Over at independent press Melville House's excellent blog Mob
yLives, marketing manager Dustin Kurtz is asking an intriguing – and horribly depressing – question. "When the globe is hit with a 10ft rise in sea level, which of our books will suddenly become fantastic?"
Off the back of the two studies which earlier this week warned that the collapse of the western Antarctica ice sheet is already under way, and that it could "eventually cause up to four metres (13ft) of sea-level rise, devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world", Kurtz decided to consider just how the rising sea levels might affect fiction for the people of tomorrow. "Since we at Melville House only publish those books that will surely be read 200 years from now … it leads to the question: which of our books will have their settings so dramatically erased by rising jellyfish-thick coral-less seas that future readers will not be able to visit their settings? Which of our books may as well be set on Atlantis?" he asks.
Kurtz picks out Joseph Conrad's Freya of the Seven Isles ("Nothing much there. Some dead tree trunks. Then he goes home. THRILLING"), The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare ("yes, and the sea 10ft above our heads as well. This book necessarily deals in coastlines, and will serve as a tragic record of those even a few decades from now"), and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Beach of Falesa (the "slope of trees that runs right into the water and then continues underwater for a while, choked by salt, so that only algal blooms live in the nitrogen-poisoned sea around us and no boats can approach our shore of Falesa" just doesn't sound as romantic, does it?), among others. (It's worth checking his list out anyway, as he's chosen some tempting titles regardless of rising sea levels. I'm tracking down Where There's Love There's Hate by Silvina Ocampo and Adolfo Bioy Casares for sure – it sounds fantastic.)
I'd add On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – "That was why she had run so far along the beach, through the heavy shingle in her going-away shoes, to flee the room and all that had happened in it, and to escape herself. She had behaved abominably. Abominably"; that final scene would play out even more disturbingly beneath the waves.
Robinson Crusoe, the terrifying Duma Key by Stephen King, and Lord of the Flies might all look very different to readers of the future as well. And where would Pincher Martin languish, in a world where sea levels have risen by four metres? It's an odd, and disturbing, thought to ponder.