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Our Shared Storm: A Novel of Five Climate Futures

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Through speculative fiction, five interlocking novelettes explore the possible realities of our climate future.

What is the future of our climate? Given that our summers now regularly feature Arctic heat waves and wildfire blood skies, polar vortex winters that reach all the way down to Texas, and "100-year" storms that hit every few months, it may seem that catastrophe is a done deal. As grim as things are, however, we still have options. Combining fiction and nonfiction and employing speculative tools for scholarly purposes, Our Shared Storm explores not just one potential climate future but five possible outcomes dependent upon our actions today.

Written by speculative-fiction writer and sustainability researcher Andrew Dana Hudson, Our Shared Storm features five overlapping fictions to employ a futurist technique called "scenarios thinking." Rather than try to predict how history will unfold--picking one out of many unpredictable and contingent branching paths--it instead creates a set of futures that represent major trends or counterposed possibilities, based on a set of climate-modeling scenarios known as the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs).

The setting is the year 2054, during the Conference of the Parties global climate negotiations (a.k.a., The COP) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Each story features a common cast of characters, but with events unfolding differently for them--and human society--in each alternate universe. These five scenarios highlight the political, economic, and cultural possibilities of futures where investments in climate adaptation and mitigation promised today have been successfully completed, kicked down the road, or abandoned altogether. From harrowing to hopeful, these stories highlight the choices we must make to stabilize the planet.

Our Shared Storm is an experiment in deploying practice-based research methods to explore the opportunities and challenges of using climate fiction to engage scientific and academic frameworks.

224 pages, Paperback

Published April 5, 2022

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Andrew Dana Hudson

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin.
289 reviews917 followers
August 2, 2023
Climate Fiction, to Re-imagine Reality

--Goodreads reviews are overwhelmingly for escapist fiction...
…As a child, “reading” was indeed my escape. With busy first-generation immigrant parents and constant moving severing friendships, my vivid memories include sneaking my cassette player underneath the bedsheets to listen to far-off adventures; these were my bed-time stories... “books on (cassette) tape” did more than just help me learn English.
…One childhood book did plant a seed to reality (although seeds were already planted being a first-generation immigrant who didn’t completely grow up in the Western bubble); this was Nowhere to Call Home, a fiction about a middle-class girl who became a hobo during the Great Depression.
…However, it took much more than fiction to crack my lifetime of status quo conditioning (i.e. assimilate into the colonizer’s world where hard work pays off). The fiction taught at Western schools could not bring the contradictions to a crisis; indeed, they could be rendered conformist in their own peculiar ways (i.e. George Orwell).
--It took exploring critical nonfiction in my own time, when I realized my overwhelming ignorance of how the world worked, to finally turn my world upside-down (or rather, flip it back to reality), starting with my first Chomsky book (Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance). I mark that as the end of my childhood, a period of lost ignorance for which I have little nostalgia for.
…So, with this context, how do I engage with fiction nowadays?


1) Climate Fiction 101:
--If you are like me, you’ll want to read this book's “Afterword” first. It provides a foundational discussion, distinguishing:
a) “speculative fiction”: focus on speculating possible societies, rather than focus on characters.
b) “science fiction”: speculative fiction where science/technology is a driving force for possible societies (note: Atwood distinguishes “speculative” as possible vs. “sci-fi” as unlikely).
c) “climate fiction”: speculative fiction where climate is a driving force in possible societies.
d) “fantasy fiction”: fantastic often by “magic”, including in the past.
--Amitav Ghosh, in The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, considers why fiction seems so inadequate in imagining the climate crisis and potential alternatives, i.e. fiction has been predominantly used as a magnifying glass (focus on characters) whereas the climate requires a telescope (well, satellites) and big-picture abstract thinking (Thinking in Systems: A Primer).
...So, the author (Hudson, a sustainability researcher) takes up Ghosh’s challenge to fiction by providing structural innovations to “climate fiction”, in contrast to authors starting from the character-driven fiction side (ex. Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior).
--Besides from the climate modeling “scenario thinking” (detailed in next section), Hudson’s structural foundations also feature the distinction in Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:
a) “Normal science”: “mostly values-free context of relatively low stakes and relatively clear facts”; Hudson adds that most fiction writers operate here.
b) “Post-normal science”: “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent” (citing Jerome R. Ravetz); Hudson contends this framing is crucial to meeting Ghosh’s challenge.

