Diane Cook is the author of the story collection Man V. Nature. She received a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and is a former producer for the radio show This American Life. In her novel The New Wilderness, Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, consumed by the smog and pollution of an overdeveloped metropolis that most of the population now calls home. If they stay in the city, Agnes will die. So they volunteer to live in The Wilderness State, the last swath of untouched, protected land, where people had been forbidden until now. But Bea realizes that saving her daughter’s life may mean losing her in a different way—the farther the pair gets from civilization, the more their bond is tested.

How do you view your role as a writer in this cultural and political moment, and why is the time right for your book? 

I think writers and other artists show people what the world really looks like, or could look like, in the case of a speculative novel like mine. I’ve always felt that novels don’t bring baggage with them. Not like your relationships with family members or friends. So readers can pick them up and experience the truth in the book purely. They can process it quietly in their own time without pressure. That space is a gift.

I think any time is the right time for any book. There will always be readers who needed what they read. And zeitgeists seem very circular. I remember getting depressed early on in the writing of The New Wilderness because a bunch of climate change books had come out and I was thinking that by the time I finished mine no one would care…because, I guess, climate change would be all fixed???

Read the full article about climate change literature at The Aspen Institute.