Arctic Rising

The Future is Hot, It’s Getting Hotter

Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell

By Tobias S. Buckell

William Gibson was famous for saying the future was here already, it was just unevenly distributed. A quote I’ve loved, as I grew up on a boat in the Caribbean. I remember that in a five year period starting at around ten years old, I lived that quote as I traveled from an isolated area in the developing world all the way to ending up living near a US city.

I was living a very isolated existence in the southern Caribbean where most of the Western world was a science fiction-like setting I saw on the television occasionally (I saw TV when ashore, not as much on the boat). When I moved to the US and British Virgin Islands I used my first elevator, saw my first department store, ate my first fast food meal (and threw up, my body couldn’t even make sense of it). Was exposed to computers. It was a new sort of world.

It wasn’t more than a few years later I took a jet to Washington DC to visit my stepdad’s parents. Flying over the eastern seaboard of the US reminded me of the city-wide planet of Trantor from Isaac Asimov’s novels. The highway system we saw as my new grandparents drove us from DC to Ohio blew my mind. In five years I’d moved from one existence, to another. Unevenly distributed futures is a phrase that is very personal to me.

When I decided to explore the nature of global warming for Arctic Rising one of the things I wanted to explore was that sort of complexity. The world is large and the future that isn’t here yet will still also be unevenly distributed, and the fall out from a changing climate will be as well. It’s not that water will dry up and places will get warmer. It’s that some places will have get more arable land, and others get drought. Some places will get more rain. More snow. Some places will be colder. There will be more storms. Some people are going to get rich. There will be an oil boom in the Arctic. There will be Arctic Tiger nations. And it’s going to be an interesting mess of human activity.

How will ordinary people live in this unevenly distributed future?  For most, the primary concerns will be the same as always: having enough food, water, and shelter.  For others, like Anika Duncan, a polar airship pilot from Nigeria and my main character, the world will be a complex and challenging place as she is caught up in a geo-political storm.


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