Roy Scranton

Roy Scranton is the author of the novel War Porn (Soho Press, 2016) and the philosophical essay Learning to Die in the Anthropocene (City Lights, 2015). His journalism, essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have been published in The Nation, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, LIT, Boston Review, Prairie Schooner, Los Angeles Review of Books, Contemporary Literature, The Appendix, and elsewhere. He is also one of the editors of Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War (Da Capo, 2013). He holds a Ph.D. in English from Princeton and an M.A. from the New School for Social Research, and teaches creative writing in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame.

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“War porn,” n. Videos, images, and narratives featuring graphic violence, often brought back from combat zones, viewed voyeuristically or for emotional gratification. Such media are often presented and circulated without context, though they may be used as evidence of war crimes. 

War porn is also, in Roy Scranton’s searing debut novel, a metaphor for the experience of war in the age of the War on Terror, the fracturing and fragmentation of perspective, time, and self that afflicts soldiers and civilians alike, and the global networks and face-to-face moments that suture our fragmented lives together. In War Porn three lives fit inside one another like nesting dolls: a restless young woman at an end-of-summer barbecue in Utah; an American soldier in occupied Baghdad; and Qasim al-Zabadi, an Iraqi math professor, who faces the US invasion of his country with fear, denial, and perseverance. AsWar Porn cuts from America to Iraq and back again, as home and hell merge, we come to see America through the eyes of the occupied, even as we see Qasim become a prisoner of the occupation. Through the looking glass of War Porn, Scranton reveals the fragile humanity that connects Americans and Iraqis, torturers and the tortured, victors and their victims.

"What impresses is the brutal immediacy of the writing, its authority. Roy Scranton is a truth telling war writer."
—E.L. Doctorow, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Ragtime and The March

"War Porn is dire, savage, and brilliant, a simmering fever-dream of a novel that's as pure and true in its vision of the long war as anything I've read. Roy Scranton is merciless—and why should he be anything but? War's corruption soaks through every layer of life, and War Porn drives home that truth with unflinching, and ultimately harrowing, honesty."
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk 

“Roy Scranton’s searingly honestly first novel is surreal, ultra-real, and like everything he writes from the heart. This examination of the tragedy of what happened in Iraq reaches out to touch of all us. A brilliant literary achievement.”
—Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times Best Selling author of Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy



"This book is truly unique—true in its fidelity to fact, unique in the depth of its empathy. In prose that rises to aphoristic, coruscating brilliance, Iraq vet Roy Scranton has painted, in words, the equivalent of Goya's war etchings. A rare and genuine masterpiece."
—Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, author of The Watch and The Storyteller of Marrakesh

“Roy Scranton makes us feel the brutalizing affects of war on both Iraqi civilians and American soldiers from the inside out. War Porn seduces, then delivers a sucker-punch no one will forget. This is one of the most honest and propaganda-free novels about the Iraq War yet written.” 
—Helen Benedict, author of Sand Queen and The Lonely Soldier

​"​Roy Scranton has created a singular structure to house public and private memory of the long Iraq War. His war stories illuminate, horrify, and seduce. This is a novel of rare ambition—War Porn gripped me as I read it and haunts me still." 
—Hilary Plum, author of They Dragged Them through the Streets

"I have never read a book like War Porn. Roy Scranton writes with unnerving power. There is much to admire here—the meticulous craftsmanship, the hysterical comic passages, the way the sheer audacity of vision is matched at every turn by the innovative skill to carry it out—but what I'm left with at the end is difficult to put into words. It's intense and troubling. It's what all truly excellent literature leaves you with. A sense of something shattering."
—Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment

"A harrowing novel of the Iraq invasion and occupation, WAR PORN exposes the dark heart of that war for all to see. Brilliant and stark, WAR PORN is that rare book that demands to be read out of sheer significance—a stunning accomplishment."
—Matt Gallagher, author of Youngblood



ON BOOKSTORE SHELVES AUGUST 2, 2016




Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization. City Lights, 2015.


Coming home from the war in Iraq, US Army private Roy Scranton thought he'd left the world of strife behind. Then he watched as new calamities struck America, heralding a threat far more dangerous than ISIS or Al Qaeda: Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, megadrought—the shock and awe of global warming.

Our world is changing. Rising seas, spiking temperatures, and extreme weather imperil global infrastructure, crops, and water supplies. Conflict, famine, plagues, and riots menace from every quarter. From war-stricken Baghdad to the melting Arctic, human-caused climate change poses a danger not only to political and economic stability, but to civilization itself . . . and to what it means to be human. Our greatest enemy, it turns out, is ourselves. The warmer, wetter, more chaotic world we now live in—the Anthropocene—demands a radical new vision of human life.

In this bracing response to climate change, Roy Scranton combines memoir, reportage, philosophy, and Zen wisdom to explore what it means to be human in a rapidly evolving world, taking readers on a journey through street protests, the latest findings of earth scientists, a historic UN summit, millennia of geological history, and the persistent vitality of ancient literature. Expanding on his influentialNew York Times essay (the #1 most-emailed article the day it appeared, and selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014), Scranton responds to the existential problem of global warming by arguing that in order to survive, we must come to terms with our mortality.

