May 13, 2014
Seven Melville House books made obsolete by rising sea levels
by Dustin Kurtz
When the globe is hit with a ten foot rise in sea level, which of our books will suddenly become fantastic?
We’ve known the general figures for some time now, but in a press conference Monday NASA announced what we’ve all feared. “A rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea,” according to the NASA-JPL’s accompanying press release. “The glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica have passed the point of no return.” This is, as I say, roughly expected in our worst case scenarios which, as it turns out, mother earth took as a dare.
The release continues:
These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. [Lead author Eric] Rignot said these findings will require an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.
That four feet of sea level is for this ice alone, and in addition to other estimates. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently predicted sea levels to rise by about a meter this century, and up to three more meters next century and the centuries following, but that was before Monday’s report from NASA. Now it can confidently be predicted that sea level will rise to a height somewhere between ‘bye Bangladesh’ and ‘utterly fucked’ over the next two to nine centuries. Since we at Melville House only publish those books that will surely be read two hundred years from now (see you in the canon, incisive takedown of George Dubya!) it leads to the question: which of our books will have their settings so dramatically erased by rising jellyfish-thick coral-less seas that future readers will not be able to visit their settings? Which of our books may as well be set on Atlantis? Here are a few.
For added resources on sea level rise, visit these lovely maps here and here.
The funny, romantic, and characteristically tense Conrad novella about one man’s journey to… oh. Well, to seven sandbars in the South Seas. He rolls up his pantaloons, he looks around. Nothing much there. Some dead tree trunks. Then he goes home. THRILLING.
Where There’s Love There’s Hate is set in an Argentine seaside resort suffering a slow-motion burial in shifting dunes. Ten extra feet of water should clear up that problem!
The problem of having a hotel, I mean.
One of my favorite scenes in Half the Kingdom, and one Lore often chooses at readings, involves a man suffering a stroke on a Brooklyn beach and enduring a night with the waves crashing over him. Ten extra feet might not have done him any favors. Or, for that matter, will it be a great development for the beach, or the borough, or any part of New York City.
“The slope of trees that runs right into the water and then continues underwater for a while, choked by salt, so that only algal blooms live in the nitrogen-poisoned sea around us and no boats can approach our shore of Falesa” just doesn’t sound as romantic, does it?
This book opens with a corpse floating in among swimmers in Barcelona. So, this should remain pretty accurate, insofar as half of Barcelona will half to learn to swim in a hurry, right?
Well, yes, and the sea ten feet above our heads as well. This book necessarily deals in coastlines, and will serve as a tragic record of those even a few decades from now.
Poe’s longest prose work narrates a discovery of warm land hidden beyond the ice in the Antarctic, and thence, further south, into the demesne of death. So, cool, this work of fantasy will grow in accuracy then? Good to know. Good work, Poe, you cruel psychic bastard.
Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.