Alice Henderson | Raising climate awareness through fiction

Alice Henderson reading. | Courtesy Alice Henderson

You could say that writing stories has been Alice Henderson’s passion for her entire life, starting with the first short story she wrote at age 6. Growing up in Missouri, Henderson conjured up fictional tales combining horror, science fiction, mystery and suspense.

Her father Gordon Henderson was a big influence; she watched him type poetry, novels and technical papers.

“I’ve always been interested in that [genre]. I do a lot of wildlife work on the side, so it’s great being up here. Having my house on a lookout over the forest has allowed me to connect with nature, go on the Tahoe Rim Trail and bring that theme to my writing.”
–Alice Henderson

“At 6 years old watching him use this 1920s manual typewriter, I felt that it was the kind of thing to use to write hardboiled detective stories,” Henderson says.

When she was 11 years old, she wrote her first novel (yet to be published). For her main character she invented the awkward Maynard A. Flichenheimer, whom she still uses sometimes in her work.

Alice Henderson and her “Skyfire Saga.” | Courtesy Alice Henderson

Most recently Henderson has started writing in a new genre, called climate fiction, or cli-fi, which focuses on global warming and climate change. She received a bachelor’s degree in college with a major in writing and a minor in earth science. She moved to Oregon and earned a master’s degree in folklore, mythology and paleoclimatology. When she wasn’t writing, Henderson hiked the Cascade Mountains and explored her natural surroundings.

After receiving her master’s, she got a position with LucasArts and moved to San Francisco. She wrote several “Star Wars” video games and became a fulltime freelance writer in 2001. She moved to South Lake Tahoe in 2009.

“I’ve always been interested in that [genre]. I do a lot of wildlife work on the side, so it’s great being up here. Having my house on a lookout over the forest has allowed me to connect with nature, go on the Tahoe Rim Trail and bring that theme to my writing,” she says.

In 2010, Henderson joined a writing workshop funded by NASA aimed at infusing accurate science issues into fiction. She also became a wildlife researcher specializing in bats and a local wildlife rehabilitator. These experiences led her to write the “Skyfire Saga,” a trilogy that takes place in a futuristic wasteland created by an environmental catastrophe. The third book in the series, “Shattered Skies,” was released in October. Some of the natural catastrophic events that happen in the books hit close to home.

“If you read these books like ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury — what he wrote is happening, it’s so eerily accurate,” she says. “The things I predicted in the ‘Skyfire Saga’ started happening, too. My best friend told me to stop writing. But I’m a big believer in accurate science and bringing that to my work. If we can start preventing or mitigating these issues, then that’s the goal.”

Henderson recently began a new cli-fi novel about a wildlife biologist who goes to remote places and studies endangered species. The first one, titled “A Solitude of Wolverines” will be released in October.

“I’m hoping that people interested in suspense will read these books and that it will entertain and bring awareness to these endangered species,” she says.

The premise in “A Solitude of Wolverines” is that a ski resort shuts down and the property moves into the hands of a land trust. Her main character works on how to possibly restore wolverines to the area.

“I’m working in other species that I want to give attention to. Douglas squirrels are in my wolverine book,” she says, adding that she’d like to write about the American pika.

Henderson believes that if she writes a nonfiction book about an endangered species, it will only appeal to a certain demographic. If she writes a suspenseful fiction novel weaving themes of climate change and wildlife into it, it will appeal to a larger readership and hopefully, educate, inspire and engage more people enough to facilitate change.

“That’s my No. 1 goal,” she says.

Henderson’s books are available on her website and on Amazon. | alicehenderson.com