ASU To Award $1,000 To Top Climate Fiction Short Story

ASU leaders passed the reductions in state funding this year onto students in the form of a fee increase, but some talented student could earn a bit back if they write the winning short story in ASU’s first Climate Fiction Short Story Contest.

The submission deadline is January 15, 2016, and the contest entry is free. The grand-prize winner will be awarded $1,000, with three additional finalists receiving book bundles signed by climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi.

The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, is inviting writers to submit short stories that “explore climate change, science and human futures,” according to a press release issued by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

A collection of the best submissions will be published in a forthcoming online anthology, and considered for publication in the journal Issues in Science and Technology.

The release reads in part:

“The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative is a partnership between the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and the Center for Science and the Imagination. It explores how imagination — or lack thereof — shapes humanity’s response to climate change, and how imagination merged with science can create solutions to climate challenges. The initiative hosts public events, offers courses at the intersection of art, literature and climate science.”

“Stories are required to envision a future for Earth and humanity that is transformed in some way by climate change. They should also reflect current scientific knowledge about climate change and its consequences for human societies and the environment. The jury is particularly interested in stories that illuminate the political, ethical and technological challenges that individuals and communities must confront in the face of climate change.

Emotional arguments are vital to keeping the true believers faithful, and Manjana Milkoreit, Walton Sustainability postdoctoral research fellow at ASU, summed up methodology succinctly: “Merging climate science and deeply human storytelling, climate fiction can be a powerful learning tool. Taking the reader into a possible future, a story can turn modeling scenarios and temperature graphs into meaning and emotion.”

Milkoreit is currently teaching the graduate seminar, Sustainability Decision Lab, which “integrates concepts and ideas from three different fields of scholarship – sustainability, complex systems and cognition – to explore the way individuals and groups think, feel, make decisions and behave in various contexts that are relevant for sustainability. While we touch upon various policy areas, climate change will be a central and recurring theme and case study. Students will learn about basic theories of cognition and complex systems that will allow them to understand the basic components and structure of belief systems.”

Milkoreit leads students on an exploration of “the importance of different kinds of belief system for decision-making at different levels of sustainability governance, from the individual to the global. Students will reflect on their own cognitive patterns and choices, and develop analytical skills that will enable them to identify and understand the belief systems of other people or groups.”

Her most recent collaborative work, Resilience scientists as change-makers—Growing the middle ground between science and advocacy?, will appear in the November 2015 Environmental Science & Policy publication.

The Climate Fiction Short Story contest evaluation criteria:

1.Your story should, in some way, envision the future of Earth and humanity as impacted by climate change.
2. Your story should reflect – directly or indirectly – current scientific knowledge about future climate change, without prejudice to your artistic freedom to exaggerate and invent fictional worlds.
3.You story could illuminate and invite reflections on a climate-related challenge that individuals, communities, organizations or societies face today (e.g., daily decisions and behaviors, policy-making and politics, strategy and planning, moral responsibility to the future, investment in R&D or technologies, health, etc. …).

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