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Press Release
ASU to imagine water war scenarios with best selling author Paolo Bacigalupi

TEMPE, Ariz – In Paolo Bacigalupi’s most recent science fiction novel, “The Water Knife,” Phoenix is dried up and California and Nevada are not too far behind. The millions of people who rely on the Colorado River to survive are not only thirsty, but fighting for their lives. It’s a compelling story that captures a not-so-distant future. Will Phoenix eventually collapse? Will the river dry up?

As part of Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, a partnership between the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and Center for Science and the Imagination, Bacigalupi will visit ASU on Thursday, September 17 to share the inspiration behind “The Water Knife” and discuss how he uses creative writing to imagine the future of the Southwest. Bacigalupi follows award-winning author Margaret Atwood as the second guest lecturer for the Initiative.

“We are very excited to have Paolo Bacigalupi come to the setting of his latest novel and talk with students, faculty, researchers and residents about the state’s environmental challenges and how they relate to his gripping tale,” said Patricia Reiter, executive director of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative seeks to develop multiple narratives surrounding climate change. Bacigalupi is a perfect example of how the arts and sciences combine to help us visualize our future.”

After being exposed to environmental issues as High Country News’ online editor, Bacigalupi has become a leader in the emerging Climate Fiction genre. His first novel, “The Windup Girl,” explores a world where fossil fuels are depleted and big corporations bioengineer food and people.

“Bacigalupi’s work exemplifies the broader mission of the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative to open up our thinking about what might be possible,” said Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and Imagination. “His arresting, deeply imaginative visions of the planet’s future are both soaring and gritty, anchored by deeply compelling characters struggling and thriving in the aftermath of climate change. Stories like his are vital to understanding what kind of world we’d like to live in and help us reinvent the present to reach that future.”

Bacigalupi’s second novel, a young adult piece called “Ship Breaker,” tells the story of a young boy who strips stranded oil tankers for parts in the Gulf Coast.

“In writing for teenagers as well as adults, Bacigalupi shows us that an awareness of environmental issues must be cultivated across generations,” said Jewell Parker Rhodes, Piper Endowed Chair and founding artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. “His fearless and intelligent novels are compelling, not only for their adventurous plots, but for their artistry in evoking raw and complex emotions for their deeply human characters.”

Free tickets to Bacigalupi’s public lecture will be available on August 25. For more information and tickets, visit


The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at Arizona State University are the result of an* investment by the Rob and Melani Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation to advance sustainability solutions. Within the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, diverse teams of faculty, students, entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators collaborate to deliver sustainability solutions throughout the globe, to* provide learning opportunities for future and current sustainability leaders, and to engage audiences of all ages to take action and celebrate sustainability solutions*. The Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives are a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. For more information, visit*

The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing is the artistic and intellectual heart of a vibrant, multinational and culturally diverse world of writers. Housed in the historic President’s Cottage at Arizona State University, the Center and its grounds serve as an inspiring, supportive environment in which writers, faculty, students, and community members can exchange ideas and share an appreciation for literature and writing. The Center is dedicated to serving our writing communities, both local and global, by offering exceptional literary programs and resources. For more information, visit:

Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination engages in research, outreach and radical collaborations to reinvent our relationship with the future. From writers, artists and teachers to scientists, engineers and technologists, we bring diverse intellectual practices together to reignite humanity’s grand ambitions for innovation and discovery. The center serves as a network hub for audacious ideas and a cultural engine for thoughtful optimism through programs like Project Hieroglyph, a public community of science fiction authors, scientists and researchers. We provide a space for productive collaboration among the humanities, arts and sciences, bring human narratives to scientific questions, and explore the full social implications of cutting-edge research. For more information visit


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