Catriona Mills, Rebecca Olive and Nina Clark
The University of Queensland
“Sinking and Floating on a Shoreless Sea: Co-Reading: ‘The Fool and His Inheritance’”
Drawing from a recent AustLit project on climate change fiction, this paper discusses the earliest example we have traced of climate-change fiction in post-invasion Australia: James Edmond’s short story ‘The Fool and His Inheritance’. Published in 1911, the story begins in ‘the basement of things among the coals and the debris’ and moves through the Industrial Revolution, water wars, and the Great Slaying to the ultimate destruction of the Last Man by rising oceans. Analysis of this work in the twin contexts of its writing (1911) and our reading (2019) show the seeds of modern climate-change fiction sown over a century ago, as well as revealing the complex roots of such strains of thinking as ecofascism. We bring to this analysis three discrete and distinct approaches: bibliography, environmental science, and feminist cultural studies. From our diverse disciplinary positions, we offer a tripartite analysis to critique Edmond’s story, make sense of its place in the ‘climate change fiction’ genre, trouble the genre’s origins, and explore the value of multi-disciplinary co-reading approaches to literature.