In this week’s Illustrated PEN, Guest Editor and MUTHA Magazine Editor-in-Chief Meg Lemke presents “Fire,” an excerpt from Lauren Redniss’s Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future

Meg Lemke writes: The world is burning.

“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NASA).

MacArthur Genius Lauren Redniss’s gorgeously illustrated Thunder & Lightning takes weather seriously. She tells the human history of extreme weather events—and the unpredictability of the science of forecasting. We learn about toxic fogs descending on London, about women burned as witches for their “magic lightning,” about floods and storms and inspiring human endurance in frozen landscapes. Through Redniss’s evocative portraits of weather’s past, we appreciate our precarious future. The current administration has scrubbed research on climate change from government websites and censored reports, while advancing science deniers into position to reverse progressive policy. Yet, it’s a fact that the fire had already spread beyond any single government’s control.

It’s time to talk about the weather.


Lauren Redniss is the author of three works of visual nonfiction. Her most recent book, Thunder & Lightning: Weather, Past, Present, Future, won the 2016 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. She is the recipient of a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and is currently a fellow at the New America Foundation.