Plato argued that to philosophize is to learn to die. If that's true, says Scranton, then we have entered humanity's most philosophical age—for this is precisely the problem of the Anthropocene. The trouble now is that we must learn to die not as individuals, but as a civilization.

"In Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, Roy Scranton draws on his experiences in Iraq to confront the grim realities of climate change. The result is a fierce and provocative book."—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

"Roy Scranton's Learning to Die in the Anthropocene presents, without extraneous bullshit, what we must do to survive on Earth. It's a powerful, useful, and ultimately hopeful book that more than any other I've read has the ability to change people's minds and create change. For me, it crystallizes and expresses what I've been thinking about and trying to get a grasp on. The economical way it does so, with such clarity, sets the book apart from most others on the subject."—Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach trilogy



"Roy Scranton lucidly articulates the depth of the climate crisis with an honesty that is all too rare, then calls for a reimagined humanism that will help us meet our stormy future with as much decency as we can muster. While I don't share his conclusions about the potential for social movements to drive ambitious mitigation, this is a wise and important challenge from an elegant writer and original thinker. A critical intervention."—Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate


"Concise, elegant, erudite, heartfelt & wise."—Amitav Ghosh, author of Flood of Fire

"War veteran and journalist Roy Scranton combines memoir, philosophy, and science writing to craft one of the definitive documents of the modern era, one that asks what life still means when the threat of climate change advances unabated and the extinction of our civilizations is more or less an eventuality. Scranton's not interested in false optimism, but nor does he dwell in bleakness, sounding out the worth of human dignity on a dying planet."—The Believer, "Best Books of 2015"


"Roy Scranton gets it. He knows in his bones that this civilization is over. He knows it is high time to start again the human dance of making some other way to live. In his distinctive and original way he works though a common cultural inheritance, making it something fresh and new for these all too interesting times. This compressed, essential text offers both uncomfortable truths and unexpected joy."—McKenzie Wark, author of Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene

"We're fucked. We know it. Kind of. But Roy Scranton in this blistering new book goes down to the darkness, looks hard and doesn't blink. He even brings back a few, hard-earned slivers of light. . . . What is philosophy? It's time comprehended in thought. This is our time and Roy Scranton has had the courage to think it in prose that sometimes feels more like bullets than bullet points."—Simon Critchley, Co-founder and moderator of The New York Times online philosophy series "The Stone," author of Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance, and the Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research

"An eloquent, ambitious, and provocative book."—Rob Nixon, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

"Roy Scranton has written a howl for the Anthropocene—a book full of passion, fire, science and wisdom. It cuts deeper than anything that has yet been written on the subject."—Dale Jamieson, author of Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed—And What It Means For Our Future


"As a motivator, the concept Life hasn't been working out so great, hardwired as it is into the post-Neolithic drive to exist no matter what the quality of that existence. Life won't help you to live. Including ecological awareness in our political decisions means including as much death in as many different modes (psychic, philosophical, social) as we can manage. Roy Scranton has written an essential recipe book for adding some death to the bland, oppressive and ecologically disastrous human cake."—Timothy Morton, author of Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics

"In the brief but crowded pages of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, Iraq War veteran, Roy Scranton, wields both history and philosophy as forensic tools. With the unblinking eyes of a medical examiner, he systematically reveals the causes, trajectory and outcome of our planetary domination and its subsequent climate crisis. Slicing away obscuring adipose tissue of romanticism on the left and denial on the right, he pinpoints the source of the corpse's demise."—Jose Knighton, Weller Book Works' Newsletter

"Scranton has always been a few steps ahead of other veteran-authors. . . . Learning to Die in the Anthropocene casts a beautiful allure."—Peter Molin, Time Now

"Scranton’s book has its own kind of power. . . . There is something cathartic about his refusal to shy away from the full scope of our predicament."—Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, The Los Angeles Review of Books

"This is a small book with big ideas from an Army veteran who views the flooding after Hurricane Katrina and sees 'the same chaos and collapse I’d seen in Baghdad.' Scranton brings meaning and humor to the mayhem."—J. Ford Huffman, The Military Times





Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. Edited by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher. Da Capo, 2013.

These stories aren't pretty and they aren't for the faint of heart. They are realistic, haunting and shocking. And they are all unforgettable. Television reports, movies, newspapers and blogs about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have offered images of the fighting there. But this collection offers voices--powerful voices, telling the kind of truth that only fiction can offer.

What makes the collection so remarkable is that all of these stories are written by those who were there, or waited for them at home. The anthology, which features a Foreword by National Book Award winner Colum McCann, includes the best voices of the wars' generation: Brian Turner, whose poem "Hurt Locker" was the movie's inspiration; Colby Buzzell, whose book My War resonates with countless veterans; Siobhan Fallon, whose book You Know When the Men Are Gone echoes the joy and pain of the spouses left behind; Matt Gallagher, whose book Kaboom captures the hilarity and horror of the modern military experience; and nine others.