University of Southern California
California Dystopia: Understanding Climate Change and Social Collapse through Science Fiction
DATE:Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 5 p.m.
In the fall of 2020, when wildfires turned the once-blue skies of California into a glowing orange hellscape—all amid a viral pandemic marked by severe racial and social disparities and protests over police violence against communities of color—some of the darkest fiction about California’s future seemed especially prescient.
Moderated by Los Angeles Times culture columnist Carolina A. Miranda, a wide-ranging panel including climate resiliency expert John Bwarie, Octavia Butler scholar Ayana A. H. Jamieson, science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, and climate scientist Daniel Swain will try to make sense of a California that increasingly resembles the dystopia of Butler’s classic novel Parable of the Sower. Were the historic wildfires of 2020 an aberration—or the new normal? How do social and environmental distress amplify each other? Do fictional depictions of California’s future inform, encourage, or hinder efforts to build a better future? And can utopian visions still play a role?
Prior to the discussion, digital artist Erik Loyer of Opertoon and a team of students from the Ahmanson Lab at the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study will share their speculative vision of California’s future in the form of an immersive digital work, accompanied by an exhibition of rare and unique materials from the USC Libraries’ collections.