A Year Without a Winter

Dehlia Hannah, Philosopher and Curator
Gillen D’Arcy Wood, Langan Professorial Scholar of Environmental Humanities of English, University of Illinois
Vandana Singh, science fiction writer and Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Physics and Earth Science, Framington State University

In conversation with James Graham, Director of Publications, Columbia GSAPP

Today, weather extremes brought about by anthropogenic climate change pose relentless cognitive and imaginative challenges. Beyond news media, what are the cultural registers of this phenomenon? How can artistic and literary engagements with destabilizing natural patterns summon new planetary imaginaries—reorienting perspectives on humanity’s position within the environment?

In 1815, the eruption of Mount Tambora, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, enveloped the globe in a cloud of ash, causing a climate crisis. By 1816, remembered as the ‘year without a summer,’ the northern hemisphere was plunged into cold and darkness. Amidst unseasonal frosts, violent thunderstorms and a general atmosphere of horror, Mary Shelley began Frankenstein––a work of science fiction that continues to shape attitudes to emerging science, technology and environmental futures. Two hundred years later, in 2016, the hottest year on historical record, four renowned science fiction authors were invited to the experimental town of Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s prototype for arcology, to respond to our present crisis. A Year Without a Winter presents their stories alongside critical essays, extracts from Shelley’s masterpiece, and dispatches from expeditions to extreme geographies.

To be published in the spring by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, the book is a collective thought experiment retracing an inverted path through narrative extremes. A Year Without a Winter brings together science fiction, history, visual art, and exploration. Inspired by the literary ‘dare’ that would give birth to Shelley’s novel amidst the aftermath of a massive volcanic eruption, and today, by the utopian architecture of Paolo Soleri and the Arizona desert, expeditions to Antarctica and Indonesia, the project reframes the relationship between climate, crisis, and creation.

Organized by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City at Columbia GSAPP.


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