Climate Fiction Needs More Romance

An interview with Jamie Liu, this year's winner for the Imagine 2200 competition from Grist, featuring an excerpt from their winning piece.

Climate Fiction Needs More Romance
Illustration by Taj Francis for Grist

LISTENING: to the whole "A Walk to Remember" album
FEELING: excited to see my friends tonight
SEEING: all the gorgeous art of Grist's latest cli-fi collection

I'm a sucker for romance. Some might call me a hopeless romantic. I sob at even the lamest rom-com. When I watched "A Walk to Remember" as a teen, I made an entire MySpace custom layout dedicated to the film. "Only Hope" by Mandy Moore played on my page. Some of y'all may be judging me, but I have no shame. Stories of romance are powerful. They had a serious hold on 13-year-old, yet-to-be-kissed Yessenia.

On a more serious note, though: Love is a universal emotion. It's a desire most people understand. Everyone wants to fall in love, right?

Imagine my delight when I dove into "To Labor for the Hive," the first-place winner for this year's Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors contest from Grist. I look forward to this contest every year. This year's winner, however, opens up the short story with a little romance — and heartbreak. I was immediately sold.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, and I love climate fiction.

This year's winner, Jamie Liu, lives in New York City and works as a climate resilience planner in their day job. She also volunteers for Sunrise Movement NYC. She writes all types of fiction: short stories, novels, screenplays, and interactive fiction. They're from the San Gabriel Valley, a region with a large Asian-American population in Los Angeles. You can see those hints of home in the story.

They wrote a dope story that touches on many different facts. It opens with love, but it carries through other themes, as well. For my climate nerds, you'll find timely issues such as the extinction crisis, community science, a just transition, heat waves, and even artificial intelligence featured throughout.

Stories — especially fiction — play a critical role in shaping public perception of issues. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we need more books and novels and short stories that explore the emergency without beating us over the head with science and numbers.

We need characters. We need heartache. We need happy endings.

I asked Liu about their winning story. The interview is below. It's been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Keep reading for an excerpt of her short story. Definitely check out the whole thing. I couldn't put it down.

This one's for paid subscribers only. Maybe it's time for an upgrade?

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