New Release: In the Heat of the Day by Peter Rondel

IFWG Publishing Australia

IFWG Publishing is very pleased to announce the release of Peter Rondel‘s climate change science fiction novel, In the Heat of the Day. “We are particularly proud of this title,” Gerry Huntman, Managing Director of IFWG Publishing Australia said, “as it is our first adult science fiction novel for our Australian imprint, as well as covering an underrepresented subgenre – climate change. Two firsts.”

in-the-heat-of-the-day-front-cover

Peter Rondel is not new to IFWG Publishing, as he has a wonderful children’s illustrated novel published with us, A Magpie Called Will, in collaboration with New Zealand artist, Frances Hutt.

For decades, the subject of climate change and global warming were regarded as nonsense by many. When the threat becomes a reality, one young technician seeks solutions to the world’s biggest problems when oil becomes unavailable.

The need for electric power and new means of transport become his dedication. Unable to…

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Thirst (2012)

Thirst (2012)[1] takes place in the Antarctica where a group of Australian scientists comes into conflict with a Chinese company, who are about to explode one of the glaciers to exploit the ice as a source of fresh water. Water wars result from global warming and global drought. The popular fiction of L. A. Larkin is an interesting case, given she worked earlier as a climate change consultant before choosing to write environmental thrillers; her emphasis is more on challenging ecological denial, than on envisioning a postcarbon future. And a thriller this novel is; while the double murder in the opening pages might put off some readers, the intention is clear as a hook. The racy, realist, narrative of interweaving stories includes those of Luke Searle with his broken marriage and son, prime embodiment of the ‘spirit of the Antarctica’; of Maddie Wildman who runs the Australian base with her hidden sorrow of a lost daughter;  of Wendy Woo, who loses her father, is an equity analyst for an investment bank privy to the Chinese entrepreneur’s machinations;  and of the ruthless corporation director Robert Zhao Sheng, deeply scarred by a brutal father and  the suicide of his mother, a Falun Gong member. In his quest for military power and wealth, Sheng’s grossly ambitious and destructive secret plan is to mine below the exploded glacier, which risks, however, causing sea level rises that will not only submerge  low-lying cities, but also whole countries.Murder, violence, rape, poisoning, avalanche, fire, shooting, and other forms of brutality drive the suspense, with quieter moments of romance and healing only before the next onslaught of attackers on snowmobiles or down an ice crevasse with swinging ice picks.

Through the novel, understanding of the impact of global warming on the Antarctica and its melting, the size and volume of water involved and massive sea level rises are all smoothly integrated into the plot, and are palpable. When we put the book down we are fully aware of the cataclysmic effects if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is destroyed and of/if when the southern polar cap melts.

How far is story-telling an intriguing tool to promote debate and awareness? How far science communication? Larkin is just one of many recent authors using the popular thriller as a form in which to raise climate change issues.  The story is told from maverick Luke Searle’s point-of-view; it is he who is our masculine hero and vanquishes the enemy to finish up centre stage heading a foundation, orchestrated by Wendy, on television preaching adaptation to climate change with Maddie supporting him in the front row of the audience. Any of the novels, they can both be read in terms of Eaarth Education and how well they transmit values, such as respect for the planet on which we live, and as well as for their representations of gender. But representations of gender need to be more than merely including women with agency and power, who create and nurture the forums where the men get up to lead. The very binary oppositions between male and female, if we accept Plumwood’s analysis, must be interrogated, just as masculinist distortions of reason and culture, and the relationships of gendered power must be questioned.

 

[1]Larkin, L.A. Thirst Millers Point : Pier 9, 2012.

