“Modelling Realism: Digital Media, Climate Simulations and Climate Fictions”
What is climate fiction? Humanities quarrel over the nature of this newly christened genre, pointing to its activist dimensions and pondering its relationship to realism. In this article, I discuss how digital media studies should enter this debate by analyzing climate simulations as a type of climate fiction, one that lies at the core of any subsequent narrative retellings. The status of climate change itself as a simulation signals that by relegating ‘climate fiction’ to a genre, we miss the opportunity to address the larger net of our climate episteme, where fiction operates on multiple levels. I draw parallels between simulated social scenarios in cli fi and simulated scientific scenarios in climate models, and discuss how climate models are like petri dishes for growing fictional Earths in. Rather than cli fi being a ‘retelling’ of what is knowable through ‘climate data,’ I describe how digital climate simulations rely on creating artificial Earths that are worlds unto themselves. It is both through cultural and scientific climate fictions that we model future scenarios. This modelling, a type of ‘fiction’ is in fact the dominant mode of realism with regards to climate change.