Friday, January 6, 2017

How to wake up people with climate fiction novels: A climate activist finds inspiration in 'cli-fi

How to wake up people
with climate fiction novels
A climate activist finds inspiration in 'cli-fi '
by Dan Bloom
[Dan Bloom edits The Cli-Fi Report.]
The 'cli-fi' term came to me several years ago as I was thinking of ways to raise awareness of novels and movies about climate change issues. I toyed with using such terms as ''clima-fic'' or ''climf-ic'' or ''cli-fic,'' for the longer term of "climate fiction." But I wanted an even shorter term that could fit easily into newspaper and magazine headlines. So using the rhyming sounds of ''sci-fi,'' I decided to go with the short, simple -to-say and simple-to-write "cli-fi". And the short term caught on worldwide, slowly, beginning on April 20, 2013 when NPR radio did a five-minute radio segment about the term, interviewing novelists Nathaniel Rich and Barbara Kingsolver. That was the beginning of its global outreach and popularity among academics, literary critics, journalists and headline writers.
Now approaching 70 years of age, I am looking to literature to help convince my  fellow human beings about the ominous implications of carbon emissions.
I'm actually  looking for something like the '' On the Beach '' of climate change . I’m looking for somebody somewhere in the world who can tell a story that has the power of Nevil Shute's 1957 novel ''On the Beach'' so it shocks people into global warming awareness.
I  became an environmentalist while studying at Tufts University in the late 1960s. Later, while on the West Coast and living in a commune in Oregon, I  read ''Ecotopia,'' Ernest Callenbach’s novel about an attempt to create a green utopia on the West Coast. In 1980, I even  tried to find a literary agent for a novel I  wanted to write about a huge flood that submerges New York City based on a newspaper story I read in Boston. I wrote three chapters and sent the pitch in.
The agent told me not to quit my day job.
As far as I'm concerned, cli-fi needs character-driven stories. It shouldn't be propaganda novels.
A good story, I feel,
will have the potential to attract not only climate activists, but also some of the undecided global warming deniers . The whole point is to reach people with emotions, not just preach to the choir.
Next up, and I am waiting with anticipation to read it when it comes out,
is the forthcoming novel from the Hugo Award-winning science fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson. Due in mid- March, '' New York 2140 '' half- submerges Manhattan  under the waters of the rising global ea levels  .
“Every street became a canal,” explains the promotional blurb for the novel . “Every skyscraper an island.” How will the city’s residents — the lower and upper classes, quite literally — cope?
The book just might be the next phenomenon in the cli-fi genre .
I am now committed to promoting the idea that well-told stories are and will be critical to raise awareness about the implications of climate change. Unpaid and unaffiliated, I have  devoted the last several years to contacting writers, editors and literary agents worldwide, hoping to draw attention to the notion of cli-fi.
I'm basically a PR guy. Passionate. Energized. Determined.
I don't write cli-fi novels. I want to read them.
Prior to the NPR story, the concept of a genre for speculative climate fiction found some initial social media traction in 2011 when it was endorsed on Twitter by Margaret Atwood, whose popular trilogy, capped by ''MaddAddam'' in 2013, dealt with a corrupt anti-environmentalist.  Of course, I readily acknowledge and applaud the broader genres of science fiction and eco-fiction, epitomized by such titles as Edward Abbey's ''The Monkey Wrench Gang,'' Barbara Kingsolver's ''Flight Behavior'' and Paolo Bacigalupi's ''The Water Knife.''
But I also
like to think of cli-fi as an independent, stand-alone genre, mostly restricted to those works of fiction that consider the specific problem of human-made global warming.
Words matter. If we can integrate a new phrase in our  language, literature and awareness --- ''cli-fi,'' a subgenre of science fiction -- then maybe we can increase the prominence of the idea of  "Climate Change" in our national consciousness. And, maybe, just maybe we as a  nation can have the political will to slow that process down.
What kind of lunatic would set out to introduce a new word into the language? Perhaps the ultimate in windmill jousting, only a fool would set out on such an impossible task.

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