One of the things I love about Young Adult fiction is the way it addresses the issues and events that are directly affecting young people today. Not to say that those things aren’t affecting everyone else too - we are all sadly prone to family members dying; we all live in a world where rape culture goes largely unchallenged; adults can be bullied, and many of us will experience pregnancy. However, it’s specifically the impact of these events on teens and young adults that books like The Year of the Rat, Asking For It, Seven Days and Trouble explore so expertly. Those years can be tumultuous, and they’re the years that some hard truths have to be dealt with. I’m glad that YA provides support and a kind of coming of age fellowship for readers, as well as entertainment.
Some teen experiences are more eternal and universal than others. I became aware as I was writing Crow Moon that today’s teens are the generation that will be hardest hit by failures by world governments to find more sustainable fuel solutions; as we look ahead, right now, there could conceivably be a time not too far from now where the lights go out if we continue to depend heavily on fossil fuels. Fracking for shale gas and nuclear power, which reflect the UK government’s current priorities, are respectively unreliable, expensive and dangerous, and fracking in particular is disastrous for local environments (and house prices). Unlike previous generations, if you’re under 20 today your future contains serious wide scale and long lasting environmental threats. It does for all of us, but you’ll be the ones that have to deal with it the longest when the inevitable disasters occur: flooding, earthquakes, air pollution, water shortages, animal extinction, leading to the decline of natural habitats and wild spaces, leading to problems with crop growth and availability. Not to bum you out or anything - but really, yeah.
In the Crow Moon trilogy I wanted to raise questions about energy and fuel at the centre of a UK utopia/dystopia. Devon and Cornwall are the Greenworld, an ecopagan community, run by witches and shut off from the rest of the UK and the world, which is the Redworld - corrupt, polluted, with a vast gap between the majority of people in severe poverty and the top 1% extremely wealthy. There’s a global war for the last scraps of fossil fuel going on in Russia. The utopian resistance, the Greenworld (though nothing is as perfect as it seems) is not only run sustainably and without power, but it is explicitly religiously Pagan: it honours the earth as divine, personified as a Goddess, Brighid, drawing on Cornwall’s Celtic heritage.
Climate Fiction, or Clifi, which I regard Crow Moon as, as well as being a romance and a witch book, is often scientific in emphasis. I wanted to bring something different to the table: the simple and, to me, obvious, concept that the world we live in today could really do with being considered as a divine being. The earth is in dire need of being respected. Even without being religious or spiritual about it, we would all be looking at a much brighter future if past decisions about how to utilise the earth’s limited resources had been made with the understanding that earth is a living being (Gaia, as visionary scientist James Lovelock calls it - a living being) in its own right, rather than a store of goodies for us to exploit at will, and often only for a fast buck.
In Europe, our pagan heritage has the same kind of traditions as the Native Americans - honouring the cycle of the year, the changes in nature, light and dark; understanding the plants and animals we live alongside; knowing how the earth provides everything for us, and taking only what we need. In the Greenworld, these are the skills that the witches in charge have brought back to their people, and it’s one of the gifts that they can offer the Redworld. I hope that the young people who are this planet’s future know that they are the gift; their environmental awareness, education and compassion are what we need now.