Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Australian author James Bradley on the postive and useful marketing power of of 'cli-fi'

JB says on radio podcast Down Under:
"You know, people talk about cli-fi... You know, it's a useful marketing term, [and] as a term to help people understand what's going on with [climate-themed novels] at the moment, I ... think it's a very useful term..."

August 28, 2017
[an unsigned book review, possibly by James Bradley himself?]


Cli-fi – climate change fiction – has become so popular it has achieved the status of a genre. That makes it more easily identifiable and more marketable, but it also comes with pitfalls. Conventions carry the risk of appearing formulaic and repetitive. They also emphasise a genre’s status as fiction. This is all a problem for cli-fi, given that its practitioners are concerned with raising awareness about very real and urgent issues.
I had these thoughts reading Maja Lunde’s cli-fi novel The History of Bees. Once again, I was confronted with a future involving global warming, famine and hardship, and a Third World War. I was in familiar territory and feeling – dare I say it – a little bored. I began speculating on the possibility that cli-fi actually performs a kind of inoculation of its readers against the potential horrors of our future.
Having said that, Lunde presents an original angle. The dystopian future she depicts hinges on the disappearance of bees from their hives. This is a real-world phenomenon, known as colony collapse disorder, diagnosed as a problem in 2006. Bees, as pollinators, are crucial to food production.
The History of Bees interweaves three first-person narratives, which are set in three different time periods. One of those narratives, focused through the character of a US apiculturist in 2007, shows us colony collapse disorder in situ. Another narrative follows a 19th-century English scientist as he attempts to achieve fame and glory by inventing a convenient hive for beekeepers. In the third narrative, set in 2098, a Chinese woman is one of a vast workforce who hand-pollinates fruit trees in the aftermath of “The Collapse”.
The characterisation is at times heavy handed and the prose (in translation) occasionally flawed, but Lunde shows skill in drawing together the three narratives by the novel’s end, and in concluding with a welcome self-reflexivity about cli-fi’s aims and challenges. Most memorable, though, is the proposition that gradually emerges: “in order to live in nature, with nature, we must detach ourselves from the nature in ourselves”. Notably, it is the character from China – the country of the one-child policy, a universally denounced attempt at detaching people from their natural instincts – through whom this message is first presented. Here the book offers a bold provocation in the way cli-fi must if it is to have a genuine impactKN
Simon & Schuster, 400pp, $32.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 26, 2017 as "Maja Lunde, The History of Bees".

 By the way, there was a SF novel with a very similar cover published in the USA in 2003 and written by Mark Budz. Was James aware of this or was his Australian publisher aware of this when they decided to use that title? Book titles and movie titles cannot be copyrighted, so there is nothing wrong with two novels having the same title or similar cover designs. Just interesting book industry item.

LINK TO 2003 COVER of USA-written CLADE in 2003:

Clade Novel Cover.jpg
AuthorMark Budz

In the 2003 novel in the USA titled Clade, the Ecocaust, an environmental disaster, causes major problems such as rising sea levels and additional strains on human resources. Although civilization recovers from this disaster, they do so at the expense of their previous freedoms. "Polycorps" develop from governments and corporations. The wonders of biotech introduce a new class system where human beings have been socially engineered at the molecular level through a process called "clading." This "clading" process places entire socioeconomic or ethnic groups made to be biologically predisposed to live in particular communities. If a person enters a community that they have not been claded to, the consequences could be devastating, resulting in sickness or death. Although it is not intentionally racist, businesses and retail outlets using this clading process to keep away the riffraff, will simply screen out clientele below a certain prosperity level. Therefore, a black market exists enabling people to buy the right biotech to inhibit the "pherions" in their systems to be placed in a certain clade.

The protagonist is a man named Rigo, a Latino from the San Jose clade who wants to move up in society. Rigo accepts a job at a biotech firm that develops special vegetation for a planned orbital colony. Although his friends look down on him with contempt for selling out, he still maintains a close relationship with his mother, lawless brother, and Anthea, his troubled girlfriend. At work, after Rigo fears being exposed to some dangerous pherions, he finds to his surprise that the company he works for eagerly wants to send some of the plants they've been working on into space; and they want Rigo to supervise the transfer. Something about the haste of the company leaves Rigo feeling fishy. The secrets of this story unravel one after another, leading to holes in the plot.

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