Thursday, January 5, 2017

How to wake up people with ''climate fiction'' novels, movies


How to wake up people
with climate fiction novels, movies

A climate activist finds inspiration in cli-fi novels  

by Dan Bloom

[Dan Bloom edits The Cli-Fi Report.]

PREFACE: Words matter. If we can intergrate a new phrase in our  language, literature and awareness --- Cli-Fi --- a new subgenre, then we can increase the prominence of the idea of  "Climate Change" in our national consciousness. And, maybe, just maybe we 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.

NOTE: Cli-fi” movies and novels have the power to change minds. That's their mission. Have they sparked any change in society at large? Maybe not. But the potential of this genre is apparent in some of its storylines.

A scientist takes a moral stand against the way the media trivializes and misreports climate issues facing humankind in Barbara Kingsolver's novel "Flight Behavior."

The movie “Snowpiercer” gives a sense of climate change’s effects on the developing world when a pla...netary catastrophe plunges the world into an ice age and the last members of humanity live on a train with the haves separated from the have-nots.

***NOTE: As the novelist Sarah Stone wrote in a review of Edan Lepucki's post-apocalyptic novel "California”: If we survive, “it will be in part because of books like this one, which go beyond abstract predictions and statistics to show the moment-by-moment reality of a painful possible future, the price we may have to pay for our passionate devotion to all the wrong things."

In the 1957 pulp classic
On the Beach,

​ ​
​Australian ​
novelist and aeronautical engineer Nevil Shute
​Norway ​
imagined a horrific scenario in the aftermath of
​an imagined ​
World War III. A small group of survivors clustered in Australia await the arrival of a deadly radioactive cloud
​ from the northern hemisphere​
, contemplating the near-certainty that the rest of humanity has already perished.
It’s a terrifying prospect, of course, which is why the book has retained its grip on the public imagination, adapted twice as a movie and, in 2008, as a BBC radio broadcast.
​I fiirst
read On the Beach in a high school English class in 1967. It gave
Cold War nightmares
​, since our home in Springfield, Massachusetts was not far from Westover Air Force Base where B-52 bombers with nuclear bombs aboard and on the ready were stationed. My father was a doctor and made rounds at the air base every Saturday.​

panicked all over again
​in 2006 
 when he read the doomsday predictions of the British environmentalist James Lovelock. Writing in the Independent
​ newspaper​
, Lovelock envisioned an
population wildly diminished by massive climate change
​ ​
​ ​
not hundreds of years in the future, but by the end of this century.
I was in a deep
​blue depressed ​
funk for about a month
​ that winter after reading that article.​ But unlike Lovelock, I am more optimistic and think
we’ve got 500 years,
​some ​
30 generations of people, to keep working on this problem.


​Now approaching 70 years of age, I am
looking to literature to help convince
fellow human beings about the ominous implications of carbon emissions.

​actually ​
looking for 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 On the Beach so it shocks people into awareness.

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
​ ​
Ernest Callenbach’s cult novel about an attempt to create a green utopia on the West Coast, when it came out in 1975.
​And ​
​n ​
​I even
tried to find a
​literary ​
agent for a novel
wanted to write about a huge flood that submerges New York City.
​I wrote three chapters and sent the pitch in. The agent told me not to quit my day job.

​Fom that exprience I learned that
​ne ​
to be a genius to write a novel
​, and ​
I’m no a genius.
​ More of climate gadfly, a neurotic, worried ,worrier.​
It wasn’t until
saw the 2004 disaster film
The Day After Tomorrow,
which imagined the sudden arrival of a new Ice Age, that
​I really
started thinking about the power of storytelling to rally like-minded citizens concerned for the future of life on Earth. A few years later,
​ on a whim, ​
coined a phrase: “cli-fi,” or climate fiction.

​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
, hoping to draw attention to
notion of cli-fi.
I’m basically a PR
​guy. Passionate. Energized. Determined.​

​And lo and behold, the
idea of a genre for speculative climate fiction found some traction
​in 2011
when it was endorsed on Twitter by Margaret Atwood, the novelist whose science fiction trilogy, capped by MaddAddam (2013), dealt with a corrupt anti-environmentalist.
​I also
acknowledge and applaud the broader genre
​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 h
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. 

​Of course, ​
​hat ​
makes for a limited category. Yet there are examples as far back as Jules Verne, who imagined
​ ​
​ ​
in the 1860s
​ ​
​ ​
a future Paris struggling with a precipitous drop in temperature. That was a plot point in Verne’s “lost” novel Paris in the Twentieth Century, which went unpublished until 1994.
Given the speed with which the phrase “climate change” (which actually dates back at least 50 years) has overtaken the environmental discussion in recent years, it’s perhaps not surprising that there’s been a surge in books that could be called cli-fi. Among them are Marcel Theroux’s Far North (2009), which the Washington Post called “the first great cautionary fable of climate change”; Ian McEwan’s Solar (2010), which won a UK literary award for comic fiction; and Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow (2014), which imagines New York City flooded by a colossal hurricane.
​ ​
These are all examples of quality fiction that happen to take climate change as a shared theme. As far as I’m concerned,
​ ​
cli-fi needs character-driven stories. It shouldn’t be propaganda novels.
A good story,
, will have the potential to attract not only climate activists, but also some of the
​global warming ​
​. ​
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 veteran Kim Stanley Robinson. Due in
New York 2140
under the water of the rising
​global ea levels





“Every street became a canal,” explains the promotional blurb
​ for his novel​
. “Every skyscraper an island.” How will the city’s residents
​ ​

​ ​
the lower and upper classes, quite literally
​ ​
​ ​
The book
​ just ​
might be the next phenomenon in the
​cli-fi ​
genre .


1 comment:


NAYSAYER TWEETED: "Apropos of a recent shallow article I won't link to: "Cli-fi" is a silly term and no writing will "save the world." People who like reading and writing like to think reading and writing will save the world because it is nice to think what we like is good."