Jeff VanderMeer has a great piece today in Environmental Critiques called “Hauntings in the Anthropocene.” It goes into dealing psychologically, and in fiction, with global warming, which he terms a “hyperobject.”
Morton’s central idea of a hyperobject is in a sense a way of using a word as an anchor for something that would be otherwise hard to picture in its entirety–it is an all-encompassing metaphor that also has its own reality, both literal and figurative, here and there. The word therefore is a very important signifier for any fiction writer wishing to engage with the fragmented and diffuse issues related to the Anthropocene.
VanderMeer also talked about the BP oil spill as being an influence for Area X in his Southern Reach trilogy. It is the first I’ve read where he said as such, but I figured when reading the first part of the trilogy, Annihilation, that the eerie place was haunted by ecocide somewhere along the line.
After reading the article this morning, I thought of my own upcoming novel, which seeks to reign in the hyperobject of global warming by presenting a bizarre dream-like world a man finds himself in, with his daughter. Going to Ireland and seeing its magic, its surreality, helped me to envision the way I’ll finish writing my own novel in the sense that I felt in Ireland that I was in no time–that the ancient past’s ruins were as clear today as centuries ago but that they were now threatened. My story will partly take place in future Ireland.
Evoking dark ecological poet Aase Berg, VanderMeer remembers:
Time runs on time and starvation and the weakness carries me in across the gray regions. And the soul’s dark night will slowly be lowered through me. That is why I now slowly fold myself like a muscle against the wet clay…I will sleep now in my bird’s body in the down, and a bitter star will radiate eternally above the glowing face’s watercourse.
Such haunting prose.
In Old French, the verb haunt meant to frequent, in Old Norse and Proto-Germanic to lead or bring home. Sometimes associated with spirits or ghosts, haunting may also describe reappearances, persistent recurrences, or disturbances.
In facing areas that are shattered with the ghosts of ecological destruction, we may recognize these haunts as continually frequented by the aftermath of such events, or maybe we are in that time of haunting…in the time…and may or may not recognize it. I would argue if we can see it, then we have our eyes open. And many writers in the Anthropocene deal with it by first opening their eyes.
To open your eyes and recognize that our world is now haunted by global warming, it is hard to then shut your eyes. I have blogged often about it–feeling horrified and sad about the era I live in. At the same time–which this blog sets out to do–I feel that going into the arms of the outdoors to find wild nature that at least seems unaffected (it most likely is affected, however) is one way to cope. It’s not just environmental disaster that frequents this home, this planet, it is sociological disaster as well–both often tied to each other. After the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being shot and killed, and seeing one of the videos and hearing the wife’s testimony, I forcefully broke out into tears. How could this happen?
Yesterday I had to shake it off. I hiked two miles on Monday and ended up doing the bike mill for 30 minutes on Tuesday, thanks to it pouring rain out and me not having warm enough running clothes. Yesterday it was also raining, but I was more prepared, and it was a great running rain: a gentle, steady, misty fineness escaping from the sky. I ran 3.3 miles, to Deer Lake and back, as always limited by my work lunch hour and needing time to change clothes and shower–though I really wished I could have run completely around the lake. I jogged along, bear bell tinkling. Only two others were out walking the Deer Lake Flash Dash, which I didn’t know had a name until Strava told me I had gotten a personal record time running it. The walkers had umbrellas and looked like ghosts. I kept looking for signs of a cougar as I got into an area far past the walkers, out by myself, on the trail bounded by tall grasses and bluebells, lavender, huge ferns, and purple hazy mountains to the north. “Ireland’s got nothing on this,” I thought. I carried on, shaking off the spirits of the modern world, trying to find the ghosts of the past that frequent here.