I am writing a holiday romance for one of the publishers I work with, and I waned to do something more than the usual “boy meets boy” thing.
So I decided to try to inject a little social consciousness into the story, too.
The story tentatively titled “Melt,” and it takes place in Antarctica. It’s been a fascinating piece to write, involving so many research rabbit holes.
For instance, I’ve learned that you don’t want to take fresh food out on an outing on the Antarctic Ice unless you’ll be camping. Thinking of a nice healthy veggie sandwich? It will be a bread popsicle by the time you’re ready for lunch. Chocolate is much easier to eat in the extreme cold temperatures, and is the preferred option for quickly replenishing calories on the go.
But don’t worry – you can have fresh food back at the base, and the arrival of a new shipment of fruit and vegetables is often cause for celebration.
While we’re on the subject of food, you’ll also burn a shit-ton of calories in Antarctica, especially if you are out on a skidoo or with a dogsled team. So you’ll need to eat high calorie foods that will help restore all of those you’re gonna use up on the ice.
For clothing, you’d think that more is better, right? It’s almost always below zero in Antarctica, after all. But if you bundle up too much, you’ll start to sweat, and your sweat will start to freeze as it reaches the outer layers of your clothing. Generally speaking, you’ll want to wear long johns, a middle layer of clothing, and an outer wind-resistant layer to keep yourself warm.
And there will be winds. Katabatic winds, to be exact, which blow when a heavy mass of dense cold air forms over the center of the continent and pushes the air all around it down toward the sea.
The continent is not all ice. There are several mountain ranges in Antarctica, and the biggest base, McMurdo (Mactown for short) is built on one of them for stability.
There’s so much more. Every scene sends me back to Google to look up new bots of information.
Setting a love story against this backdrop, and working in a message about climate change without being preachy about it, is a huge challenge, but it’s one that I am enjoying immensely.
We’re monkeying with our climate at an unprecedented rate, and there will be consequences. For me, at least, that’s reason enough to try to raise the issue in my fiction.
My questions today – do we as writers (esp. as writers of speculative fiction) have a responsibility to try to inform our readers about future issues and dangers today? If so, have you ever done so, and how? And how did you keep the message from overwhelming the story?