climate change

Latheck the Climate Change Barbarian

I wrote an unexpectedly popular post a little while ago where I vented about the success of my most famous creation, Latheck the Barbarian. In said post, I explored my complicated relationship with Latheck’s first story, and mentioned that Latheck was gearing up for a second outing in my latest book, newly reimagined as a fearsome Climate Change Barbarian. Dale Hurst, book critic and author of the ‘Sins and Secrecy’ series, was kind enough to call Latheck’s latest story, “a stroke of satirical genius“, which was deeply flattering. However, in the months following the release of Unquestionably Monstrous, I’ve been delighted to see Latheck’s latest story prove to be completely wrong in some wonderful ways, and uncomfortably predictive in others.

Let’s start with a plot summary of Latheck’s newest adventure. I know, I know. Plot summary is poor essay writing. But it’s necessary if you haven’t read the book, and given that Unquestionably Monstrous has moved moved maybe 600 copies since release, odds are you haven’t read it. So here we go:

Latheck, formerly a barbarian of social justice and king of Zevren, turns his attention to climate change in an attempt to make ends meet and stay relevant now that his policies as king have created a perfectly socially just kingdom. Latheck becomes a forest-keeper, is assigned an intern named Fenisys, and heads out to an ancient and sacred forest to protect it from the horrors of climate change.

But, Latheck is an idiot and single-handedly burns down the forest he was charged with protecting, destroying a critical biosphere and ecological system in the process. However, an ever-optimistic Latheck notes that the newly cleared land is now perfect for building single-family housing to alleviate the Zevren Empire’s housing shortage. Despite this excellent climate victory, Latheck and Fenisys cannot return to the city of Zevren due to the raging wildfire and must head to the distant city of Dividika for food and shelter.

Dividika, however, has been decimated by civil war. The great city, encircled by a colossal wall, has retreated to the right and to the left, where camps of embittered survivors rant about taxation, overpopulation, genetically-modified food, while plotting the deaths of those on the other side of the city. Lathek and Fenisys are separated and end up in the camps of the left and right, respectively, and accidently spark a final battle that kills the remaining zealots on both sides.

In his final moments, the last survivor of Dividika tells Latheck that the source of climate change lurks beneath the city and can be slain. Latheck and Fenisys journey under the city and meet the fearsome dragon, Manchinema (I don’t make these things subtle, folks), who eats fossil fuels and shits gold (again, subtlty is not my strong suit). Latheck grabs Fenisys and runs away from the dragon, is gravely wounded in the escape by a massively questionably decision, and Fenisys drags the great barbarian back to Zevren for medical treatment. The end.

So yes, its smarmy piece of satire. Unfortunately, Latheck’s forest management skills turned out to be a prediction of how the government of my Canadian home province of Ontario is approaching environmental governance and our acute housing shortage. I wish I was kidding. But, lo and behold, the Ontario PCs have proposed legislation, seemingly modelled after Latheck’s antics; ideas I thought so stupid that only Latheck could espouse them. But much like Greenpeace and the Social Justice Barbarian story, someone has brought my absurd humour to life in a deeply unpleasant way.

As for how The Climate Change Barbarian got things wrong, I need to provide one piece of historical context. This story was written during the repeated and gruesome death of ‘Build Back Better’, which I saw as quite possibly America’s only change of meaningful climate change legislation. Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema had derailed it, hence Manchinema’s name, and I vented my fury at America’s failings at this critical time by depicting Dividika as a hive of warring fools, too caught up in a stupid culture war to solve the greatest problem threatening the planet and everyone on it. However, to my astonishment, a slimmed-down version of BBB was passed in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act, which was nothing short of a climate miracle at our most desperate hour. So while my criticisms were valid when the story was being written, history has vindicated the American government on climate change (for now) and my scathing rebuke is both dated and inaccurate. But such is the problem of writing satire. When the world changes, the satire stays the same and ages poorly. Oh well.

Dale Hurst did offer a criticism of Lathelck’s latest story, suggesting it had a lack of payoff at the end. I can see his point. By the story’s end, Manchinema remains unslain, Latheck is revealed as a sham, and Fenisys…

Well, here’s the thing. Fenisys leaves Dividika, reinvigorated and furious, ready to dedicate the rest of his life to climate change. No, climate change has not been solved, Manchinema has not been slain, but a new Climate Change Barbarian has risen who will fight Manchinema to the bitter end and will ultimately best him. Among Fenisys’s last words as Latheck drags him from the canvern, he vows, “I will destroy you.” While climate change is no closer to being solved, which I thought was a tad optimistic given how we’re still wavering between better and worse climate futures, it ends with the rise of a new hero who could very well help turn the tide and end climate change.

Cards on the table, Fenisys is my shameless author-insert character. I was going through a climate change internship as I was writing The Climate Change Barbarian, I am also unlikely to slay climate change, but I am certainty devoted to preventing it however I can. The rise of Fenisys, the disgracing of Latheck, and the declaration of war on the great dragon Manchinma all reflect how I’ve grown and how my priorites have changed since I wrote Latheck’s first story in 2015. So while The Climate Change Barbarian hasn’t aged very well (already), it is a work I’m proud of.

And Latheck? Well, he will return one last time as Latheck the Crypt’o’currency barbarian in my forthcoming book, The Electric Heist. Yes, I know crypto is yesterday’s news and has already been mocked to death, but I think Latheck can make a nice final bow on the subject and also take one last look at how social justice, climate change, criticism, and open discussion have evolved since 2015. An enormous amount has changed.

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