NEMETON (1992)

 

This focus on developing ‘New Men’, a new consciousness and new ways of living is given fuller attention in a very different way in the rich tapestry of the five novels of Selenna (Pam Giblin), whose work may well become important in understanding the aesthetics of the new environmental Age of Transition to a lower intensity energy regime, as we move into a postcarbon future. And just as Vormair’s novel, Giblin’s fictions, that is Nemeton (1992), Beyond the Veils of Time (1997), A Question of Sovereignty (1999), Daughter of the Sun God—The Fall (2011), Daughter of the Sun God—Grace (2011)[i] are largely unknown and, with very few exceptions,[ii] have not been reviewed. At this stage we can only wonder how much speculative writing exists beyond the constraints of commercial publishing and addresses issues excluded from mainstream dialogues.

Her first novel is set on a small peninsula on the coast of Tasmania, which is then cut off with rising seas. It explores the options of a small community and their growth and unfolding after the breakdown of mainstream society with global warming, known as the ‘Collapse’. When I asked Pam Giblin about the inspiration for her first powerful novel written in the early 1990s, this was her response.

‘Something was needed to bring people back to their essence.

As Within, So Without

And so Nemeton was conceived. Influenced by the Celtic mythology that I devoured, it began as a short story set in the future—but as if in the past. It opened with the full moon witnessing a young woman walk to her place of initiation. As the story unfolded, I blended my own growing sense of personal freedom, the result of communal spiritual rituals with the philosophy of environmental politics of the time. This ‘era of cities’ would end. What would happen when the sea levels rose and destroyed them? Would it not force us to take stock of who we were, and reflect back to us the truth of our dysfunctional and unfulfilled existence? If we could see that this destruction was brought about by this very dysfunction, what would we choose to replace it? Answers to these questions took over and I was a captive to the story’s compulsion.[iii]

 

For those who prefer the ecotopian, visionary novels of  Starhawk’s earth based spirituality, The Fifth Sacred Thing and Walking to Mercury, or even those by Marge Piercy, Selenna has similar preoccupations and answers in her exploration of the interplay of the profane and sacred in Tasmania. As she explains:

 

As governments fail to act and their economies crumble, the Collapse opens the door for the final stage of human development; but how many will choose to cross the threshold—into a future whose lores are as old as time itself? Few believe they have the necessary skills to make the change. For those that do, an exciting world awaits…’ [iv]

 

[i] http://www.selenna.com.au/

[ii] AUSTLIT Australian Literature Resource

[iii] Pam Giblin, [Selenna], ‘And So Within, Without: Reflections on a Writing Career’ interviewed by

Deborah Jordan, Hecate 1&2, (2013): 115.

[iv] Pam Giblin, Nemeton, Koonya, Tasmania: Koonya Press, 1992.

The Sea and Summer (1987)

 

The Sea and Summer is one of the most significant climate change novels in Australian writing. Published originally by Faber and Faber in 1987 it was little known to Australian audiences, although recently it has begun to be addressed by the Academy, notably Andrew Milner. For many years the book has been out of print; only recently has a electronic version become available. George Turner wrote other science fiction novels, but it is the The Sea and Summer that is most widely acclaimed.

The Sea and Summer is about the possible cost of complacency in face of global warming. A story within a story, the main narrative is set from about 2041 to 2061. An apocalyptic novel it traces the failure of the human species to slow the environmental disasters and the city of Melbourne is drowned, below the sea level. The family, the Conways, whom consist of parents and two sons Teddy and Francis, are originally ‘Sweet’, members of the elite class, but this all changes when the father loses his job and commits suicide. The Australian population are deeply divided between the ‘Sweet’ and the ‘Swill’; the novel tracks Alison Conway’s descent into the ‘Fringe’ after the loss of her husband. She and her sons move to Western Melbourne; immediately Billy Kovacs, the Newport ‘Tower Boss’, is at their door, and intervenes to offer them protection as part of his racket. The ‘Swill’ are crammed in enormous housing estate towers seventy stories high, 70,000 people per tower. With global warming the Yarra river is rising and lapping their foundations. Between the two sons, each with different talents Francis with mathematical skills and Teddy drama, mime, there is intense sibling rivalry. They respond very differently to their fall from the ‘Sweet’.