2) Climate Modeling “Scenario thinking”:
--Hudson’s key innovation is writing the same story setting/characters under 5 different climate scenarios (scenarios, rather than prediction, given post-normal science’s uncertainties), eliminating certain variables that can distract from direct comparisons.
--These scenarios are inspired by IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report’s (2021-2023) “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways”(SSPs). I must confess I still haven’t gotten around to unpacking one of these assessment reports, respecting the physical science parts will be outside my specialty (I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That).
…However, my critical social sciences warns me that the further the report moves into social sciences (esp. “economics”), the more we consider political power, where “expert” analysis is conservative (conserving status quo) thus downplaying risks (esp. towards the public masses). Even if we exclude power/inequality/social history, “mainstream economics” (i.e. Neoclassical school) is utopian, externalizing energy/environment/crises: The New Economics: A Manifesto.
--While structurally innovative, my main critique stems from the book’s target audience. With how the stories in each scenario play out, I do not see the target audience being radical global activists (unlike the fantastic Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052–2072; note: the fictional oral history format ), but (Western) liberal/“progressive” technocrats: “Fictional illustrations could further develop the SSPs as communication tools to help individuals, institutions, and policymakers see how their choices and investments push us toward different possible futures.”
…This results in 4 dreadful scenarios (somehow without the hope of revolutionary upsurge) and 1 enlightened-liberal scenario. This fails both my critical social science analysis and inspiration. In addition to scenarios, writing fictional characters means the author can have contradictory thoughts debate each other; Varoufakis made better use of this in Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present.
--Note: the 5 scenarios are not numerically-chronological in the book; the order instead provides a better overall story arc. I’ll consider the sociopolitical insights in each scenario below. In brief, 5 stars for the plan, 2 stars for the execution. I'll settle on 4 stars (with an added star as encouragement for more fiction writers to boldly take on this challenge).

…see the comments below for the rest of the review (breaking down the 5 scenarios)…
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,504 reviews229 followers
June 8, 2022
Everyone knows the world is falling apart.

We just don’t like to talk about it.

Blade Runner skies over San Francisco. California wildfires September 2020

But what if we did talk about climate change? What if we stopped being paralyzed by the immensity of the problem, the multifaceted slow-motion catastrophe that everyone is responsible for, and nobody is accountable for? Decarbonization and any associated global political change are famously wicked problems, with manifold uncertainties and high costs, but climate change and how we deal with it is the story of the 21st century. And for all that climate change is the story, there are not enough stories about climate change.

Most climate fiction remains resolutely Delugist in orientation. In Oryx and Crake, The Windup Girl, or Don’t Look Up the core message is the sins of industrial civilization will finally overwhelm a weak and corrupt society. Out of the seeds of the devastation, a handful of survivors will rebuild, climate absolution paid for in gigadeaths. The kind of story about climate change is an apocalyptic fantasy, a re-inscription of Christian mythology into a modern context. It can make for a fine horror story, but it's facile, boring, and it’s a lie. If we’ve learned one thing about the apocalypse the past few years, there will not be angelic trumpets and letters of fire in the sky. You’ll just have to keep going to work, even as the sky rains blood.

Our Shared Storm is climate fiction done right. It’s a serious piece of futurism inspired by the latest IPCC scenarios and ethnography at COP24 (Conference of the Parties, the major UN climate conference) in Krakow in 2018. It’s also such good storytelling that I could not put it down, and stayed up far past a sensible bedtime to finish it in one gulp.

The stories are centered around COP60 in 2054, held in Buenos Aires. With a bit of literary and and futurological sleight of hand, Hudson holds constant the basic plot of the conference being hit with a torrential “neverstorm”, and the characters of Noah, Saga, Luis, and Diya, and let’s the world shift around them to show the five official IPCC Shared Socioeconomic Pathway scenarios. I’ll confess to skepticism reading the introduction, but this is very much not the same story five times. Shifts in point of view and central dramatic tension along with the state of the world, make each timeline its own unique experience, and I was excited to see what in the characters remained fixed and what changed.

The stories trace an arc, from the business as usual scenario of diplomatic horse-trading over reparations for losses against investments in the future, to a wild party of fossil-fueled development and venture-disaster-capitalism, to stark inequality between those deemed useful and worthy of survival and the restive excess population, to a world of conflict and collapse, where a handful of scientists attempt to record the climate catastrophe like monks protecting the treasures of antiquity from Visigoths, to finally a sustainable utopia, where the major choice is how much to invest in decarbonization how quickly. It’s a tour from a world very much like our own, to ones much worse, and finally one where things are, well, not perfect, but apocalypse canceled. And even in the scenarios where things are bad, life goes on. “The collapse” can only been in retrospect. For those living in it, it’s just another day.

Our Shared Storm makes bold promises in the introduction, and accomplishes all of them with verve. First, these are good short stories, some of the more well-crafted speculative fiction I’ve read in quite a while. An academic work always has the threat of being too didactic, getting lost in abstract ideas and teachable moments, rather than story-telling. Our Shared Storm never loses the bubble that these stories are about human beings, not planetary systems. Second, this is a serious piece of scholarship, grounded in the best estimates we have, which successfully translates the bland bureaucratese of an IPCC report into the richly textured sensation of the future. And third, this is a methodological advance in narrative foresight, with the conceit of the same characters and events but different settings. I’ve done work in this field (Burnam-Fink, 2015, “Creating narrative scenarios: Science fiction prototype at Emerge”, Futures), and there’s a lot of theory but precious little successful practice.

