’ll ask her mom, as she pulls the plastic clamshell I ate a Chinese chicken salad out of back in November 2017, “and he still did this?”
“I told you,” her mother will say. “He was the absolute worst.”
Photo
This autumn, as smoke from dozens of wildfires made the air outside our windows in Boise, Idaho, about as healthy as a casino smoking lounge, as Harvey flooded parts of Texas and Maria smashed Puerto Rico, as 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota, I was tempted to imagine our president cruising in his jumbo jet above the various cataclysms with some coal-friendly legislation in his lap and his fingers in his ears. This is a man, after all, who in a single month in 2007 poured two million gallons of fresh water through the lawns, pool and 22 bathrooms of his Palm Beach, Fla., residence.
But sometimes making villains out of other people can distract us from our own complicities. If Donald Trump were never elected, Harvey still would have flooded Houston, October still would have been the 394th consecutive month that global average temperatures were above the 20th century average, and Delhi would still be choking on air so foul that just breathing for a day is roughly equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes.
In a season when the silencing of voices is so rightfully in the public discussion, maybe the 25th anniversary of the “Scientists’ Warning” offers an opportunity to reflect on just how well each of us is listening to the voices we don’t want to hear.
Here’s what I think happens with me. Maybe I wake up, turn on my phone, read something like, “On average, populations of vertebrate species declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012,” and I feel queasy — as though I’m living in a world that’s a shadow of the world I was born into — and at the same time I probably also get a little less sensitive to the insanity of our trajectory, and then I put down my phone and get swamped by the tsunami of the day: One kid has strep throat, another needs to go to the dentist, I’ve forgotten six or seven internet passwords, the dog just pooped on the rug.
Hour by hour, minute by minute, I make decisions that seem like the right things to do at the time, but which prevent me from reflecting on the most significant, most critical fact in my life: Every day I participate in a system that is weaponizing our big, gorgeous planet against our kids.
“Death,” Zadie Smith wrote in 2013, “is what happens to everyone else … If I truly believed that being a corpse was not only a possible future but my only guaranteed future — I’d do all kinds of things differently.”
If our biological imperative is to pass our genes to the next generation, our moral imperative has to be to try, before we become corpses, to leave them a planet they can survive on.
Since the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” humans have done extraordinary things. We stabilized the stratospheric ozone layer; we connected people in instantaneous and previously unimaginable ways; we landed a golf cart on Mars and drove it around. We even got every nation-state on earth (except ours, apparently) to agree to try to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury.
Photo
But we’ve also removed enough forests to cover Texas nearly twice, pumped almost half of the carbon emitted in human history into the atmosphere, grown the population by over two billion and cut the number of wild animals on earth by something close to half.
This month a new coalition of scientists, led by researchers at Oregon State University, published a new warning: “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.”
It’s not as poetic as the first, unfortunately, but it’s just as grim. “Soon,” they write, “it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.” Over 15,000 scientists have signed the new call to action; according to the Alliance of World Scientists, that’s the most people to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article.
For decades science has been warning us that we are compromising earth’s systems, and that none of us will be immune to the consequences. Everywhere you look, people are trying: adopting renewable energy, working to guarantee women control over their reproductive decisions, fighting food waste, shifting to plant-based diets. Maybe the most important thing the rest of us can do is take our fingers out of our ears and join them.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Debra Denker on cli-fi novels and her own cli-fi novel ''Weather Menders''


What is Cli-fi?

Dan Bloom, the man who coined the term “cli-fi,” gave this great review to Weather Menders:


Weather Menders is a pioneering cli-fi novel that combines science fiction with time travel and spiritual fantasy in a unique and captivating way. The message is clear: we must act soon and be woke. Oh, and there’s a telepathic time-travelling cat!”




