My first outdoor walk this spring happened this past weekend. Since it isn’t possible to magically transport one’s readers to Toronto to experience this for themselves for half an hour, I’ll tell you exactly what it was like.
The wind had a slight cold snap to it, and I shuddered a little bit every time it blew against me.
There were still dirty patches of snow on the ground. They were especially noticeable in parts of my neighbourhood that don’t get a lot of sunlight in the average day.
The sunnier places where other snowdrifts had recently melted were now soggy puddles of cigarette butts, lost receipts, candy wrappers, and other small pieces of garbage.
A few people were bundled up in big, warm coats like it was still winter. Others had transitioned to lighter spring jackets.
Some of the dogs were still wearing their cold-weather jackets, too.
The ground was muddy in the places where it wasn’t paved over with cement. It was brown and dull just like the bare trees and most of the bushes.
But on the Other Hand….
There was no ice on the ground at all. I could walk as quickly as I wanted to without any fear of slipping and falling.
The temperature was warmer than it’s been in months.
No one was wearing toques, gloves, or scarves. Many people who were wearing heavier coats had left them unzipped. This isn’t something that happens when it’s truly cold outside.
Some of the dogs weren’t wearing any winter coats at all.
One guy was walking down the street while wearing running shoes, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt. I would have been chilly if I were him, but maybe he was from a much colder climate and found 10 C balmier than people in southern Ontario do.
When the sunlight touched my face, it felt warm. It’s always a happy surprise when that happens for the first time in the spring!
There were the beginnings of so many flowers poking up from the soil that I couldn’t begin to count them all. It’s too early for the majority them to have buds yet, but their stems were looking green and healthy.
I even saw two red flowers that had already begun to bloom. They must have either been recently transplanted from a warm indoor location or be varieties that don’t require many warm days at all before they bloom.
When I looked at the trees closely, I saw tiny buds on their branches.
Some parts of the sky were brilliantly blue. Toronto can go many weeks without a single clear day during the autumn and winter, so it was a thrill to look up and not see a thick layer of grey clouds overshadowing the sun and sky. It was like the world had doubled in size overnight.
Spring has finally, truly arrived in my city. I look forward to many long walks as the weather warms up. What are you looking forward to this spring?
Bats in Your Belfry. I think bats are incredibly interesting creatures both in real life and as symbols in horror novels. This post is about the former, and one of the reasons why I’m sharing it with you is so that I can also share the hashtag #AskanOPNaturalist with my readers. It’s amazing that we live in a time when ordinary people can have conversations about wildlife with naturalists and scientists. This isn’t the first hashtag I’ve seen that was designed to bring these two groups together, but I love seeing experts take the time to educate the general public.
Viral Rescue. Phages were something I’d heard of before, but I didn’t know what they were or how they worked. This article explained them beautifully, and it makes me wonder if phages won’t be something doctors will use more often in the future to treat antibiotic-resistant infections as the number of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics continues to grow.
How Not to Be an Asshole in National Parks. My first impulse was to say that most of these tips are common sense, but I was lucky enough to have parents who took their kids on hiking and camping trips where they explained this kind of stuff and modelled appropriate behaviour. People who didn’t have those same experiences think that feeding wild animals is a helpful thing to do or that it’s okay to drive through Death Valley without bringing emergency supplies.
Reading has always been one of my greatest joys in life. I’ve developed a real knack for finding things to read no matter where I go, and I’ve been known to read just about anything to pass the time. When I was a kid, I even read the phone book for the sheer fun of it! (Do phone books even still exist? I haven’t seen one in many years).
There are still countless books out there that I haven’t read yet. This includes plenty of classic novels, so today’s list is dedicated to all of the classics that I haven’t gotten around to picking up yet. Maybe someday I’ll make the time to read them. I’ve heard plenty of good things about everything on the list below, I just haven’t tried them for myself yet.
Spring was technically supposed to begin in Ontario almost a month ago, but I don’t think Old Man Winter ever received that memo. The last several weeks have been filled with snow, sleet, cold temperatures, and the annoyed mutterings of millions of Canadians who are beyond ready for a proper spring now.
