Short-story contest finalists explore futures shaped by climate change

June 21, 2016

Speculative fiction stories have the power to take abstract, contentious policy debates about humans and their changing environment and turn them into gripping, visceral tales. The emerging literary genre of climate fiction — epitomized by novels like Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” — helps to imagine possible futures shaped by climate change and to encourage more creative thinking about how humans might respond and adapt.

Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative is proud to announce the 12 finalists for its inaugural Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. These authors created unique and compelling visions of how humans might live in a future radically affected by climate change. A grand-prize winner will be selected from these finalists and announced in September. 2016 Arizona State University Climate Fiction Contest Download Full Image

The finalists are:

• Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, “Acqua Alta”
• Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World”
• Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land”
• Stirling Davenport, “Masks”
• Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
• Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year”
• Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount”
• Matthew Henry, “Victor and the Fish”
• Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides”
• Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still”
• Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
• Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”

The finalists’ stories will be published in an anthology to be released in September in conjunction with the grand-prize winner announcement. The anthology will include a foreword from science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson, who served as a judge for the contest, and an interview with award-winning climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. The grand-prize winner will receive $1000, and several runners-up will receive bundles of books signed by Bacigalupi.

The contest is the first public climate fiction endeavor hosted by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, which explores how imagination might shape our social, political and scientific responses to the challenge of climate change. It was co-sponsored by ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council. The contest received more than 700 entries submitted by writers from 67 countries.

The stories consider the potential future ramifications of climate change for communities across the globe, from London and Madagascar to Venice, rural New England and the Florida Everglades. They engage with themes including artificial intelligence, DIY culture, human enhancement, wildfires and environmental insurgents overthrowing national governments.

All submissions were subject to multiple rounds of blind review by an editorial board that included experts on sustainability, conservation, geology, climate modeling and environmental history from ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, School of Life Sciences, School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Department of History, and experts in science fiction and creative writing from ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Center for Science and the Imagination.

To learn more about the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, visit

Joey Eschrich

program manager, Center for Science and the Imagination


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No bones about it: This camp is cool

Science in the City camp immerses middle schoolers in hands-on activities.
Valley eighth-graders gather crime evidence, deduce whodunit at ASU lab.
June 21, 2016

Phoenix eighth-graders use biology, critical thinking to solve crimes at ASU in whodunit portion of Science in the City camp

Who stole the bones at ASU? That’s the question that eighth-grade crime solvers from Phoenix are investigating on Wednesday and Thursday mornings this month in the science labs at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

Biology lecturer Cayle Lisenbee is introducing the kids to forensic science as they work to figure out how an entire (plastic) skeleton has disappeared from a locked cabinet in one of the College of Letters and Sciences’ teaching laboratories.  

Lisenbee’s program is one stop in Science in the City, a summer day camp organized by the Phoenix Union High School District to bring science alive for middle schoolers by immersing them in hands-on activities at a range of community sites.

In another stop at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus, the campers explore the science of healthy life choices in the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, a unit in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

The Science in the City program runs for three weeks, with a new cohort of students rotating through the modules each week.

“When the kids arrive in the lab, we first talk about some of the science opportunities they’ll find at ASU and some of the careers that are a natural fit with particular degrees,” Lisenbee said. “The crime-solving activity unfolds organically. We tell them they’ll be studying a human skeleton, and when they go to the lab cabinet to get it set up, they find it’s missing.”

The kids gather fibers at the crime scene and analyze them with the microscope. They scrape and culture microbes from hard surfaces to see what grows. They lift and study fingerprints from a beaker near the cabinet and use critical thinking skills to identify suspects. Eventually, they’re able to secure surveillance video that confirms or disproves their conclusions.   

“Once the culprit has been identified and the bones returned, we ask the kids to reconstruct, as best they can, a complete human skeleton. We throw some extra bones into the mix or leave a few out and ask the kids to analyze what the irregularities might mean,” said Lisenbee, who has been coordinating and teaching the College of Letters and Sciences’ component of the Science in the City outreach program for the past 10 years.

He said that, as much as he enjoys guiding the kids through this learning experience, the partnerships he has developed with Phoenix Union High School District teachers have been especially fruitful.

“We’re allies in finding ways to get kids to want to continue to pursue science in high school so that they’ll be college-ready when they graduate. For some of these kids, it’s also their first understanding that they have access to an ASU campus right here in downtown Phoenix.

“We also share teaching ideas, and I’ve helped them to develop some fun lab exercises. It’s just a great community collaboration.”

Top photo: Eighth-graders from the Phoenix Union High School District "Science in the City" program used biology, scientific inquiry and critical thinking to solve a mystery in a teaching lab in ASU's College of Letters and Sciences at the Downtown Phoenix campus on June 8-9. Two additional cohorts of Science in the City students experienced this module on June 15-16 and June 22-23. Photo by: Maureen Roen/ASU College of Letters and Sciences

Maureen Roen

Director, Creative Services , College of Integrative Sciences and Arts