“Imagining Climate Change: Science & Fiction in Dialogue”

  February 17–18, 2016

  University of Florida

  Gainesville, FL


2016posterpondAs we move into an era of increased climate instability, scientific analysis of climate change is central to our understanding of physical systems of our planet and the impact of these systems on human life. Science fiction (sf), the distinctive literary form of our time, bridges elite and popular cultures and broadly engages enthusiasts and scholars alike in the work of imagining our possible futures. These areas of scientific, intellectual, and artistic inquiry – climate studies and sf – converge in the new field of “climate fiction”: print and graphic fiction and film grounded in scientific realities of environmental change, and projecting the resulting transformations of our societies, politics, and cultures.

“Imagining Climate Change” will engage authors, filmmakers, scholars, scientists, and the general public in the vital work of imagining our collective climate futures. The Spring 2016 ICC colloquium will bring award-winning and influential French and American sf authors and climate scientists to the University of Florida to dialogue with UF faculty and researchers in the humanities, climate studies, and water management, and to explore new ways of representing and responding to environmental change. Our conversations will aim at a better understanding of potential collaborations between science, fiction, and art on one of the most pressing global crises of our time.


Schedule of Events

Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, Reitz Union Grand Ballroom (map)

1:30–3 PM

Welcome and introduction by Dr. W. Kent Fuchs, President, University of Florida, and Cynthia Barnett, Hearst Visiting Professional, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida

“Imagining Climate Change” – Plenary Session of the 5th Biennial Symposium of the UF Water Institute, roundtable featuring ICC guest speakers Tobias Buckell, Jay Famiglietti, Ellen E. Martin, Yann Quero, and Jeff VanderMeer, moderated by Terry Harpold

Note: the plenary roundtable is jointly sponsored by the ICC co-sponsors (see the credits at the bottom of this page) and the UF Water Institute, and is part of the official program of the Water Institute Symposium. The roundtable is free and open to the public. Anyone may attend the roundtable without having registered for the Symposium.


The ICC opening roundtable, including President Fuchs’ welcome address and Cynthia Barnett’s introduction, can be viewed online from the “ICC Films” page.


Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, Smathers Library 100 (Library East) (map)

1:30–2 PM

Registration, coffee & light refreshments

2–5 PM

Welcome and introduction by Alioune Sow, Center for African Studies, University of Florida; Director, France-Florida Research Institute

“Eco-Fictions” – Christian Chelebourg (Université de Lorraine)
Respondent: M. Elizabeth Ginway, Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, University of Florida

The Day After Tomorrow – Using Past Ocean Circulation to Imagine the Future” – Ellen E. Martin (University of Florida)
Respondent: Phillip Wegner, Department of English, University of Florida

“Arctic Rising” – Tobias Buckell
Respondent: Andrew Zimmerman. Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida

7–7:30 PM

Registration, coffee & light refreshments

7:30–10:00 PM

Welcome and introduction by Alioune Sow

“The Future Will No Longer Be What It Once Was” – Yann Quero
Respondent: Terry Harpold, Department of English, University of Florida

“After the Anthropocene” – Jeff VanderMeer
Respondent: Andrea Lucky, Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida

Closing remarks by Terry Harpold

All events are presented in English or in simultaneous English translation and are free and open to the public. No advance registration is required.


Recommended Readings by and About the Guest Speakers

Follow the links below for short scientific and literary texts, excerpts from longer works, and print and video interviews about their work in climate science and climate fiction.

About the Guest Speakers

Cynthia Barnett. Environmental journalist and Hearst Visiting Professional, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida. Author of Rain: A Natural and Cultural History (2015, nominated for the National Book Award and the 2016 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award), Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis (2011), and Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. (2008).

Tobias Buckell. Born in the Caribbean, New York Times bestselling science fiction author and futurist. His novels and over 50 short stories have been translated into 17 languages and he has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Prometheus Awards, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. His Arctic Rising series (now in its third installment) fuses science fiction with espionage thriller, centering on the international jockeying for access to the mineral wealth of the warming Arctic seas and the devastating effects of climate change on island nations.

