Fire and Snow

Climate Fiction from the Inklings to Game of Thrones

By Marc DiPaolo

Subjects: Literature, Literary Criticism, Environmental Studies, Science And Society, Film Studies
Series: SUNY Press Open Access
Hardcover : 9781438470450, 348 pages, August 2018
Paperback : 9781438470467, 348 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents


Introduction. Reclaiming Enemy-Occupied Territory: Saving Middle-earth, Narnia, Westeros, Panem, Endor, and Gallifrey

1. Star Wars, Hollywood Blockbusters, and the Cultural Appropriation of J. R. R. Tolkien

2. Of Treebeard, C. S. Lewis, and the Aesthetics of Christian Environmentalism

3. The Time Lord, the Daleks, and the Wardrobe

4. Noah’s Ark Revisited: 2012 and Magic Lifeboats for the Wealthy

5. Race and Disaster Capitalism in Parable of the Sower, The Strain, and Elysium

6. Eden Revisited: Ursula K. Le Guin, St. Francis, and the Ecofeminist Storytelling Model

7. MaddAddam and The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood and Dystopian Science Fiction as Current Events

8. Ur-Fascism and Populist Rebellions in Snowpiercer and Mad Max: Fury Road

9. Tolkien’s Kind of Catholic: Suzanne Collins, Empathy, and The Hunger Games

10. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance: Collective Action against Climate Change in A Song of Ice and Fire and Star Trek

11. What Next? Robert Crumb’s “A Short History of America” and Ending the Game of Thrones

Epilogue. Who Owns the Legacy of J. R. R. Tolkien?


A broad examination of climate fantasy and science fiction, from The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series to The Handmaid's Tale and Game of Thrones.


Fellow Inklings J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis may have belonged to different branches of Christianity, but they both made use of a faith-based environmentalist ethic to counter the mid-twentieth-century's triple threats of fascism, utilitarianism, and industrial capitalism. In Fire and Snow, Marc DiPaolo explores how the apocalyptic fantasy tropes and Christian environmental ethics of the Middle-earth and Narnia sagas have been adapted by a variety of recent writers and filmmakers of "climate fiction," a growing literary and cinematic genre that grapples with the real-world concerns of climate change, endless wars, and fascism, as well as the role religion plays in easing or escalating these apocalyptic-level crises. Among the many other well-known climate fiction narratives examined in these pages are Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid's Tale, Mad Max, and Doctor Who. Although the authors of these works stake out ideological territory that differs from Tolkien's and Lewis's, DiPaolo argues that they nevertheless mirror their predecessors' ecological concerns. The Christians, Jews, atheists, and agnostics who penned these works agree that we all need to put aside our cultural differences and transcend our personal, socioeconomic circumstances to work together to save the environment. Taken together, these works of climate fiction model various ways in which a deep ecological solidarity might be achieved across a broad ideological and cultural spectrum.

This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to Knowledge Unlatched—an initiative that provides libraries and institutions with a centralized platform to support OA collections and from leading publishing houses and OA initiatives. Learn more at the Knowledge Unlatched website at:, and access the book online at the SUNY Open Access Repository at

Marc DiPaolo is Assistant Professor of English at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the author of War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film.


"Overall, Fire and Snow makes an important intervention in climate fiction scholarship, both by connecting aspects of environmentalism in the genre to Tolkien's and Lewis's genre legacies and in its analysis of how ecological messages are often overshadowed or lost entirely in film adaptations of environmental fiction—a point well worth further critical examination. The prose is clear and written in a way that would likely also engage readers from a non-academic background." — H-Net Reviews (H-Environment)

"DiPaolo makes a convincing case that 'spiritually informed genre fiction' can play a vital role in shifting cultural, moral, and religious attitudes regarding climate change … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"This book is remarkably diverse in its literary, cinematic, journalistic, and graphics-media sources, and the writing is equally authoritative in all these domains. DiPaolo's prose moves deftly from a work of fiction to its film avatar, to the political and societal realities they address, and back again into other cultural manifestations and then into and out of the deep theory of climate fiction, literary scholarship, ecofeminism, religious tradition, and authorial biographies. It contributes considerably to all of these fields, and is indispensable for climate and environmental literature classes. It's also a must-have for general readers of the genre." — Jonathan Evans, coauthor of Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J. R .R. Tolkien

"I like it. No, I love it. This book is both broad and deep, and yet it remains both very readable and constantly interesting. It's the sort of book that can only be written by someone who is a good reader of both books and culture. As I was reading it I thought, this is like being at a party and meeting someone brilliant and fun, and finding that I'm enjoying that person's company so much that I don't notice the time flying by. It's not often that a scholarly book does that to me." — David O'Hara, Augustana University