While we’re waiting for the snow to melt away for good and the sun to eventually peek out from behind the clouds again, I’ve been thinking about how often climate change is talked about in the SFF genre. All of the books I’m about to discuss today show what happens to a civilization (or the lack thereof) long after the weather patterns destabilized and the seasons people thought they could count on became unpredictable.
1. The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Futureby Will Self.
It’s easy to forget what the past was really like when a society has to struggle to survive every day. This is even more true when it comes to documents that aren’t easy to understand to begin with and when the people reading them are only barely literate at all. This tale showed what happened when the journal of an frustrated cab driver was accidentally discovered five hundred years after his death and fashioned into a harsh, new religion.
The satirical elements made me laugh, but it also made me think about how easy it is to misinterpret something that was written a long time ago in a culture that was nothing at all like your own.
2. Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1) by Octavia E. Butler.
I must be honest with you here. Water isn’t something I ever worry about running out of in Ontario. It’s so abundant here that I can’t see us running out of it anytime soon.
Not everywhere on Earth is like this, though. There are places like California that are using water faster than it can be replenished. They’d be in trouble even if the climate in their area wasn’t already becoming drier than it has been before.
The characters in this book had to face the threat of running out of water at the same time their government collapsed, their home was destroyed, and their family was torn apart.
3. Mara and Dann A Novel by Doris Lessing.
Take the crises of one country in Parable of the Sower and expand them to the experiences of millions of people across an entire dying continent in the distant future.
This was actually the first science fiction book about climate change that I ever remember reading. The fact that it was told through the perspective of an orphaned and often painfully hungry child only made her observances of how climate change can destroy entire civilizations even more poignant. Mara and her brother did nothing to deserve all of the suffering they experienced, and yet that couldn’t save their parents’ lives or fill their stomachs with food when all of the rivers dried up and the crops failed.
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?by Philip K. Dick.
Climate change has already begun driving far more species to extinction than is typical in our world. How many more species we’ll lose forever depends on many factors, and I can’t even begin to guess what the final tally will be.
The interesting thing about the setting in this book is that it happened after humans have killed off so many other species that we began making robotic versions of various animals to keep us company. There were even robotic people who had no idea they were robots because they looked, felt, and sounded exactly like biological people.
It wasn’t addressed clearly in the plot from what I can recall, but I always wondered what everyone was eating to stay alive in this universe after all of the old ecosystems had been destroyed.
5. The Roadby Cormac McCarthy.
Only read this book if you’re comfortable with very dark and disturbing plots. I’m glad I read it once, but I was so saddened and horrified by certain plot twists that I don’t think I could stomach them again.
The Road could be the logical conclusion to any of the books listed above. It was set at a time when there were no plants and animals left on Earth and the few remaining humans were all slowly starving to death. The main character, an unnamed father, must try to keep himself and his young son alive against impossible odds.
What is your favourite science fiction or fantasy novel about climate change?
A few weeks ago, I blogged about the never-ending list of films I’d like to see someday.Into the Forest was the first movie from that list I’ve watched since then, and I liked it so much that I decided to review it today. This story does include a rape scene that I will be discussing briefly later on in this post, so consider this a spoiler warning and a trigger warning (if needed).
Into the Forest is a Canadian film based on a young adult book by the same title by Jean Hegland. It followed the lives of two sisters, Nell and Eva, after the west coast of the United States permanently lost power for unknown reasons and society fell apart.
One of the things that made this story unique was how few characters it has. While there were a handful of people who were briefly part of the time in Eva and Nell’s lives that was covered in this film, the vast majority of the storyline was about the complex relationship between these sisters and how hard they worked to survive on their own at their rural home.
Eva, the older sister, had been studying to become a professional dancer before the blackout. Nell, the younger sister, was preparing to take her SATs and apply for college. They were smart young women, but neither one of them had any experience in practical skills like hunting, first aid, farming, or self defence before this adventure began.
