Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2010
We already have war crime trials, so are climate crime trials on the way?
– Republished: Loosed Upon the World, ed. John Joseph Adams, 2015
– Republished: Colours of the Soul
If it’s possible for a piece of fiction to produce chills in these overheated days of summer, Sean McMullen’s “The Precedent” will do it.
… tribunals in the future pass judgement on “tippers,” the wastrels whose giant carbon footprints led the world over the edge to disaster.
“The Precedent” … begins, “Even when the climate crime is so serious that death is not punishment enough, one still gets an audit.” That’s because in 2035, there’s a star chamber in session every day, and “tippers”—those whose reckless use of energy in the 1990’s propelled the planet toward disaster—are subject to trial before the World Audit … McMullen, an able writer, deftly skewers some of the authoritarian excesses of environmentalism.
This story’s premise is so dark and apocalyptic that it could have gone horribly wrong in the hands of a lesser author. However, for me, the vivid descriptions and rich characterisation give this story a very real feel in spite of the incredibly stark plot and setting. This story speaks powerfully to the horrors of the climate crisis, challenge us to reflect on those horrors and our involvement in them without shoving any particular solution down our throats.