Our Shared Storm is an impressive debut: Provocative, imaginative, and even inspiring. Hudson is a talent to watch.
Profile Image for Stephen.
160 reviews6 followers
October 1, 2022
Well written for sure but i’ve concluded i’m not intrigued by cli-fi whatsoever, similar to why The Road did nothing for me. Wanted to give it a try nonetheless, especially being a Fordham grad!
66 reviews4 followers
April 21, 2022
Fascinating speculation as to what our future might hold as we struggle to confront our changing climate. As a layperson unversed in climate politics, I appreciate the approachability that these stories lend to such a complex subject, and I look forward to reading more!
Profile Image for Billy.
23 reviews9 followers
April 24, 2022
ADH has published intriguing SF short fiction in magazines like Slate, Vice, and Lightspeed, which made me excited for this novel. I ended up really enjoying it!

Its structure is fantastic: each of the five novelettes is inspired by a different scenario for what climate change could look like in 2054. They then use these alternate futures to show different versions of the same event: an unexpected "neverstorm" ripping through Buenos Aires during a climate conference.

The first future is the least speculative: there are little touches here and there, but for the most part it extrapolates from our current handling of the climate crisis. After that things get wilder, as we get to see a flashy hypercapitalist response to climate change, a socialist response, and so on. Each future is based on a scenario envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). So apparently it's all very rigorous and academic, though I'm too much of a layman to tell the difference lol.

There are four main characters, each of whom is our POV through one of the first four novelettes. The fact that we changed perspectives from story to story was fun, and often the most exciting parts of the book are seeing the way the characters' lives changed because of how humanity responded to climate change.

That said, I still wanted a bit more of each character: especially Diya, one of the coolest characters who was the POV for one of the worst futures. I think there was a lot of joy in her life, so I wish we'd gotten just a bit more space to see who she was outside the context of global tragedy. That said, it's a good sign when my only critique is wanting more.

Weirdly, this book helped calm my climate anxiety? On the one hand, several of the futures were miserable. On the other hand, seeing the different paths the future could take felt like it gave agency back to humanity. It's too late for us to not feel the consequences of climate change, but the severity of its impact is still in the hands of our institutions.

I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone anxious about climate change.
Profile Image for Elo.
38 reviews
May 21, 2023
3,5/4 Ce livre était vraiment bien. Le principe du livre est très intéressant. En gros, l’auteur écrit 5 histoires selon les 5 SPP des scientifiques du GIEC (c’est 5 scénarios possibles avec le changement climatique). Les histoires se passent dans le même cadre spatio-temporel et avec les mêmes personnages à chaque fois.
Bref, le concept est interessant mais les histoires en elles-mêmes ne le sont pas vraiment. Surtout les 2 premières, c’était compliqué de s’attacher aux personnages et surtout à l’histoire. Mais après c’était plutôt bien.
Au début et à la fin du livre, l’auteur parle de ses recherches etc (en non-fiction) et il explique plusieurs aspects scientifiques. Ces parties du livre m’ont beaucoup plu et je pense que je vais m’en servir pour mon grand oral.
Je recommande ce livre aux personnes qui sont touchées par le thème du changement climatique et qui sont intéressés par l’aspect fiction mais aussi celles qui sont intéressées par l’aspect scientifique.
Profile Image for Kurt.
641 reviews10 followers
May 3, 2022
Really appreciated the arc of powerfully- and vividly-imagined scenarios that ADH created here. Finished with the most utopian one today ("If we can do this, we can do asteroids!") out in the sun, right as a leaked draft to overturn Roe is circulating, with protests happening all over the country tonight—yet another reminder, as if we'd needed it, of the precariousness of progress. SSP1 feels hard to win, but that's no excuse not to try. SSP 3-5 are scary as hell! Great companion read to KSR's MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE, which ADH himself refers to in the afterword. Will spread the word about these stories and hope to teach at least two of these in class someday!
Profile Image for Becca.
85 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2022
3.75 stars, really, for the educational value and the very interesting way the author created these stories. Each of the futures were interesting and different and didn’t fall into any tropes. The very last future- the “best” one- did fall prey to some “preachy” tones, but then it recovered.
Profile Image for Isha G. K..
78 reviews16 followers
November 4, 2022
So smartly written, perfectly toeing the line between imaginary and informative. A detailed review to come.

My only complaint (to the publisher, not the writer who was kind enough about this) is that it's priced too high on Kindle, especially outside North America.

Profile Image for A.
56 reviews20 followers
February 19, 2022
A good companion to Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry of the Future.
77 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2022
Five possible futures for our planet. Very well done. Highly recommend.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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