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J.R. Burgmann

J.R. Burgmann

J.R. Burgmann is a researcher at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub. He is the co-author of Science Fiction and Climate Change: A sociological approach (Liverpool University Press, 2020). His debut novel Children of Tomorrow was highly commended in the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and will be published in 2023 by Upswell. He is currently a Hot Desk Fellow at the Wheeler Centre, where he is working on his second novel Abominable

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Prophet' by Helen MacDonald and Sin Blaché

October 2023, no. 458 24 September 2023
For those familiar with Helen MacDonald’s popular nature memoir H is for Hawk (2014), her latest work will come as a surprise. Prophet is many things, most of which bear little resemblance to any of MacDonald’s previous work. To begin with, Prophet is a co-authored work of fiction, a rare feature in the world of novelists, in which co-authors are often compelled to conceal such paratextual det ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Eta Draconis' by Brendan Ritchie and 'The Comforting Weight of Water' by Roanna McClelland

September 2023, no. 457 25 August 2023
At a time when the world strains under the pressure of multiple crises, it stands to reason that coming of age might no longer hold the same literary value it once did. This ‘polycrisis’ encompasses not only the convergence of myriad catastrophic events – climate change, war, Covid-19, the resurgence of fascism, etc. – but also the failure of metanarratives or belief systems to mitigate ag ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Venomous Lumpsucker' by Ned Beauman

December 2022, no. 449 28 August 2022
Ned Beauman’s latest novel – his first since Madness Is Better Than Defeat (2017) – marks something of a stylistic departure for the British writer. Where Beauman’s work has for the most part experimented with history and genre, Venomous Lumpsucker is set squarely in our collapsing planetary future. With typical wit (something that has fortunately not been lost with the shift in subject ma ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Bewilderment' by Richard Powers

October 2021, no. 436 23 September 2021
In August of this year, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report was published, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, described its findings as ‘code red for humanity’. For those of us working in climate change communication, the alarm was familiar, another scream into the void to punctuate the prevailing astonishment at a world so insouciant in the ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Hummingbird Salamander' by Jeff VanderMeer

June 2021, no. 432 26 May 2021
In his monograph The Great Derangement (2016), Indian writer Amitav Ghosh pointedly asks why society, and more specifically literature, has almost entirely ignored climate change: ‘ours was a time when most forms of … literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognising the realities of their plight’. This was, Ghosh concludes, because ‘serious prose f ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'The Ministry for the Future' by Kim Stanley Robinson

October 2020, no. 425 24 September 2020
Our stories are not working. Whether they be the kind we tell in fiction, or the larger canvas of culture twittering away across the global village, our present reality – the seismic planetary shifts, the pandemical turmoil – evades our collective narrative comprehension. We are clearly at a critical moment in history, the consequences of which will ripple through time in unimaginable ways. In ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'The Last Migration' by Charlotte McConaghy

August 2020, no. 423 24 July 2020
Towards the end of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory (2018), Richard Powers attempts to articulate why literature, or more precisely the novel, has struggled to encompass climate change: ‘To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs. No: life is mobilized on a vastly larger scale, and the world is failing pr ... (read more)

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Ghost Species' by James Bradley

May 2020, no. 421 24 April 2020
James Bradley’s Ghost Species arrives at a time when fiction seems outpaced by the speed with which we humans are changing the planet. Alarmingly, such writerly speculation has been realised during Australia’s tragic summer, when the future finally bore down on us. And there are few writers of climate fiction – or ‘cli-fi’, the term coined by activist blogger Dan Bloom and popularised in ... (read more)