Juniper Fiery Sky


When I first conceived of the story of Weather Menders in the spring of 2013, I had no idea that I would be writing in a genre called cli-fi (rhymes with sci-fi), or even that such a genre existed.
I have been aware of and troubled by the specter of climate change since the first Earth Day in 1970. I remember writing an essay in high school on how carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution could lead to global warming due to intensification of the Earth’s natural “greenhouse effect.” I learned that the greenhouse effect is actually a good thing for Earth’s eco-system. A chemically balanced atmosphere acts as a sort of blanket that holds in the heat necessary for life and prevents its escape into space. But when the natural balance is disturbed by an increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon due to the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels, excess heat is trapped, rather like a greenhouse with no ventilation.
In 1970, understanding of climate change was still limited. A few years ago I saw a PBS documentary on Earth Day. Several scientists voiced their concern that if fossil fuels continued to be burned at the then-current rate, the global climate system might start to be impacted by excess warming as soon as 200 years in the future!
No one thought we would start to experience a trend of extreme climate events a mere 30 years later, or that 1980, an important Pivot Point in Weather Menders, would in retrospect prove to be a significant year in the acceleration of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate disruption.
Despite my Buddhist and other spiritual training, I’m not always good at accepting the “what-is”—especially if it means the Sixth Extinction threatening all life on Earth. Mere mitigation of climate change seems to me a pitifully inadequate response to the magnitude of the problem, and adaptation almost laughably impossible. Humans, in my view, are possessed by a spectacular failure of imagination and vision if we can’t even conceive of a way out of the current planetary emergency.
So why not think big? Why not envision reversing the trend entirely, rebalancing atmosphere and eco-system, celebrating and increasing biodiversity? What would it take?
I started fantasizing about time travel. If there are parallel worlds and timelines, as posited in science fiction and on a quantum level, when did the timelines diverge? When was the point that it all went wrong on Earth? What would time travelers from the future need to change in order to alter the cascading slide towards tipping points in the current trajectory towards extinction?


And so Weather Menders was born.


As I traveled through the UK in the summer of 2013, joining in ceremony inside the circle of Stonehenge at dawn, and visiting the intentional spiritual community of Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, the characters began to come to me. They came alive like spirits in alternate timelines. I first saw Tara as a hale elder leaning against the standing stones at Avebury on a sultry autumn day in 2050. Her feisty great-granddaughter Leona the Shaman interrupted her meditation. Georgie the telepathic gray cat intruded on her thoughts. Her backstory, her great love for Xander, began to whisper itself to me. I could feel their presence and hear their words. I knew their stories, which only had to be written and interwoven.
Sometime later, during the writing process itself, I stumbled upon the term cli-fi—fiction, written or cinematic, dealing thematically with different aspects of climate change—and realized that Weather Menders fits into that emerging genre.




Unbeknownst to me, spring of 2013 was when Dan Bloom’s term, cli-fi, began to seep into the collective consciousness after an NPR story referred to cli-fi with quotes from novelists Barbara Kingsolve and Nathaniel Rich.  Bloom, a journalist and college teacher with a passion to awaken people to both the existence of this genre and to what it might teach us, subsequently contacted many media outlets and authors in order to keep cli-fi in public awareness.


Bloom is now the editor of the Cli-Fi Report, a site that bills itself as “a research tool for academics and media professionals to use in gathering information and reporting on the rise of the emerging cli-fi term worldwide.”


In future, I will be blogging about other cli-fi offerings, including Deena Metzger’s beautiful A Rain of Night Birds, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior.


A lot of cli-fi novels are dystopian—almost by definition—and I honestly don’t know how many of those I can bear to read (I figure I can just read the science pages if I want to get depressed). I find I cannot live without hope, despite the Buddhist admonition to live life beyond hope and beyond fear. For what else is the wish for the liberation of all sentient beings other than a form of hope?
I’ve always believed that the purpose of fiction is to re-imagine the future—and in the case of a time travel novel, the past. Cli-fi stories can be set in an increasingly dystopian present, ripped right out of the headlines of the recent summer of disasters, or in a very near probable future. Many authors proceed on the twin assumptions that severe climate breakdown is already upon us (true) and is irreversible (I beg to differ).


Perhaps the real question cli-fi poses, and at its best answers, is: how does the human heart and spirit respond to what Buddhist scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy calls “The Great Turning?”




Can we transform our industrial society to a truly sustainable civilization in time? Do we give the process our all, when success—or even survival—appears far from certain, perhaps even impossible and hopeless? Do we give voice to our deepest fears by imagining, and perhaps co-creating, a vicious future of few survivors amidst a horror of competition for whatever is left on a dying planet? Or do we give our energy to the re-envisioning of an alternate possible future, against great odds?




