Welcome to Eco-fiction.com, a site that freely promotes environmental authors’ works via book posts, interviews, reader-submitted reviews, bookshelves and a database, guest posts, author spotlights, and Green Reads (where authors may submit excerpts of their novels, prose, or nonfiction). This is a volunteer project, which accepts no payments for promotion nor has any ad revenue. The goal of this project is to raise awareness of the impact and diversity in storytelling that explores climate change and related ecological themes.
This site is a continuation of work I had been doing for years. From the time I could read, I was engrossed in fiction, but the stories that were close to nature were my favorites. Later, I double-majored in English and cultural anthropology at Purdue University, graduating in the mid-1990s; there I extended my studies in environmental prose and literature and in world mythology. In the late 1990s, I had a project on the web covering the nature writings of beat and SF Renaissance authors. In the early 2000s, I became the chief editor at Jack Magazine (now archived at Stanford), which provided an arc from mid-century to modern day literature. During the ten years of the project, co-founded by Michael Rothenberg, we republished poetry, prose, and art by Gregory Corso, Michael McClure, Peter Coyote, Angus MacLise, Ira Cohen, and others. We looked at the nature writings and teachings of people like Jack Collom, Philip Whalen, and Joanne Snyder. From there, in 2010 I began Moon Willow Press, which originally published debut novels and prose chapbooks by some of Jack‘s authors. The very small niche press currently focuses on environmental writings and donates a portion of sales to plant trees in economically and ecologically depressed areas–with over 1,130 trees planted; the press does not allow for waste and uses only fiber that is recycled or comes from sustainably managed forests.
In 2008, when I began writing my novel Back to the Garden, it was after a period of a decade or so when I was wondering how climate change could be explored in fiction. And I began researching novels that seemed to focus on it somehow. Later I discovered Jim Dwyer’s Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Ecofiction (University of Nevada Press, 2010). The guide recognized the concept of climate fiction and described it as cautionary or disaster fiction. Sadly, the author has died since; otherwise, I would love to talk to him.
I began this website in August 2013–surely one of my last big literary projects in life, outside of publishing and writing. This site began as clifibooks.com–climate fiction being one of the subgenres of eco-fiction that Dwyer approached in his studies and which had been around for decades. Note, if we think in terms of lexicons only, the term “climate fiction” has unclear origins and nobody seems to know when it first began, though Scott Thill and Dan Bloom have been key in abbreviating it to “cli-fi.” The concept of it–it referring to the examination of human-caused climate change in fiction–however, is not new, going back to the 1970s when scientists and authors recognized that human-caused global warming was happening. And before that were other novels that told stories of weather and climate events in particular (events differing from long-term global warming). To be sure, human impact on the environment since the beginning of time has been addressed in numerous novels and essays–with genres to describe these works being abundant throughout time. I am excited by the evolution of eco-fiction, by how authors and other artists are dealing with it in our modern era.
What storytelling does is to break the concept of global warming out of packaged ideas and scientific facts and into readers’ hearts by relating the human condition into a crisis that is unique for our time period, but which should not be didactic. This storytelling won’t work without an emotional response, and it is best told by very creative writers who bring unique and diverse approaches to the story. This diversity is something I am very interested in. While some argue that this fiction cannot be speculative and must be realistic, most scholars seem to agree that eco-fiction doesn’t have to contain traditional or contemporary realism, that post-naturalism or new nature writing is one idea, and that metaphorical approaches are valid for climate change and storytelling. I think also that most scholars do not include climate denialism within the scope of the reasoning behind this literature–that working off the basis of real science is important, no matter how far into the realm of allegory the story goes.
Long story short, I quickly found the clifibooks.com name to be too exclusive for what I was trying to do. I found that authors needed our own voices for talking about the fiction we were writing. I had gotten many emails from authors who called their works science fiction or speculative fiction or literary fiction and preferred these other genres. I read other authors’ websites about genre preferences. I read in-depth, wise articles warning against branding novels that explore climate change. I have stayed as neutral as possible on this site.
I learned more about ecological weird fiction and Anthropocene fiction as well. It was a learning experience, and continues to be! So, in the summer of 2014, after thinking on a change for several weeks, I changed the site’s name to eco-fiction.com (a larger and more inclusive umbrella), and it has been that ever since. I have found that climate exploration within literature is vast and varied, that it is found in multiple genres. That it doesn’t matter what you call it. That authors call it a lot of things, and there is no one authority to claim it or describe it. That maybe a PR headline works in some instances, but this site is not a PR site. Eco-fiction.com looks at various taxonomies and does not promote one genre over the other. It’s a given that this site covers climate and other ecologically oriented fiction, so the database lists the major genres within those categories.
I have spent a lot of time here talking about category of literature, which is, pardon the pun, just at the tip of the iceberg when explaining what this site is about. It’s too bad that I have had to go into such detail, but I am challenged to do so in order to speak for myself about the site. The fact is, this site wouldn’t be a site at all if it were about genre labels or just one genre label. This site digs in deeper to this field of literature. I think you’ll find that the large database of books, the books’ descriptions and reviews (made possible by a Goodreads plugin), the author spotlights, the reviews and academic studies, the interviews, and my own thoughts at the running blog–that these things underscore my vision of an open-minded perspective on the very diverse field of climate change in fiction.
This site remains the first and largest library on the web that explores novels about climate change and related environmental issues. While still not exhaustive, due to it being a volunteer project, the database has just hit 500 books, and now is going beyond that, and it feels really good to keep expanding this site with new ideas.
-Mary Woodbury, Curator
A more personal blog is at Running in the Anthropocene.
Affiliation: We are affiliates of Amazon and GoodReads and, for many books not introduced by their authors, we use a shortcode plugin. We use this shortcode in accordance with GoodReads’ and Amazon’s standards. Our curator is also a GoodReads librarian. Note: As we add new media (such as movies), we will also be using IMDB shortcode.
Memberships: Mary Woodbury is a member of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment and International League of Nature Writers.
Media: Because this project is a hobby, we are often surprised to get press. You can find more about eco-fiction.com or the novel Back to the Garden at Wired, various articles at the Free Word Centre, The Guardian, GOOD Magazine, Dissent Magazine, Amazing Stories, SFF World: Climate Fiction Panel, SFF World: Solarpunk Panel, Winnipeg Free Press, VOYA Magazine, Sustainable Business, EcoLit Books, Writing Forums, and more.
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Site images: The site’s banner rotates between a photo I took at Tofino, BC, along the Wild Pacific Trail, and others licensed for use by Can Stock Photo. Other images used are the animals on the book art, copyright by Sedakka; the flooded scene art, copyright by Sangoiri; the human in the desert with the flower, copyright by “Paddy the Golfer”; and the water covering the white floor, copyright by Vkovalcik. The tree logo and other web icons are licensed for use by Can Stock Photo.
Features: You might have noticed a slide show at Eco-Fiction. These books are rotated monthly and are chosen on the merits of good reviews and/or ratings, with an attempt to show a diverse sample.