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Science Fiction and Climate ChangeA Sociological Approach$
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Andrew Milner and J.R. Burgmann

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621723

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621723.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

Ice, Fire and Flood: A Short Pre-history of Climate Fiction

Ice, Fire and Flood: A Short Pre-history of Climate Fiction

(p.1) Chapter 1 Ice, Fire and Flood: A Short Pre-history of Climate Fiction
Science Fiction and Climate Change

Andrew Milner

J.R. Burgmann


This chapter argues that catastrophic climate change fictions have been organised around three main tropes: the new ice age, the burning world and the drowned world. Of these, only the last has a deep history in the Western mythos, dating back to stories of a Great Flood in Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh. When modern science fiction (SF) began to take shape in the early nineteenth century, it inherited a preoccupation with the Flood from its parent cultures, for example, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, Richard Jefferies’s After London and Jules Verne’s Sans dessus dessous. This flood motif continued to be important in American pulp SF. Cooling and warming are more recent preoccupations, dating from the widespread acceptance of ice age theory and greenhouse theory in the late nineteenth century. For most of the twentieth century both science and SF were more interested in cooling. But in the closing quarter of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first, widespread scientific concern that anthropogenic warming might more than offset longer-term cooling led to the development of contemporary ‘cli-fi’, concerned primarily with the effects of global heating.

Keywords:   Gilgamesh, Genesis, Shelley, Jefferies, Verne, Pulps, Cooling, Warming, Cli-fi

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