One of my favourite parts of this film was the strong pacing of it in the beginning. The electricity went out a few minutes into the story without any advanced warning, so the characters almost immediately needed to make major adjustments to their lifestyle. Nell and Eva had been so loved and sheltered that neither of them really understood how much their lives changed in that moment, but they were about to find out.
I’ll be honest with you: it took a while for these characters to grow on me. They were young and a little entitled in the beginning. I didn’t appreciate the way they complained about small inconveniences like not having enough spare power to play music when there were far more important things in be for them to be worried about.
With that being said, I adored the complex relationship between these sisters. Eva and Nell argued, played, dreamed, and schemed with each other just like all siblings have since the beginning of time. They had a bond that was stronger than anything else in their little world. Watching them both mature from girls into confident women together was a highlight of this story for me.
Since they hadn’t known that the blackout was coming, there was no logical way for their family to stock up on food, basic medical supplies, gasoline, or anything else that would have made their lives easier once all of the stores shut down. The few items they were able to buy shortly after the power grid failed were precious, but they were a drop in the bucket when compared to what this family actually needed in the longterm.
While I would have liked to see a little more character development, I did end up liking Nell and Eva quite a bit by the end. They proved just how resourceful they could be in a world where they could only rely on themselves and each other to stay safe. As young women who were living in an incredibly isolated area, they either had to learn to work together or risk dying alone from starvation, injuries, or the violent urges of other human beings.
Yes, that was a reference to the rape scene. I hated the fact that one of these characters had to add that traumatic experience to all of the other awful things they went through as they struggled to survive, but this is something that regularly happens to people even when police officers still exist and can be called for help. From what I’ve read, the risk of sexual assault skyrockets after disasters of any kind.
The foreshadowing in this film was really well done in general. It was subtle, but any attentive viewer could find satisfying hints about what will happen later on if they paid close attention to the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the storyline. Since this was originally written for teenagers, I liked the fact that there were so many hints about what these sisters were about to experience. It was the right choice for this age group.
I also appreciated the fact that Nell and Eva knew almost nothing about what was going on in the outside world. As much as I wanted to know what caused the power outage and whether cities and towns had begun to get back to normal after a year or two had passed, it made sense that two young people who were living in a house in the woods far away from the nearest community wouldn’t have any way of knowing for sure what was happening elsewhere or whether the few vague rumours they’d heard were at all true.
Potentially Sensitive Content
As I mentioned earlier on, this film does contain a rape scene. While it was shot in an artistic manner that focused on the victim’s face instead of more graphic material, this is something that viewers who are sensitive to this topic should be aware of in advance. The rape played an important role in what happened later on in the storyline, and it was referenced later on multiple times as the characters reacted to it and the victim healed from it.
The gore factor was pretty low in general, although one character did die in a brief but bloody accident early on and there was a hunting scene later on that showed a wild animal being butchered after it was shot.
Should You Watch It?
Yes, I would recommend watching Into the Forest to both teen and adult viewers. Due to the mature themes, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone under the age of fourteen.
Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. I’m a pretty quiet person in real life. One of the topics that I always like to talk about with anyone who is interested, though, is food. For example, I might ask you what your favourite food is or talk about a delicious meal I made… Read More
Here is this week’s list of comic strips, poems, and other links from my favourite corners of the web. Why I Love Maps via sbrown9710. Seventy percent of the reason why I’m including this link in today’s post is because my mother loves maps, too. She reads my blog, and there’s an excellent chance that this… Read More
Disclaimer: there are mild spoilers for the book and major spoilers for the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale in this post. How is it possible that almost an entire year has passed since the release of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale? It honestly feels like I just finished watching this show. I… Read More
The other day I learned something surprising about bananas. Did you know that bananas were nearly impossible to find anywhere in England during World War Two? As a perishable fruit that had to be imported, it simply wasn’t possible for the government to keep this food source available while there was a war going on.… Read More
Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Disclaimer: I haven’t read any of these books yet, so I can’t vouch for their content in any way. I’m sharing them only because their titles are eye-catching and made me giggle when I found them. 1. Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley. 2. HELP! A… Read More