Sunday, March 16, 2014

FOGcon, Cli-Fi, and Wattpad

FOGcon has come and gone, and along with it my first appearance on a panel at a SF/F convention. Yay, I’m no longer a virgin! The convention itself was fantastic. It was great to catch up with Tim Powers, one of the guests of honor, and I learned a lot from attending the panels I wasn’t involved in. One panel in particular, “Manic Pixie Angel,” really opened my eyes to the inadvertent sexism and prejudice common in fiction. Seanan McGuire, the other guest of honor, was hilarious and insightful in the discussion. Afterward, I gave a lot of thought to my female characters in Dreamwielder, and was relieved to come away knowing they all stood up as strong characters, independent of the male characters in the story.

For the Sunday morning panel I participated in, “Do Pessimists Dream of Dystopian Sheep?” I was a little disappointed in how well I articulated my thoughts on climate change. Blame it on the time change, the fact that I was only running on a few hours of sleep after meeting up with friends and family over the weekend, or simply chalk it up to nerves. Whatever it was, I felt like I was babbling. The idea I was trying to convey is that we already live in a very Bradbury-esque dystopia: while we’re being entertained with reality TV shows and the newest iPhone apps, the world is becoming increasingly inhospitable, and if we continue to ignore our addiction to fossil fuels we’ll be responsible to our own demise. That’s what I meant to say. What actually came out of mouth, I have no idea. Luckily, the other panelists and our moderator, Mary Anne Mohanraj, were great (not the first rodeo for any of them), and I’d like to thank them all. Next time I promise to do better!

Since I didn’t exactly champion the cause of tackling climate change in the panel, I wanted to make sure to participate in the ongoing cli-fi (climate fiction) blog tour started by Danny Bloom, the gentleman who coined the term cli-fi. Here’s the four questions he’s sent out to cli-fi authors and my responses as part of the blog tour:

1. What am I working on now, or just finished?

I’m currently working on two books. The first is The Faceless Enemy, the sequel to my epic fantasy novel Dreamwielder. I’m definitely playing with the idea that human technology (in this case, steampunk technology) is at odds with the natural order of things, but it’s not the main underlying conflict in story. My other novel in the works, Remember the Future, is a full on cli-fi novel. It’s set in the near future and chronicles the struggles of a family trying survive as homesteaders in the face of harsh climate change. I also have written an article calling on spec-fic writers to take a larger role in addressing how we can survive climate change. Hopefully, the article will be coming out soon.

2. How does my work fit into the cli fi genre?

At the very minimum, all my work has the underlying theme that humans should strive to be stewards of our world, not simply exploit it. With Remember the Future, though, the story is explicitly set here on Earth, about ten years into the future, when harsh weather patterns have really put a strain on the world’s global economies. The book is set in northern California, but the reader will feel the weight of imminent collapse pervading civilization everywhere. Climate change doesn’t just change local eco-systems and devastate poor nations. It puts a huge strain on nations that are banking on continual economic growth and expansion (i.e. all westernized nations). At some point very soon, climate change will lead to shortages of basic necessities like food and water in “first world” nations, and when that happens, say goodbye to further economic growth. Compound that with the cost of responding to more frequent weather related disasters, and you have a recipe for full-on economic collapse, which could be just as devastating as the weather related disasters themselves.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Well, I have a crazy imagination and have always been a storyteller. The key to being a professional author is writing stories that are compelling and entertaining for the reader, so that’s a big part of it for me. Climate change is the biggest danger to human existence since the Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust. You don’t get more drama than that, and that’s what’s drawn me back into the literary and mainstream genre from sci-fi and fantasy. Climate change is rife with danger, and it is real. I think it’s irresponsible to not write about it. I know individually I’m incapable of solving the big systematic problems fueling climate change, but if I can make readers understand the challenges we face at a more profound level, who knows what they can go out and do?

4. How does my writing process work? Explain your writing days and nights. How do you work? How do you outline or plan the story?

I’m not to the point yet where I make a living solely off my writing. That means I squeeze my writing time in whenever I can between teaching writing courses and other freelance jobs. In the past I was a big outliner, but now I’m more confident in writing novels and take an organic approach. I do whatever background research I need to, whatever world building I need to do, and then I set my characters into action with some sort of inciting incident. From there, the characters make the big decisions. I just throw lots of obstacles in their way!

There you have it. Make sure to visit Cli Fi Central Too to read the responses from other cli-fi authors.

In unrelated news, I’m very honored to have my fantasy novelette, The Knight’s Dog, be a featured e-book over at Wattpad. Wattpad has a great community of readers and writers and the response to my story has been all overwhelmingly positive. You can read the story for free on their website or with the Wattpad app, or if you prefer to go the traditional route with your Nook or Kindle, it’s available for both  e-readers for only 99 cents.

That’s all for me! I have two novels to finish, another novelette to edit, a vegetable garden to tend to, and a heap of grading. Until next time, cheers!

-Garrett Calcaterra

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