Sensual Storytelling

Donna Glee Williams, author of fantasy novel The Night Field, talks to Marjorie B. Kellogg, author of the science fiction dystopia Glimmer.

DONNA GLEE: Hi, Marjorie—

When I read a book, questions always bubble up that I wish I could ask the author. I’m delighted that our Climate Fiction Writers pairing gives me a chance to ask you about your impressive 2021 near-future dystopia Glimmer (DAW, 2021). In the novel, you go to considerable pains to explore the physical, social, and psychological realities of a world reshaped by cataclysmic climate change.  Why do you think it’s important to commit this act of imagination and to show that world to your readers?

MARJORIE: Hello, Donna Glee—

Wonderful to have the chance to talk with you about our books!  As for world-building, I have always been drawn to expressions of the senses, to color and texture, smell and sound.  And because, as living beings, we share the sensual experience, this seems to offer a compelling common language for storytelling. Even when writing in the fantasy genre, these have been my touchstones, with the aim of making the world of the book as alive and immediate, and therefore, as convincing, to the reader as possible.

And ‘convincing’ matters when it comes to climate fiction because I feel people have distanced the whole subject of climate change because it’s too big and in many ways too abstract for them to come to grips with, to find their personal relationship with, even though it’s going to impact them on a daily basis.  Turning your eyes away from something generally leads to ignorance and inaction.  So, in Glimmer, my goal was to imagine the reality of climate change, to bring it right home, by evoking a place that is familiar (a New York City that could be any city) but changed by circumstances not too hard for the reader to put themselves in.  If they can feel that place wrapping its sensual realities around them as they read, surely they can better grasp the truths of climate change as it will affect their own, very personal future.

Read the full conversation at the Climate Fiction Writers League on Substack.