A few weeks ago I visited an exhibition at the British Library entitled 'Out Of This World: Science Fiction But Not As We Know It'. It was particularly good for literary references to utopian and futurist visions of the past and present. Since then I've been on a mixed literary diet of Ballard and William Morris.
Ballard's 'The Drowned World' is full of references to biological memory in humans, a kind of mammalian genetic hangover which (especially in a future drowned, heated planet) would account for our revulsion of reptiles, left over from the days when the planet was a similar temperature and dinosaurs held sway. He has his character Kerans muse... 'a more important task than mapping the harbours and lagoons of the external landscape was to chart the ghostly deltas and luminous beaches of the submerged neuronic continents.'
I've also just got hold of a copy of 'The Sheep Look Up', a dystopian 1970's fiction set in a heavily polluted America. I like the idea of sheep being the sensors of change, the 'canaries in the mine', particularly in relation to Wales. If something nasty were to happen here then no doubt, as in the case of Chernobyl, the grass-munching species would find out pretty fast. The reference comes from a poem by John Milton titled 'Lycidas'....'The Hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, But swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw, Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread...'. (Hmmm, nice!)