 

The story is told through different first person characters narrating their lives; the divisions between the ‘Swill’ and the ‘Sweet’ drive the narrative tension. Sweet Nola Parkes is the mature, corrupt, bureaucrat condoned by the State; she manipulates, uses and corrupts Francis because of his mental abilities to work with complex numbers. Captain Nikopoulos, a policeman, takes the other brother Teddy under his wing to re-train and re-educate. With the population numbers out of control, the ‘Sweet’ develop a chewing gum to sterilize the ‘Swill’. The gum is passed to the ‘Swill’ when it is issued to the soldiers who share it with their ‘Swill’ girls. Billy and Teddy capture a soldier who has been ‘blocked’ so as not to reveal the source of the gum, but then they brutally torture him to release the information. Billy, as an example of the ‘New Men’ must take on the burden of the future in his use of violence against the soldier. These ‘New Men’ who will transcend, reject the ‘Sweet’/’Swill’ division and seek to transform the ‘Swill’ so they can live better lives and create a future.

Turner included a ‘Postscript by the Author’ to spell out the purpose of the novel to ‘simply to highlight a number of possibilities that deserve urgent thought if some of them are not to come to pass in one form or other.[i] The Sea and Summer was first published in Britain and published as Drowning Towers in the United States and developed from a short story, The Fittest, Turner had published in 1985. Turner’s novel was critically acclaimed overseas and made an ‘enormous impact’.[ii] Six months later it was published in Australia, and, as is usual, was not widely reviewed in Australia, and never became widely known to Australian audiences.

 

[i] George Turner, The Sea and Summer London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1987: 317.

[ii] Judith Buckrich, George Turner A Life, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1999: 170.

SALT (1990)

 

If love is the deus ex machina in Rain Forest in Time, it is a woman’s final rejection of her alcoholic male partner, despite being pregnant to him, which is a pivotal step to an alternative future in Gabriel Lord’s Salt. Set in 2075, Hedda decides that if she continues to wait for Sando, the self-destructive hero, she will be dead, and, in making this decision, she unleashes powerful transformative energies beginning within herself, while recalling “all the times she’d pressed down a real feeling of rage or joy because it was too explosive…”[1]

This novel is set in a time when global warming means that humans can no longer physically survive in direct sunlight with daily temperatures of fifty-seven degrees celsius. Australia is decimated by civil war and salt levels have risen to dangerous levels in part because of the gaping ozone layer. Animals are deformed and humans inside walled cities subsist on artificially produced “polytucker” under authoritarian rule. Sando, an elite military helicopter pilot, and Hedda, daughter of a turncoat military leader, Hilliard, escape from a walled Sydney, to be captured by the rebel army which is barely surviving in the salt-encrusted underground networks in the once blue mountains.

The decimation of the environment and biosphere was, in Lord’s novel, “caused by multiplication of human greed, and human numbers” [2] and the demise of democracy. Published with the editorial intervention of Hilary McPhee, Salt represents a shift in scope from Lord’s previous three novels. Peter Pierce finds Lord is especially interested in moral questions and the ‘perennial venality’ of those in power.[3] Part of the menacing plot hinges on the struggle for the control by genetic engineering in a secret weapons laboratory; the woman scientist breeds a new kind of human through manipulation of women’s bodies. Salt became available in a kindle edition in 2011. Known more often as a crime fiction novelist, Lord paints some very powerful lingering images of future modes of survival as Hedda and her bizarre adopted children travel as a tribe through the night and dwell underground during the day.

 

[1] Lord, Gabrielle. Salt. Ringwood, Vic.: McPhee Gribble, 1990, 202-3.

[2] Ibid, 108.

[3] Ibid, 191.

