Saturday, November 4, 2017

For RADIO FREE VERMONT, climate activist's debut comic cli-fi caper of a 250 page novel, Bill McKibben speaks to Neal Wyatt at the ''Library Journal''

LJ Talks to Bill McKibben | Debut Spotlight


Photo ©Nancie Battaglia

Bill McKibben’s life’s work has centered on environmentalism and writing. His first nonfiction book, The End of Nature, published in 1989, is widely considered a classic in the field. Now, he’s taking a turn to fiction almost 30 years later with his debut comic cli-fi novel, Radio Free Vermont (starred review, LJ 9/15/17), a giddy spree of a political fable that is helping to define a new genre of resistance writing.

Radio Free Vermont is a political act as much as it is a book. Did you find writing it cathartic? Can you share your thoughts on the various messages of the story?

I wrote parts of it over many years, always for fun. But this year it came into sharp focus for me, and it was fun to be able to fight back in this way. One of the things that has marked [2017] for me is the sense that the [current] president is always in one’s head—it turns out that an underappreciated virtue of all former presidents is that you could forget about them for days at a time. No such luck now. So, along with helping organize big climate marches in DC and trying to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement, I found it an exuberant escape to imagine more creative forms of resistance. I don’t think we should probably secede from the Union, but boy do I think we should organize to stand up for the common good.

Your nonfiction is a call to action and an education.
What do you want your fiction to do for readers?

Well, I hope it makes them laugh, and then I hope it sticks in their minds. I think that resistance to injustice is crucial at the moment—not everyone needs to go off to jail (though I can tell you it’s not the end of the world if the occasion arises). But we do need to stand up for each other, and we can think of peaceful but creative (and highly annoying) ways to do it!
I also hope [my novel] reminds [readers] that rural America is not just the land between the coasts, and also that even in resistance, a certain kind of civility and humility go a long way. Oh, and I hope it gets them to search out their best local breweries.

Do you plan on writing more novels?

I sure hope so. There are days when I think all I’ll ever do for the rest of my life is write more op-eds about climate change, more speeches about carbon dioxide, and more tweets. I suppose I should confess that this hasn’t entirely cured me of my bad habit of writing depressing nonfiction. I’m in the middle of a long, dark book that will coincide with the 30th anniversary of The End of Nature. But I do have a couple more characters that are speaking to me for a second novel.

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