Have you ever heard of ecofiction? Neither had I until about a year ago. Ecofiction is fiction where nature and/or our relationship with our physical environment plays a major role in the plot. Topics like climate change, conservation, illegal trade of endangered species, and environmental disaster are commonly represented (with climate fiction getting its own subgenre!).
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why in the world would I want to think about those topics in my free time? Isn’t reading supposed to be fun and escapist?” I hear you! But I have actually found it to be very comforting to see my thoughts, anxieties and fears reflected in the pages of a book in someone else’s words. Words that I might not have been able to formulate. To know that I am not alone with those thoughts is comforting to me. And ecofiction is not just a genre of dystopias! There are many books that look at the situation with hope and optimism and across all genres, from sci-fi and fantasy to romance and thriller. I have discovered some of my all-time favourite books through this genre. So, don’t let that scare you off!
Over lockdown, I started a little “keep me sane” project that plays on my passions for reading as well as science and science communication. I started a YouTube channel called Ecofictology (under a pen name because I’m an introvert at heart, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRrV-N233NVrzjz8UIWDcUA) which focuses on everything ecofiction. Since discovering this genre I have been absolutely amazed at its breadth and the diversity in which our environmental struggles are represented in fiction, something that I think is really important in taking steps towards normalising talking about inevitably depressing topics such as these. I have also found that reducing my doom-scrolling time and replacing it with reading has really helped me keep myself centred when places like Twitter have become so terrifying.
I realised that ecofiction has huge potential for science communication by highlighting the value of storytelling. Let’s be completely honest: the people who are reached by facts and figures about climate change or habitat destruction are people who are already on board. But wrap those facts and figures in an engaging narrative and you might reach people you normally wouldn’t. This is why I often refer to ecofiction as the ninja of science communication!
As lockdown continues, I really want to share this little coping mechanism I have discovered with as many people as I can, so I have started an Ecofiction Book Club. It is open to anyone and everyone who is interested, regardless what department or stage of study you are in! This will be a place where we can engage and interact with each other over a shared interest that is not work! Having hobbies outside of my PhD has been invaluable to me over the last year in keeping my spirits up.
So if you are interested in joining this book club and exploring some of these topics, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to the Teams group. Hope to see you there!