Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cli-Fi – A new way to talk about climate change in literary terms -- an interview with Danny Bloom

Cli-Fi – A new way to talk about climate change in literary terms

by staff writer
The Irish Times, Dublin

I've flown overseas to interview an elfin little man named 
Danny Bloom, the transnational climate activist who, probably
more than anyone else on the planet, has done so much
to popularize and promote the the new literary term known
as cli-fi. Yes, that guy, and yes, that term.

We're sitting in a leafy park on a hot summer day, and Bloom
who coined the term in 2011 whilst he was doing some PR
work for a sci-fi writer named Jim Laughter in Tulsa, 
Oklahoma and his new SF thriller novel titled "Polar City Red.''

Bloom had commissioned the book the previous year, after 
putting out some online advertisements asking
for experienced novelists who might want to tackle writing
a speculative fiction novel about so-called "polar cities" housing
survivors of global warming impact events in the distant
future. Laughter got the gig, and he wrote the book as
quick as he could. It came out on Earth Day 2012, published
by a Texas imprint that Laughter had worked with
before. Polar cities, you ask? Read the book, or for now,
Google it at its Amazon site or on Laugher's own website.

He's in the Google book. See

So I ask Danny just how came to be doing PR for
a sci-fi writer in Tulsa.

"I was looking for someone to wrote a dystopian sci-fi novel
about survivors of global warming impact events in
some distant, way distant, future, like around 500 years from
now," he said. "The person I found online was Jim Laughter,
and after I outlined my commission request, he took a day 
to think it over and immediately said he would write it. The
deal was that I would title the novel as "Polar City Red" but 
that the entire plot and cast of chararacters would be his
to write and work out. Also, all payments and royalties for
the novel would go to Jim. All I wanted to hold in my hand
at some point was his novel.''

"When the time came to promote the book, I decided to
call it a cli-fi thriller, cli-fi standing for climate fiction, of 
course, like the way sci-fi stands for science fiction,"
Bloom, now in his early 70, told me. "I sent out a bunch of 
online press releases to newspapers and websites
worldwide, using the cli-fi term for the first time. Nobody 
replied to me, and nothing happened at first. But then I
sent a short note to novelist Margaret Atwood in Canada via 
Twitter and she kindly retweeted my tweet about "a new cli-fi thriller 
titled 'Polar City Red' by Jim Laugher."

Atwood at that time, 2011, had 600,000 Twitter followers. Now she 
has almost 2 million followers. So while Bloom's press
release went nowhere, Atwood's brief tweet about a cli-fi thriller
that nobody had ever heard of before got picked up by
media worldwide. Some outlets even credited Atwood with
coining the term, and one newspaper in Ireland said it was 
her coinage.

I asked Danny how he felt about Atwood getting the credit
for coining cli-fi in the Irish Times and he said he loved it.

"Doesn't matter who coined it or when or how, the main thing
is the term got out there, and it made literary history," he said.
"I can't thank Dr Atwood enough for her help with this."

Bloom also published a series of opeds about Laughter's cli-fi 
thriller and placed them in newspaper and blogs and websites
worldwide, as part of his PR campaign for the novel.

"Lo and behold, the term caught on," Bloom says, as if he
still can't believe it. "An important climate blogger at Emory 
University, Judith Curry, picked up the term in a popular
blog she titled "Cli-Fi" with over 300 comments coming in
to her. Then in April 2013, a year after Jim's little paperback
came out, NPR radio did a viral post headlined "It's so hot 
now, there's even a new literary genre for these novels: cli-fi."

The NPR reporter, Angela Evancie, put cli-fi on the national literary
map that day. And her post was followed in the next few weeks 
with stories about cli-fi in the UK Guardian, The Christian Science 
Monitor, The Financial Times, The New York Times and the BBC, 
Bloom says.

"It was in the air," he notes. "The time was just perfect
for cli-fi to catch on and it did."

I asked Bloom if one sci-fi novel with a cli-fi theme was enough to create the
cli-fi movement we see worldwide today.

"Basically, yes," he says. "Jim's novel and Atwood's viral tweet were the things
that started the ball rolling. That was in 2011 and 2012. Then a year later,
on April 20, 2013, NPR did that big radio story on air and in text at the site. Angela's radio segment caught the attention of the BBC,
 the UK Guardian,
Slate, Salon, the New York Times, Time magazine and both the AP and
Reuters news wires. Even media outlets in Australia and Brazil picked it up.
Spain and Italy and Germany and France. Cli-fi is now a global term, most
non-English language websites use the cli-fi term in ABC letters, rather than
try to translate it into German or French. Just like sci-fi, cli-fi has a global ring
to it now. It's quite amazing. All because of the internet. In a pre-internet time,
this never would have happened and certainly never so quickly."

Bloom lives a simple life, he explains, with no office, no secretary, no funding,
no sponors and no computer even.

What? I ask, you do all this and you don't have a computer?

"I use the local internet cafes for my writing and PR work," he says. "I don't want
to have a computer in my home, as I don't want to become addicted, which I would
if I had one in my home. I would never go out. So by not having a computer, 
and having
never owned one, I can control my online life rather than having it control me. 
Peace of
mind. I'm a bit of neo-Luddite when it comes to technology. I prefer the simple life."

Bloom says that an entire global cli-fi community has now sprung up worldwide, 
with no leader
and no official sponsorship. 

"It was just ut in the air and cli-fi came around at this time," he says.

I ask: optimist or pessimist?


Happy camper or a mostly depressed doom and gloom guy?

"Happy camper."

Energized by the daily tweets and blog posts and websites analyzing, 
commenting on
and putting the cli-fi term on the map?

"Energized. Psyched. Emboldened. Aroused."

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

"Light. And darkness."

Care to explain that comment?

"Ying yang. It's not all light and it's not all darkness."

Last question: Who will benefit from the cli-fi PR work you have been doing
the past several years?

"Future generations, over the next 30 generations of humankind. Over the
next 500 years."

How can you be so sure of that?

"i'm sure. I can see the future."

Are you a clairvoyant or something?

"No, I'm just a kid from the 1950s who watched a lot of Twilight Zone TV 
shows with
my older brother in the den of our suburban home in western Massachusetts."

Someone once said you were ''a force of nature,'' with all your blogging and 
news links 
for the PR campaign of cli-fi over the past ten years or so. True?

"Oh, that was Joe in Seattle. No, I'm not a force of nature, far from it. More like 
a fart of nature."

And a highly-regarded academic in Australia once reviewed to you in a podcast
as ''a serial pest.'' What did he mean by that?

"Oh, that was Andrew, a friend. In Australian slang, where it is used mostly, 
I had never
heard the term before, it means someone who is determined as hell to promote
his or her campaign in the media, and has a never give up attitude. So i accept
that Australian gentleman's label. He meant it as praise he later told me."

Anything else you want to say before I press the send button?

"We are the world, we are the cli-fi movement."

PS: .....Bloom later sent me an email when I got back to Dublin, which read:

"I have already made my tombstone and paid for it in cash. It reads: 
'Here lies Danny Bloom, Alien, (1949-2032)'."

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