For entry number sixteen of our Beneath the Needle Q&A series, we're joined by Dennis Mombauer; author, creative and climate expert who has been kind enough to provide insight into all forms of his work, as well as the fantastic Flash Fiction contribution The Fourth Fundamental Force.
Dennis Mombauer currently lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he works on climate change and as a writer of speculative fiction, textual experiments, and poetry. He is Director: Research & Knowledge Management at SLYCAN Trust, a Sri Lankan non-profit think tank that focuses on climate change, adaptation, resilience, sustainable development, and related topics. Dennis is also co-publisher of a German magazine for experimental fiction, Die Novelle – Magazine for Experimentalism, and has published fiction and non-fiction in various magazines and anthologies. His first English novel, The Fertile Clay, is scheduled to be published by Nightscape Press in 2021.
So, Dennis - The Fourth Fundamental Force evokes themes that you have a particular focus and passion for. As an expert within your field, could you share some insight into your speculative fiction and how your day-to-day influences your output?
In terms of inspiration, I think working on climate change sometimes feels as if I am dealing with vast, invisible forces beyond comprehension. Of course, the science of climate change is clear, but the impacts are so far-ranging and complex that they are difficult to grasp, and the scale makes it hard to not feel helpless about them. This backdrop of incomprehensible forces and losses that we can’t fully comprehend translates into my stories, even if they take place on a much smaller scale. In The Fourth Fundamental Force, there are things missing in the city, but the children in the story are not even aware that this is the case. I fear that we might soon have similar experiences in the real world: there will be things lost due to climate change that future generations will have a hard time imagining as normal.
Being embedded within a non-profit that has such an honourable focus, do you think, internationally, climate change is getting the attention it deserves? Does your current position in Sri Lanka - a location unfortunately all too familiar with the dangers of climate change - attest to this at all vs. your time abroad in Europe, where folk are arguably less-exposed to its direct consequences?
As (for example) the recent floods in Germany have shown, even places that were considered safe can suddenly experience severe climate-related impacts. My family lives in the Ahr valley, one of the areas worst affected by the floods, and though they are thankfully all alive and well, some have experienced serious losses and damages as their houses got flooded or destroyed. On a global level, I think climate change is receiving increasing attention t