Christian Chelebourg. Professor of Literature at the Université de Lorraine and Director of the Centre d’Études Littéraires Jean Mourot. A specialist in the literary fantastic and contemporary popular literature, his many publications include Jules Verne, l’œil et ventre (1999), L’Imaginaire littéraire (2000), and Le Surnaturel – Poétique et écriture (2006). His 2012 book Les Écofictions: Mythologies de la fin du monde [Ecofictions: Mythologies of the World’s End] is the first major French-language study of climate fiction.

Jay Famiglietti. Hydrologist, Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, and the Senior Water Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He and his team have been researching and communicating about water and climate change – in academics, in business, in government and to the general public – for over 25 years. He has appeared as a featured expert in the water documentary Last Call at the Oasis, on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, and on Real Time with Bill Maher.

W. Kent Fuchs became the 12th President of the University of Florida in January 2015. He came to UF from Cornell University, where he served most recently as Provost, and previously as Dean of the Cornell College of Engineering. Before that, he was the head of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University and a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois. President Fuchs is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ellen E. Martin. Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida. A paleoceanographer and paleoclimatologist, she is interested in the relationship between ocean circulation and climate in the past. She is currently a University of Florida Research Foundation Professor and Co-director of the Florida Climate Institute at UF.

Yann Quero. French journalist, science fiction novelist and anthologist. His novels Le Procès de l’Homme Blanc [The Trial of the White Man, 2005] and L’Avenir ne sera plus ce qu’il était [The Future is not What It Was, 2010] deal with a late twenty-first century Earth in crisis, as climate change has destroyed world political and economic orders and invited genocidal solutions. He is editor of the anthology Le Réchauffment climatique et après [Global Warming and After, 2014], the first collection of short fiction on climate change in French.

Jeff VanderMeer. A speculative fiction writer with an interest in weird biology and the environment. In addition to his best-selling post-human Southern Reach Trilogy, he is the author of several novels tackling ecological and postcolonial issues. Nonfiction regularly appears in the Guardian, Atlantic.com, Washington Post, and New York Times. Winner of the Nebula Award, Shirley Jackson Award, and the World Fantasy Award (4 times). He is currently working on a book-length study of science fiction’s response to “the slow apocalypse.”

About the Respondents and Moderators

M. Elizabeth Ginway. Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, University of Florida. Author of Brazilian Science Fiction: Cultural Myths and Nationhood in the Land of the Future (2004), a collection of essays Visão Alienígena [Alien Vision] (2010), and co-editor of Latin American Science Fiction: Theory and Practice (2012) with J. Andrew Brown. She is currently working on a book-length study of Mexican and Brazilian science fiction. She is co-founder of UF’s Science Fiction Working Group.

Terry Harpold. Associate Professor of English, University of Florida. Author of Ex-foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path (2008) and co-editor of Collectionner l’Extraordinaire, sonder l’Ailleurs. Essais sur Jules Verne en l’honneur de Jean-Michel Margot (2015). He is currently working on a book-length study of intermedial “relays” in Jules Verne’s illustrated fiction. He is co-founder of UF’s Science Fiction Working Group.

Andrea Lucky. Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida. An entomologist and biodiversity scientist with a focus on the evolution of ants. She is specifically interested in understanding how diversification and dispersal have led to distribution patterns we see today. As a founding director of the School of Ants citizen science project, a major goal of her work is to make science accessible and available to the general public, particularly to make the process of “doing” science accessible to non-scientists.

Alioune Sow. Associate Professor of French and African Studies, University of Florida; Director of the France-Florida Research Institute. Author of Vestiges et vertiges: Récits d’enfance dans les littératures africaines (2011), his research interests are in Francophone African literature and film and postcolonial African cultural production.

Phillip Wegner. Professor and Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar, Department of English, University of Florida. Author of Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity (2002), Life Between Two Deaths: U.S. Culture, 1989-2001 (2009), Periodizing Jameson: Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative (2014), and Shockwaves of Possibility: Essays on Science Fiction, Globalization, and Utopia (2014).

Andrew Zimmerman. Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, With over 120 publications, his area of research is carbon cycling in soils, sediments and aquatic systems. In addition to developing and teaching “Climate Change Science and Solutions,” a UF Grand Challenges Core course, he teaches “Introduction to Oceanography,” “Sustainability and the Changing Earth,” and “Organic Geochemistry and Geobiology.”


Spring 2016 ICC Colloquium poster by Madeline Gangnes