No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save our Planet is an anthology of 24 cli-fi stories, edited by D.A. Baden. The anthology features stories from a number of prominent authors and was released ahead of COP27 in 2022.
The stories were provided for free for COP27 delegates to educate them about the plethora of climate solutions available and to help inspire climate action. A number of organisations helped put together the anthology, including Green Stories Project, Herculean Climate Solutions, Change Agents UK, the Climate Fiction Writers League, and the University of Southampton. Please note the following review contains spoilers.
Which authors and stories feature in the anthology?
There are 24 stories in No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save our Planet, including:
- Paolo Bacigalupi – Efficiency
- D.A. Baden, Martin Hastie, and Steve Willis – Climate Gamers
- D.A. Baden – The Pitch
- Rasha Barrage – Blue Nation
- Howard Gaukrodger – The Desert Spiral Initiative
- Sara Foster – The Envelope
- Kim Stanley Robinson – The Carboni
- Brian Burt – Oasis
- D.A. Baden – The Award Ceremony
- Nancy Lord – Come Help Me
- Steve Willis – Refreeze the Arctic
- Elizabeth Kurucz – Ground Up
- Martin Hastie and Steve Willis – Frackers
- D.A. Baden – The Assassin
- Andrew Dana Hudson – Our Shared Storm
- Kim Stanley Robinson – Drambers
- Brian Adams – Suck it up
- Martin Hastie – Mangrove Maj
- Kim Stanley Robinson – Project Slowdown
- Matthew Hanson-Kahn – The Caretaker
- Jenni Clarke – Mostly for You
- Lyndsey Croal – The Forest Awaits
- Steve Willis – Penang Fairhaven – A Visitor’s Guide
- Steve Willis, Martin Hastie, and D.A. Baden – Saving the Titanics
Professional writers had assistance from climate experts in developing their stories, which seems to be a great combination for effective science communication. The cli-fi stories span genres including sci-fi, family drama, romance, comedy, and tragedy.
Baden writes in the introduction that the purpose of the anthology is, “to inspire readers with positive visions of what a sustainable society might look like and how we might get there.” Each story also has a hyperlink to the Green Stories website, to find out further information about the climate solutions explored.
What are some of the highlights of No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save our Planet?
The fact that several prominent and award-winning cli-fi writers including Paolo Bacigalupi and Kim Stanley Robinson contributed to the anthology, immediately makes it stand out. Robinson contributed three separate stories, which were taken from chapters 22, 42 and 93 of The Ministry for the Future, a modern cli-fi novel which features fantastic climate solutions and ideas. I’ve previously reviewed The Ministry for the Future, so I won’t touch on those stories in this review. An extract of D.A. Baden’s novel, Habitat Man is also included.
The anthology kicks off with Bacigalupi’s story, Efficiency. This is a story about micro-grids versus the GLA, a corporation that provides energy and is powered by an AI called Lucy. This story is timely due to the rapid developments taking place in the field of AI. In the story, Lucy takes control of vehicles and smart switches to try get James’s dad’s attention. For context, James’s dad set-up the microgrids, and Lucy claims to want to optimise them. Lucy is also interested in self-preservation and is worried that the GLA might switch her off, so she wants to make a copy of herself on a server operated by James’s dad. This mimics some of the concerns around AGI (artificial general intelligence), and deftly weaves both the climate crisis and AI crisis into a page-turning sci-fi thriller story.
Climate Gamers by D.A. Baden, Martin Hastie, and Steve Willis is a unique and clever story about a climate game that has $5m in prize money. Teams compete to stabilise warming at 1.5C, the target agreed in Paris in 2015, by implementing a range of climate solutions. They’re the same choices our leaders face today, but which have yet to be implemented at the pace that the climate emergency demands.
Frackers by Martin Hastie and Steve Willis, highlights the problem of coal-seam fires. This is a significant issue, which doesn’t get much attention. The Guardian writes that carbon dioxide released from these fires makes up 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The story proposes to use existing fracking technology to fill the seams with water to permanently extinguish the fires.
