When Shells Crumble

King Tides! Intelligent fungi! Martial Law!

Heat waves! Atmospheric rivers and floods!

A glowing review at the San Francisco Chronicle!

When Shells Crumble may well be the most optimistic disaster novel you’ll ever read…”
—A.D. Cirulis, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 29, 2023

A nice Q&A in Mission Local, February 22, 2024

by Chris Carlsson

ISBN 978-1-959556-82-4

468 pages

When Shells Crumble

$25.00 plus shipping
(Outside the U.S. shipping cost is the price of the book! If you want one shipped outside the U.S. please pay for two books and I’ll send you one!)




City Lights Books, Medicine for Nightmares, Bird & Beckett, Dog-Eared Books, Borderland Books, Bound Together Books

The inventor of the Hempattery quits her corporate job to pursue her visionary biotech experiments only to find a back-burnered idea of hers was stolen, bioengineered, and disseminated by mysterious biohackers, leading to a new malleable fungus that takes on properties no one expected. The Robertson family, a sprawling black San Francisco clan, finds itself at the heart of this swirling urban saga. From the 101-year-old matriarch through her youngest son Frank, a UCSF cop, to the urban farming granddaughter Janet, sons and daughters move through this strangely familiar San Francisco.

After a Supreme Court-endorsed reversal of the popular vote in Arizona and Wisconsin leads to a new Republican government in 2024, protests erupt, and a National Emergency is declared. When security forces open fire at a Dolores Park protest, resistance blooms and surprising new agents of history appear, from urban peasants, activist plumbers, and mountain squatters, to underground scientists, disaffected security personnel, and rebellious tech workers. The federal government begins to erode from within as its efforts to dictate food and energy consumption falter while climate catastrophes produce unprecedented economic and ecological crises.

Chris Carlsson is one of the great bards of San Francisco, whose activism and storytelling have reshaped the way we understand our city’s past—and changed its future. When Carlsson offers a vision of urbanism to come, you’d better pay attention.

—Annalee Newitz, author of The Terraformers and Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Carlsson’s masterful storytelling coupled with his deep ecological and historical knowledge of the Bay Area roots this novel intimately in place and community. His characters are multi-faceted, communicating the complexity of movements for justice made up of passion, vision, compromise, conflict and possibility. When Shells Crumble is a wild ride, that will leave you breathless at times, while over and over again centering the power of community — across many lines of difference — to manifest the world we so desperately need.

—Joanna Shenk

So deeply personal, alarming and hopeful. It’s a great read!

—Meg Sandine

Just finished and loved your book—only regret was facing reality after I finished it!

—Stacey Carter

Carlsson invites us to put the imagination back in the revolution. When Shells Crumble is reminder that the path from dystopia to utopia may not be as long as we have feared it to be.

—James R. Tracy, co-author No Fascist USA! The John Brown Anti Klan Committee and Lessons for Today’s Movements

Futurist and thought provoker Carlsson once again imagines a near-future scenario where disaster spawns opportunities for radical self-reliance. San Francisco and the greater Bay Area are where history, politics, culture and environment create a messy stew of biotech, inequality, activism, and overreaching federal crackdowns. But wait—mysteriously enabled flora and fauna may be allies in the struggle! As with his first novel After the Deluge, Carlsson’s ideas will stay in your mind long after you put down his tale of radicalized plumbers and urban gardeners.

—Laura Lent, retired, formerly Chief of Collections & Technical Services, San Francisco Public Library

A must read account of modern day SF: the different possible scenarios that could await us and how to organize to ensure a just future. Urban gardeners, plumbers, biotech hackers and crows—yes, crows!!—organize to fight back against an authoritarian regime.

—Tina Gerhardt, Environmental Journalist and Academic

Most dystopian fiction takes the reader to strange new worlds where mutations are large and grotesque. The strength of Chris Carlsson’s When Shells Crumble instead arises from how close its future-world is to our present-day Trumpland realities. Enriched by Carlsson’s deep, sympathetic understanding of San Francisco Bay Area alternative undergrounds, When Shells Crumble brings us into a landscape of martial law and spirited resistance to it, made all the more chilling by how little distance there seems between his imagined nightmare scenario and the near-nightmare we currently inhabit.

—Joseph Matthews, author of The Blast