Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews I’m with the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] edited by Mark Martin, introduction by Bill McKibben, with Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Kim Stanley Robinson, &al.
This 2011 anthology is made up of short fiction concerned with climate change, extinction, and environmental collapse. Two contributions, the ones by Lydia Millett and Kim Stanley Robinson, are excerpts from previous novels, while two others by David Mitchell and Paolo Bacigalupi seem to have been advance work for novels they later completed and published (The Bone Clocks and The Water Knife, respectively).
Of the ten stories collected here, three are set in the present or recent past. These are concerned with the futility of protest-based activism against environmental depredation and with the unbalancing of the human mind in the face of non-human extinctions.
Another six stories are set in the relatively near future; 2040 is the specified date for two of the stories, and these seem to be the far boundary of the set. All of these depict varying types and stages of social collapse as a result of environmental exhaustion and climate change, in the (former) UK, US, and Italy. All are plausible, none are cheering, and easily the bleakest is “Diary of an Interesting Year” by Helen Simpson.
The collection concludes with Margaret Atwood’s three-page “Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet,” which doesn’t offer anything like hope. I was a little galled that this set of narrative fictions held out even less consolation than Roy Scranton’s book-length essay Learning to Die in the Anthropocene.