Saturday, October 21, 2017

An Interview with cli-fi novelist Tim Cadman in Australia, author of "The Changes"

Tim Cadman BA (Hons) MA (Cantab), PhD (Tasmania), Grad. Cert. Theol. (Charles Sturt)
Research Fellow, Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law
Griffith University
Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland
Senior Research Fellow, Earth Systems Governance Project


''THE CHANGES'' part 1
DAN BLOOM: This is your first novel. What inspired you or motivated you to want to sit down and write a novel with climate change issues?

TIM CADMAN:  One of the most frustrating things about being an academic (writer), is that you can’t really express emotion. Academic writing is a journeyman profession: creation of a tool designed to ‘do’ something. I often share my frustrations with a friend who writes for television. In their, and my, line of work, we write to formulae – externally imposed.I have been an environmental activist for most of my life (I am now 52). I found that when I was an environmental NGO, I had a lot of power and no credibility; now I am an academic I have a lot of credibility – and no power. As a writer of fiction, I don’t care. Our little planet is under major threat – by us. I want to use all the skills I have to reach as many people as I can, to save the day (I have never stopped believing we can all make a difference). In my day job I do what I can (now, and as an NGO in the past at the frontline blockades). If writing makes the difference, so be it. Personally, I also need to think through the big issues of our time without being constrained by footnotes or citations – fiction lets me do that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t do my research. I just don’t have to provide a bibliography.

QUESTION:  What's your day job, where do work, and what do you do all day?

CADMAN: I like to boast that I am a ‘hen’s tooth’: a research-only academic. My life is spent in three places: in the field, mostly in developing countries imperilled by climate change; at my (home) desk writing about environmental sustainability, climate change and governance; or at university (I go as often as is needed not to be forgotten). Thanks be to the forces of the universe, I am not trapped in administrivia (the major issue facing contemporary, post-modern academics). My NGO background has given me a deep understanding of what it means to be powerless, which is the situation for most people in developing countries (and I mean even more so than citizens in ‘western’ democracies). From governments through to local communities, everybody is victim to ‘aid’ or ‘development’. I spend most of my time helping make sure that sustainable development, whether this is for tackling climate change, or managing natural resources, happens in a way that truly benefits the on-ground national and community contexts. Developed country agencies really only care about spending the money in the budgetary cycle, not solving the problem. I spend most of my life working with everyone sorting out how to do both.
QUESTION: Is  your novel cli-fi or sci-fi or what?  In your POV, what's the difference?

CADMAN:  Ha. What a question. Everything is about genre. And of course, all genres that have life, bifurcate. And then comes the question as to what came first: science fiction, or speculative fiction? From my perspective, all non-faction has two objectives: to pre-empt and/or predict. Arthur C Clarke predicted the ‘wireless world’; Isaac Asimov generated the Three Laws of Robotics. Good CliFi in my opinion seeks to predict and preempt, hence my humble offering. Of course it is in the SciFi tradition, but it inevitably has SF proportions: we don’t actually know what is going to happen – models are only models.

QUESTION: Who is your target audience? Australians? Brits? Which nations?

CADMAN:  I was born in the UK, and studied the origins of the English language at university. So I am forced to write as a Brit by birth. But as an adopted son of Australia I have the flexibility to be a bit of a bastard. In The Changes, I have made use of my multi-polar background. I write about a French bureaucrat, who of course speaks English, a Balinese boy who by force of circumstance falls into a post-Europe ambit, and a British goof (Americanism) who lives 200 years in the future. I am hoping ''The Changes'' will be translated into multiple languages, but it is seeded with a lot of linguistic challenges for the translators…

QUESTION: Your book launch will be in the UK. Why there?

CADMAN:  My book is a pastiche/homage to EuroLand. In the future I write about, the United Nations has broken down into the United Nation States of the US (UNSUS) and the old European states, mostly flooded, organised as the Coalition of Non Aligned Nations (CONAN). No so far from the present, eh? As a two-year old I remember the debates about Britain joining the ‘Common Market’. Europe is the most ambitious collectivity of socio-political interaction that the planet has ever seen. Its existence is critical to our planetary survival. Why? It represents an alternative model to the unitary nation-state (the most dangerous phenomenon that humanity has ever seen). I can’t help where I was born, but I can certainly certainly write about the values that are precious to me: liberty, democracy, autonomy, solidarity. English is the best language to write that in. Given the whole Brexit shemozzle, I live in a wonderful intertidal zone, and I am grateful for my native language. I don’t want to ‘dis’ America (technically speaking, its version of English is older than that spoken in England), but its SciFi is weak (albeit readable). The British (especially Scottish) SciFi heritage is something to which I unashamedly want to connect myself. It is massive.]

QUESTION: What kind of book promotions will you do? Radio? TV? Newspapers interviews ?

CADMAN:  I am doing the best I can. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn are all about the commodifcation of social relationship. I have been obliged to use them all. But I am under no illusions that I will get anywhere close to reaching the audience I think should read my book (and the sequels). I am a great believer in the maxim that ‘face to face is the broadest bandwidth’. I will read to, talk to, write to, Skype with, whatever, anybody who is prepared to listen. Two weeks ago I was in Dhaka reading my book to students at IUBAT University who are confronted by living in one of the most climate vulnerable cities on earth. Next month I will do the same in London (equally vulnerable; the Thames barrier is a twentieth century solution).

QUESTION: Are you optimistic or pessimistic re global warming?

CADMAN: Interesting question. Pessimistic about global warming. On the balance of probabilities it is here – seen the last few cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons/tornadoes to date? Optimistic about the potential for human self-interest, which is about survival. And humanity can only survive collectively. Be under no illusions: the radical option promoted by the ultra-capitalists (Trump et al) and the ultra-greens (the human race is a cancer) is the same. It WANTS catastrophe: to make a profit, or to wipe us out (of course the former generates the latter). I am a gradualist. We must change – gradually, or we die. We cannot change capitalism overnight, but it is already changing. Trump et al, of the ‘good old coal’ brigade, are history. The future lies in the decisions that were made at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Sustainable development is here, now. It already represents more than a quarter of all global trade. Whose side of history do we want to be on? Profit-maximising quantity over quality, or quality of life and sustainability?

QUESTION: How long did it take to write, edit, publish your novel?

CADMAN:  Like many stories/ideas, I had a nightmare back in 2001 that I was trying to catch a flight, was late, and woke up on a shuttle that was taking me to the moon. I played around with 20,000 words or so, put it in a drawer, picked it up in 2015 and realised what I had written was quite prophetic. So I dusted it off, expanded it by 80,000 words, and here we go.

QUESTION: Who published it?

CADMAN:  I started playing around on Amazon (big mistake) and got locked in (you can’t delete stuff). Then my dear friend Francis Gilbert helped me out, and here I am.

QUESTION: Will there be a second novel?

CADMAN: Absolutely! I am a third of the way through Book 2, and there is a final (Book 3). Enjoy. It has a happy ending (just not yet…).

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