This island is north of Iwo Jima and was strategically critical because of two communications towers there which the Japanese used to deliver orders to the Imperial Navy in the Pacific. Nine flyers were shot down during the attacks. Eight were captured and executed and the ninth, George H. Bush was rescued by an American submarine and survived to become President.
Even a decade ago it was unthinkable this might happen before the middle of the century, yet the Arctic ice has retreated so much faster than expected that some scientists are predicting the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by the end of this decade.
Like so much about the environmental catastrophe unfolding around us this story is at once unthinkable and oddly workaday. Many — myself included — can appreciate the enormity of what is taking place while simultaneously continuing to behave as if nothing untoward is happening.
Even though we recognise we are in the midst of a planetary emergency, as both individuals and a culture we seem unable to take even the most minimal steps to alter our behaviour. The psychic dissonance of this situation is intense, and growing. This dissonance is a reminder the crisis we face is not merely environmental.
It is ethical, social, historical, economic, political, cultural; indeed its effects ripple outward into every aspect of our lives, touching and transforming all they meet. The world we knew is not just gone, but — as the centuries-long process that has led to an Bradleys essay review Arctic demonstrates — it never really existed, its certainties founded on fantasies about our privileged status and separateness from Nature.
For writers of fiction the challenges posed by this transformation are both profound and particular. The global nature and temporal scale of climate change exceed the conceptual and technical possibilities of the conventional social realist novel, revealing its artificiality and undermining its claims to universality.
As Amitav Ghosh has recognised this has more than a little to do with the ways in which social realism seeks to regularise the world, pushing those aspects of the world that disturb the orderly nature of our society into the background.
But climate change also challenges our most basic ideas about narrative, demanding we grapple with the interconnectedness of our world, the degree to which any attempt to parse reality or impose order upon events is vulnerable to our growing awareness the part cannot be understood without reference to the whole.
What kind of novel can make sense of this crisis and our increasingly incoherent responses to it? Interestingly, many of the most thoughtful responses have emerged from the literatures of the fantastic, or borrowed Bradleys essay review from science fiction and fantasy, genres that have spent the past century evolving strategies for describing the sort of transformative change we are experiencing.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the technocratic bent of much science fiction, many of these works have concerned themselves as much with the practical question of what living in a climate-affected world might look like. Yet others have gone further, probing the psychic and conceptual dimension of what is taking place around us by using the fantastic as a metaphor for the ways in which climate change renders the world we thought we knew strange, or even terrifying.
Possibly the most articulate and cogent example of the latter is to be found in the work of American writer Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy.
Published in a single year across the course ofthe three books that make up the trilogy — Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance — focus on a stretch of coastline in what appears to be Florida affected by some kind of inexplicable transformation or intrusion.
Known as Area X, the region has been separated from the outside world by an invisible barrier since an unexplained event thirty years before. Hidden from the public eye by an offifical lie about an environmental disaster, the region is monitored and studied by the Southern Reach, a government agency, which despite having sent multiple expeditions into Area X over three decades, is no closer to understanding its secrets.
In the first of the novels, Annihilation, an expedition known as the 12th Expedition crosses the border into Area X.
The expedition quickly unravels, shadowed by an animal that moans in the night. The group eventually descends into a hole where a tower should stand, only to discover that the lifeforms in the region have begun to change in strange and inexplicable ways.
The second, Authority, picks up where the first ended, turning its attention from Area X to the scientists and bureaucrats of the Southern Reach, now grappling with what to make of those members of the 12th Expedition who have returned, and now claim not to be themselves.
With their atmosphere of nameless dread and terrifying transformation the Area X novels exist within the tradition of what is usually described as the Weird, a branch of writing that incorporates elements of the fantastic and the supernatural, yet eschews the tropes usually associated with these genres.
Not quite a genre, more an affect or technique, the exact nature and boundaries of the Weird and indeed the more recent effusions of writers such as China Mieville that are sometimes described as the New Weird are imprecise and contested: Yet still, there is something pleasingly recursive about this notion of the Weird as an invisible presence, shadowing other genres and forms, unnameable yet present all the same.
More recently Mark Fisher attempted a more systematic definition of the concept by distinguishing it from the related notion of the eerie.
Area X is a classic example of such intrusion. Yet however we define the Weird, the Southern Reach novels suggest a new twist, something we might call a New New Weird, or perhaps an Ecological Uncanny.
Thinking the ecological thought alters our perspectives in deep and profound ways, both by extending our perspectives outward by demanding we grapple with the scale of interconnection, but also by erasing the boundaries between things: Yet it is also possible to see why the Southern Reach novels speak so powerfully to our current moment by giving shape not just to our gowing anxieties about our estrangement from the natural world, but also our sense we are caught up in a transformation that overwhelms everything we believed certain.
Set in unnamed city at some point in the not-too distant future, it posits a world in which civilization has collapsed as a result of environmental degradation.
These creations — and indeed the city itself — offer VanderMeer a conceptual playground in which to indulge the gloriously baroque effusions of his imagination. There are feral children with insect eyes and wings, edible lichens, alcohol minnows and beetles bred to synthesise drugs or spy on the unwary, giant lizards, wonderful fish with wide mournful mouths and emerald and gold veined eyes that can walk on land and are designed to instil fear and act as crowd control.
The cycle of novellas and novels set in the fictional world of Ambergris that preceded the Southern Reach Trilogy featured a wonderfully bizarre cast of private detectives, human-fungus hybrids and an array of fungal technologies and psychoactive substances.
Yet in Borne these creations are part of a larger exploration of the instrumentalization of nature and the degree to which that process renders ideas of natural and unnatural otiose. This beauty — and indeed the Rilkean terror of this beauty — is real, but it inheres in his animality, inseparable from the evolutionary logic of his form and function.
Yet he is not natural. For those who inhabit the city Mord is like the weather: Yet he is also life-giving, his fur picks up treasures from his lair in the Company building so the brave — or the foolish — can snatch them while he slumbers. On one such sortie Rachel spots something pulsing and strobing emerald green.
Picking it up she discovers it is about the size of her fist and resembles: Four vertical ridges slid up the sides of its warm and pulsating skin.
The texture was as smooth as waterworn stone, if a bit rubbery.Borne by Jeff VanderMeer 4th Estate pp $ AU Published April, ISBN As I was writing this essay news came through that a Russian tanker had . More Essay Examples on Book Rubric. About the Author James Bradley is known for his enthusiasm in writing regarding the history of the American society - Flags of Fathers by James Bradley A Book Review Essay introduction.
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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer 4th Estate pp $ AU Published April, ISBN As I was writing this essay news came through that a Russian tanker had crossed the high Arctic without an icebreaker.
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