A Rain forest in Time (1988)

 

A Rain forest in Time (1988)

Jean Vormair’s A Rain Forest in Time was first published in 1988 (and republished in 1989). She takes up St Barbe Baker’s dictum about the important role of forests and trees for people: “Living forest, four acres of it for every person on earth, is needed to provide enough oxygen for the survival of the human race”. [1] She asks the what if question ‘With the present thoughtless rate of destruction of rainforests all over the world, is any hope possible for our children? And what could happen to our planet?”[2] In the novel, given the human race’s inability to plant enough trees to balance deforestation, global warming is beginning to have consequences especially in the polluted northern hemisphere.  With the melting of the Artic ice-cap, the Earth is off balance, and tilts. Numerous cities on the eastern sides of the continents are inundated, and half the world’s population perishes.  In Vormair’s scenario of species near destruction, the narrative unfolds in the depths of an Australian rainforest, a Tasmanian rainforest replete with devils and tigers. It is 2011.

The central male character, Neil Jorgensen, an environmental scientist, deeply traumatised by the Earth’s tilt (and the murder of his wife and son caught up in escalating violence and overflowing jails with societal collapse), has established a retreat in the Tasmanian rainforest well equipped to face the further coming crises, with workshops and cellars, a helicopter and yacht he is building. Jorgensen is immersed in the sounds and songs of the rainforest and its fauna are part of the narrative. He forms a relationship with Olivia Lindsay, whom he rescues when she becomes lost in the rainforest after escaping from her wealthy lover. Jorgensen initially mistakes Olivia for his former wife, but with her love his wounds begin to heal. Through flashback we learn of Olivia’s life as a model and wife of a junkie; she is portrayed as sensitive and open to the future.  They believe that the earth will tilt again given the human race’s inability to obey the laws of nature.

Vormair did not predict the disintegration of the Soviet Union nor the developments in Asia and China. And her portrait of the mostly inept and blinkered human populace is hardly sympathetic. The novel is a mixture of thriller, romance and science fiction. Some of it relies on the appropriation of the conventions of popular fiction, and representation of conventional gender roles, but not all. Jorgensen is shown as having an attachment to the place in the rainforest, although Lindsay hardly leaves the domestic space.

The author was clearer, however, in her portrait of the melting of the north pole and the inability of large sections of the population to come to terms with global change and the connections with their actions and the carbon cycle. And this is a story with a very final focus, of the ending of the ‘Eaarth’. Vormair’s suggested solution does not include planting more trees, nor developing an eco-sensibility, nor political change. She only hints at what it might take for the human species to survive. This is an early climate change novel little reviewed and largely unknown, but it addresses the issues with memorable insight.

 

[1]  Vormair, Jean.  A Rain forest in Time. Mirrabooka, Western Australia : Jarrah, 1988. Publications, backcover.

[2] Ibid.

MOUNTAIN IN THE SKY

Mountain in the Sky  (1982)

Theodore Xenophou’s  Mountain in the Sky, published in 1982,[1] is the story of one man’s attempt to save the planet from the over-use of fossil fuels (in context of the energy crisis) by building an enormous mountain near Adelaide ‘to coax nature in his eternal battle against the elements.’[2] In this  outline, outline that is rather than fully expanded fiction, Andrew Southy initially starts the project of mountain building himself but is finally taken up by governments across the globe. And, even though the style is somewhat dated, the characters underdeveloped, and the lack of women palpable, it is an enthusiastic and racy account. The reader wants to know about how this mountain can be built and how it will function.  South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent. The South Australian premier argues that ‘Apart from medical advancement, I dare say humanity is worse off now than at any other time in its long history as far as physical and mental pollution is concerned. We have destroyed our environment in less that one hundred years’.[3] It snows on the mountain and creates a different microclimate. In the middle of the mountain is a shaft where water becomes hydrogen, the energy then used to power transport.   One of the professors waxes: ‘Tell the world that the crucifixion on the cross of fossil fuel has led to the resurrection of human will and ability… the resurrection that heralds no second coming if we insist on ignoring nature’s laws and logic.’ The author notes that all the technical data has been researched with the exception of the wind velocities and water gasification processes.[4] The reader is left with all kinds of questions about geological engineering.


[1] Xenophou, Theodore (1982).  Mountain in the Sky. Campbelltown, South Australia :  Castle Publishing.

[2] Ibid 104.

[3] Ibid 98.

[4] Ibid viii.