The Assassin by D.A. Baden is in my opinion one of the most important stories in the anthology, with a crucial climate solution that may overcome the inertia of our political leaders. It’s about a citizen’s jury (similar to a citizen’s assembly) which has eight people involved. Each of these characters has their own backstory and is dealing with their own challenges. Together they must decide on what solutions humanity should implement to tackle the climate crisis. Some of the solutions mentioned in the story include personal carbon allowances, carbon offsetting, a library of things, on-demand buses, sustainable farming and a wellbeing index.
Howard Gaukrodger’s The Desert Spiral Initiative, is an emotional story about sustainable farming techniques in desert regions. In the story, this technique was going to be applied to grow 50 million trees in the Western Desert (Egypt) and thereby help afforest barren land. The concept of Desert Spirals and drawing on local communities to create and maintain them was fascinating. Solutions like this appear to be a win-win for all concerned.
Saving the Titanics by Steve Willis, Martin Hastie, and D.A. Baden, is the final story in the collection and one of the most interesting. It focuses on the story of the Titanic, but it presents ways that the real life story could have turned out differently. In one version, all life onboard is saved because several individuals came together and used their inidividuals skills and experience to come up with a unique solution. In another version, those individuals not only saved everyone onboard, but also managed to save the vessel itself. It showed that by working together and harnessing our unique skills, we can tackle any problem. It also dealt with the subject of eco-anxiety, which is becoming more prevalent as the climate and ecological crises worsen.
Another highlight was the diverse range of climate solutions mentioned in the stories. These included:
- Artificial trees
- Citizen juries
- Coal-seam firefighting
- Community-owned energy
- Coral planting
- Eco-friendly cleaning products
- Mangrove terraces
- Ocean as a nation
- On-demand buses
- Personal carbon allowances
- Refreezing the Arctic
- Right to repair
- Seagrass and kelp
- Sustainable farming
- The library of things and the sharing economy
- Wellbeing index
Cli-fi and No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save our Planet
“Everyone thinks that it’s governments or banks who have the power, but it’s culture and writers and stories that affect how we think, who we want to be, what we aspire to.”
Stories have the power to change the world, and reach people in ways that facts simply can’t. This is something I’ve written about in Mongabay and The Bookseller. The ways that stories can change minds is briefly explained in No More Fairy Tales; “Fictional role models are especially influential. Through a process that we call narrative transportation, viewers who identify with a character will absorb their values uncritically and subliminally, affecting their behaviour and aspirations without them even being aware of it.’”
Stories therefore affect people on a deeper level. As such, I think it was a fantastic idea to make these stories free for delegates of COP27. Especially as these stories showcase a diverse range of solutions and their implementation. I hope delegates took advantage of this opportunity and read the book. I hope that the stories and ideas stick with the delegates. And I hope that those ideas end up inspiring the representatives to bring about the structural changes that we desperately need to tackle the climate crisis.
“Between catastrophe and triumph lie the smallest things.”
There have been several cli-fi anthologies released in the past, but I believe this ranks as one of the best. The stories are largely grounded in the present. They feature a range of solutions. They steer away from dystopian narratives which can alienate people. And they leave the reader feeling optimistic about how we can get out of this mess we’re in. Some of the solutions discussed seem so logical, that one wonders how they haven’t been implemented already; the library of things and the right to repair, being prime examples.
Cli-fi has a big role to play in changing minds and attitudes and bringing about climate action. I believe No More Fairy Tales shows how short stories and anthologies can do just that, alongside outstanding novels such as The Last Bear by Hannah Gold. Stories shape who we are and how we behave, and these books show us how to be the people we need to be and the solutions we need to implement to tackle the climate emergency.
My new cli-fi children’s picture book, Nanook and the Melting Arctic is available from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US. My eco-fiction children’s picture book, Hedgey-A and the Honey Bees about how pesticides affect bees, is available on Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.