The process of writing Weather Menders led me to ask the question: besides my fantasy of time travel, what could reverse climate change in our current reality? Somewhat to my surprise, I have come upon a surprising number of answers and solutions, from practical to radical, spiritual to secular and scientific, and will be continuing to search for and blog about those visions.


Meanwhile, enjoy reading Weather Menders! I hope the book will help lots of people “be woke,” in Dan Bloom’s words. I hope we can start a conversation, a re-imagination of our future, and back it up with actions to reverse climate change by rebalancing our eco-system and atmosphere and returning to the rich biodiversity of Mother Earth.

Bill McKibben's comic cli-fi caper novel RADIO FREE VERMONT is dedicated to "Spunky Knowsalot" on the Dedication Page and the person referred to is Sue Halpern, Bill McKibben's wife









UPDATED WITH BRIEF HISTORY OF LITERARY DEDICATIONS IN THE PAST. Scroll down below to read it and see some link. More fun!


Bill McKibben's comic cli-fi caper novel ''RADIO FREE VERMONT'' is dedicated to someone mysteriously called "Spunky Knowsalot" on the Dedication Page of the just-published novel and according to sources in the publishing industry, the person referred to is Sue Halpern, Bill McKibben's wife.




Dedication page reads:






''For Spunky Knowsalot''


It's been a publishing secret and a literary mystery of the gumshoe detective kind for almost a month now, and mum's the word. Until now.




According to Vermont's ''Maple Syrup Detective Club'' based in a secret location in the Northeast Kingdom, Bill dedicated the novel to his wife in a warm, sweet gesture. The Maple Syrup Detective Club thought that since the novel has been out now for several weeks and slowly climbing the Resistance best-seller lists nationwide, some readers might like to know just who Spunky Knowsalot, the book's ''dedicadee'' is. Well, as Paul Harvey, the famous radio reporter used to say, "And now you know....the rest of the story."


Case closed. Mystery solved. The MSDC exists for a purpose, it turns out, and that purpose is to entertain, inform and create the conditions for "fun" to exist within the parameters of The Resistance nationwide.


Well done, Bill. Bravo, Sue!


-----------------------
OTHER FUN LITERARY DEDICATIONS:


Michael Chabon dedicated ''THE YDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION'' this way:


To Ayelet


Bashert


Notes: Ayalet is his wife's name; Bashert is a Yiddish/Hebrew term for "It was meant to be"


A dedication is the expression of friendly connection or thanks by the author towards another person. The dedication has its own place on the dedication page and is part of the front matter.


In newer books, the dedication is located on a dedication page on its own, usually on the recto page after the main title page inside the front matter. It can occupy one or multiple lines depending on its importance. It can also be "in a longer version as a dedication letter or dedication preface at the book's beginning". Nowadays, the dedication's function is mainly part of the self-portrayal of the author in front of his or her readers.


Once you’ve skimmed the title page of a book and publishing credits, the first thing you encounter in a book is the dedication. A few sparse words dropped into those preliminary white pages, they are poetic in their brevity, sometimes an enigmatic series of initials or a secretive “for all the reasons she knows so well”. Behind every “For Spunky Knowsalot,” there is a story of the relationship between the author and the person to whom it was dedicated.


Dedications are often deliberately coded, publicly acknowledging an important relationship, while at the same time trying to keep it private.

Book dedications: so few words, but such big stories : see link below from 1982 NYT article in the book section.


So we look here at the poetic history of a book's first few words, which are so often secretly coded by their author.





Some authors, like Bill, dedicate their books to their wives:


FOR EXAMPLE:


Wilbur Smith “For Danielle”,
Brian Moore “For Jean, comme d’habitude”,
F Scott Fitzgerald “Once Again to Zelda”.
Bill McKibben: "For Spunky Knowsalot"


Dedications have been around for as long as people have put pen to paper. Horace and Virgil both dedicated to their wealthy patron Maecenas. Centuries later, Jane Austen, who was contemptuous of the Prince Regent, dedicated Emma to him because one of his circle suggested/ordered her to do so.
Wilkie Collins dedicated ''The Moonstone'' to his late mother, beginning a move towards inscribing to family and friends, often by way of apology for the hours spent scribbling away.


Jeffrey Archer dedicated ''Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less'' to “the Fat Men”, his two sons, then aged three and one.


Some authors say deciding on the dedication is harder than writing the book.