Today I am interviewing James Bradley, author of Clade.
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DJ: Hey James! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
James Bradley: That one’s easy! I’m the author of four novels for adults, Wrack, The Deep Field, The Resurrectionist and Clade, as well as a book of poetry and a lot of shorter things. A few years back I edited The Penguin Book of the Ocean, and more recently I’ve been working on a series of young adult science fiction novels, the first of which, The Silent Invasion, was published in Australia earlier this year. I’m based in Sydney, where I love with my partner, the novelist Mardi McConnochie, and our two daughters.
DJ: What is Clade about?
James: It’s the story of three generations of a family set against the backdrop of ongoing climate change, and exploring the ways that process shapes their lives and occasionally intersects with them. But although it assumes the world is going to be profoundly altered, it’s deliberately not apocalyptic. Instead it tries to think about what happens if the world doesn’t end, and if we have to live with the mess we’ve made. So it’s about family and love and kids and all the messy business of life, but it’s also about the line between the virtual and the real and time and deep time and a series of other questions about loss and grief and extinction. And perhaps most importantly it’s a book that emphasizes possibility, both personal and planetary.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Clade?
James: One of the problems with writing about climate change is that its scale and complexity make it really difficult to get a handle on. In the real world that means people tend to feel overwhelmed, and to either give way to despair or just shut down or ignore the problem. Something similar is true if you’re trying to write about it: the scale of the problem, the non-human scale of the time frames, even the nature of the novel, and its need to set up spatial and temporal boundaries to tell a manageable story make it tough to talk about. I suspect that’s one of the reasons there are so many apocalyptic narratives around at the moment: it’s just too hard to imagine a future as complex as the one we’re heading into.
They were all things that were on my mind when I started the book. It seemed to me I needed to write a book about everything and everyone if I was going to talk about climate change. But then one day I realized I could come at it from a different direction, and write quite a confined story and use that to look outward, and think through what the experience might be like. Once I decided that the structure came quite quickly, but I also found myself looking for tools that would let me talk about the sorts of questions about deep time and extinction that underpin the book conceptually. I suppose those came from a series of places – I read a lot of nature writing, which informs the book’s interest in the natural world, but I also drew upon science fiction, and the sorts of tools it has to talk about technology and time and transformative change. And there are nods to other things in there, like John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, and some of the writing about the Antarctic by explorers like Shackleton. Continue reading