While making a documentary about a sacrificial ritual, a grieving mother comes to terms with the untimely loss of her daughter.
This was exquisite, beautifully written and compelling. Not much more I can add I’m afraid 😂
My vote’s for Shia.
Finally I've read this & it did not disappoint! I love how you set the scene with lush kelp forests vs. hot desert wasteland. The culture of Japanese immigrants was very interesting to me as well, I think you captured the mixture of old & new very well. And the ending! I did not see it coming but I love the continuity of Shia & Lucius going on to lead their own life & have children. The cycle continues.
It took me far too long to make time to read this breathtaking story. You should not make the same mistake. Claudia renders a tragically beautiful world so complete and immersive that it feels sensual even as it’s breaking your heart.
This is something I rarely experience when reading science fiction. Too often, the “science” tips the balance of the scales leaving a story void of humanity. The story follows a grieving mother as she’s filming a documentary about a voluntary human sacrifice set as a counterbalance to pay for the sins of the generations before who ravaged the natural world leaving it a barren wasteland.
Claudia’s descriptions of the detail in this future world are both lush and spare making it a pleasure to read. She achieves something all of us fiction writers aspire to in how she’s able to light up the brains of readers making us feel as if we’re watching an elegantly produced film.
This story deserves to be read by a much wider audience for so many reasons, but mostly because it’s just a pleasure to read.
Most welcome, Claudia. Looking forward to reading more!
Finally had the time to read part ii. I read part I some time ago, so when Nova started to talk into the mike with no one there I needed a moment to remember that she is recording herself for the docu. That's on me. Wonderful conclusion, Claudia. I vote for Lucius.
OK, I have read both parts. I liked the first more than the second.
It's good, you can turn a phrase and paint a picture. It's just "preachy". A tad heavy handed in the messaging.
Who is your audience? Who do you want to read this?
It will appeal to people who believe in Climate Change and are already attuned to your message. But, it's not going to get much traction outside of a pretty small niche. You are preaching to the choir and that's about all who are going to listen.
Consider the "Climate Novel in History". Which you are right, we put this topic in the sci-fi ghetto. Where cultures obliquely talk about things they don't want to talk about openly. Anyway, here are some examples of Cli-fi books in the sci-fi genre. Let's consider them.
Fallen Angels (1992)
by Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Michael Flynn
Two Space Hab astronauts are shot down over the North Dakota glacier by the new Eco-totalitarian government given carte blanche to control the greenhouse effect.
If you don't know who these guys were, then you don't know much about sci-fi from the 60's/70's/80's. These guys were hugely influential. In this book, they became "Global Warming Deniers". They stated that, contrary to "alarmist" fears there was actually going to be another ice age. They pushed the theory that Milankovitch Cycles controlled the Climate and it was going to get colder.
You still find Climate Change Deniers who believe this idea. This book influenced a lot of sci-fi readers.
State of Fear (2004)
Michael Crichton (better known for Jurassic Park)
A techno-thriller novel by Michael Crichton, whose villain falsifies scientific studies to justify draconian steps to curb global warming. Basically, eco-terrorists plot mass murder to publicize the danger of global warming and scare the world into accepting an Eco-Dictatorship.
Crichton is another "Climate Denier". This book was on the best seller list. Climate Deniers bring up Crichton all the time.
"Crichton, who has studied the issue extensively, rejects many of the conclusions reached by the National Academy of Sciences and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—for example, he does not believe that global temperature increases in recent decades are most likely the result of human activities". Jan 28, 2005 Brookings Institute
Natures End (1986)
Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka
It is 2025 and the planet is rapidly approaching environmental death. Dr. Gupta Singh, a Hindu guru with a Jim Jones-like following, has proposed the suicide, by lottery, of one-third of the world's population. His followers have elected a Depopulationist majority in Congress. ...
If you can find this book you should read it. It's eerily spot on about today's climate reality. It's a very good read and was also influential. Stieber was an up and coming sci-fi star but got derailed after he wrote a book on Alien Contact. He went waaaaay down that rabbit hole and lost all credibility. It's a shame, this book is brilliant.
The Ministry of the Future (2020)
Kim Stanley Robinson
Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry for the Future is the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come.
Well, if you haven't read this, then you need to. It's the Cli-fi book of the last decade that is already a classic. Also, incredibly well researched and insightful.
None of these books is as directly "preachy" as your story feels. It turns people off and feels a little forced. As if you forced the story to give you the setting to make your speech.
As someone with a doctorate in anthropology, I found your sacrifice ritual believable and consistent with practices in many cultures across space and time.
Why would wood be gone completely?
I agree that most of the worlds trees will burn and many will go extinct without human intervention. But why would ALL wooden artifacts have vanished? That seems improbable yet is a major point in your story.
Also, how much sea level rise do you think will happen?
Even if both poles melted completely, and ALL the glaciers, sea level would only rise about 300 feet. That's not enough to make Japan uninhabitable. Not unless something else like a radiation disaster or major earthquakes destroy significant parts of it.
You need to do a little more world building and backstory to flesh things out. You mention the "Data Wars" but no dates or other information. There's not enough context to place this moment in time and so it feels disconnected and didn't draw me in.
I liked the first part better.
Your descriptions are absolutely lovely, Claudia. I don't think I've read any climate fiction set so far in the future, and I enjoyed the ideas you put forth about what life might be like there, and what it might be worth. Thanks for sharing! And I agree with the others, I think a future letter from Shia would be the most interesting. 😊
“The gentle strokes of the drums now resemble the muted sound of rain on a metal rooftop. A soft hum rises from the crowd, and the limbs of the chosen ones seem to grow heavier and heavier, their heads bobbing.”
You have such a gift for word building and description! Nova’s story was compelling the whole way through. Remarkable work, truly.
My vote is Lucius!
Staggeringly beautiful and moving. I ... I don't think I have anything to say. This was just incredible, so vivid, so much present here in the history, the ritual, Nova's emotions bleeding through the text. It's a perfect two-part story.
My vote would be Shia. Either a letter from just before this, or long after.
(The only edit I spotted/wondered was I think you need a " ' " speech mark at the start of the new paragraphs when Nova is still narrating to the microphone. Unless I'm misreading those.
Oh, and that's a brilliant way to handle the exposition, by the way.)