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Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

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Image: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Much of the South celebrated Christmas in shorts last month; 2015 was the warmest year on record across the globe. While droughty California became ever more parched, Texas and Oklahoma were rocked by floods in their wettest May ever. In March, a nurse filed suit after being infected with Ebola when that virus jumped borders to the U.S.

But readers of the growing genre of post-apocalyptic fiction were mentally prepared for all this. Last year was stuffed with literary disaster porn — like Station Eleven, Black Moon, and Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Watkins’ novel of a waterless American West. (Think Chinatown crossed with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.)

The novel’s highest achievement may be the way it avoids the disaster-as-metaphor dodge most other dystopian lit indulges in. Instead of a doom of mysterious source, this imagined death of the land is pinned squarely on those who deny the approach of humanity’s mass extinction.

In a recent interview, Watkins called out dystopian narratives, saying, “We pretend that we are interested in them because we’re facing the hard truth about our existence, but they are in fact escapist forms of art. … It’s actually quite comforting to think that you might be a survivor of the apocalypse.”

In other words, it’s statistically unlikely you’ll survive no matter what you’re reading. So much for soothing self-deception! It seems that taking notes on World War Z won’t prepare us for the zombie apocalypse after all.

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