Saturday, November 25, 2017

At the Movies Again: ''Cli-fi'' in film (and on print paper)

At the Movies Again: ''Cli-fi'' in film (and on print paper)

“The presumption of social media is that even the tiniest subjective micronarrative is worthy not only of private notation, as in a diary, but of sharing with other people.” Jonathan Franzen in The Guardian
So, Ms. Extremeresearcher went to the movies and had to write a whole blog post about it, eh? Yep, so here goes. You’re welcome.
It was a pretty quiet afternoon show at the smallest room of the local cinema.

I recently went to see the new Hollywood cli-fi movie Geostorm. It tells the tale of American and global geoengineering projects gone awry. Basically, since climate change caused a bunch of catastrophic storms and weather phenomena, the heroic scientists came to the rescue and set up a bunch of satellites to control the Earth’s climate. Things go alright for a while, until they don’t anymore. So a scientist hero is again needed to fix this pesky climate change issue.
Recognize this guy? “This. Is. Sparta!“? Credit:

The movie was starred by Gerard Butler of 300 fame. And yep, he’s the science nerd hero in the movie. Not surprisingly, the film is pretty “masculine” in many ways. It also contains mind-numbingly boring engineer porn that shows in slow motion how different techno-mechanical gadget thingys dock and reattach themselves and so on. But, it did also contain a couple of relatively cool female roles and, even though I think that it’s deeply problematic to put faith in geoengineering projects the way the film seems to suggest, it still wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen.

But yeah, those are the best “jokes” of the movie.
I also recently went to see the new Blade Runner 2049 with mrs. extremesesearcher. Many people have noted how climate, although not really mentioned or foregrounded in it, still plays an important role in the movie, and that is true. It also dealt with some interesting themes such as the human/nonhuman and life/nonlife boundaries that I’m interested in.

As a film, I thought this was actually pretty good. It does suffer somewhat of the current disease of megalomania that Hollywood has, where a movie to be significant has to also be very long. However, I found the slowness of this film to actually add to its artistic quality, kind of in a similar fashion as it does to films like the 1960s-70s Space Odyssey, Solaris, and The Apocalypse Now (all hail the 5-hour Redux version). Definitely better than Geostorm. But, I would recommend reading “the original Blade Runner novel,” Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which, aside from having one of the best book titles I know, is also a very good novel, even though it’s often classed together with other genre fiction as slightly less than serious literature.
Anyway, conserning good cli-fi films: I’ve seen many of the films on this IMDB list but, apart from a few exceptions, they don’t really represent the highest artistic value, right? So, if you have suggestions for good films related to climate change, let me know.


I also recently read the Finnish novel Tuhannen viillon kuolema (“Death by a Thousand Cuts” in English) by Juhana Pettersson. Apart from the novels by Risto Isomäki, I wasn’t familiar with other Finnish cli-fi writing.

“Death by a Thousand Cuts”
It was an interesting and entertaining enough of a pageturner but not really what I would call serious literature. But, you know, still OK. It’s a narrative about rich people preparing for the coming climate change by buying shares in a firm that promises to set them up cosily after climate change “happens” (of course, in reality, much of it has already happened and now it’s just a question of whether the consequences are going to be truly, existentially, catastrophic for most life on earth, or only very, very bad for some lifeforms). The climate change preparedness firm also promises to protect the rich from the mobs of poor people who would threaten them when food and shelter become scarce. All in all, quite an interesting scenario and since it’s only the first part of a trilogy, I’m probably gonna check out the next parts, too. You can read a review (in Finnish) of this book by, of all people, Jari Sarasvuo (sorry, you have to be a Finn to know) in the new Voima magazine here.

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Margaret Atwood’s Maddadam Trilogy are often classified among cli-fi and they’re both great but I would like to do more cli-fi reading (and why not watching, too). The Rachel Carson Center just published this list of possible cli-fi reading, which had many useful suggestions.

Like I mentioned some posts back, I recently read Liz Jensen’s The Rapture and Maggie Gee’s Ice People. I also have Paul Pacigalupi’s (damn is that how you spell it?) Wind-up Girl, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 in my Book Depository cart, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 shortly arriving, but more suggestions on  high quality cli-fi are still welcome.

To finish, and only slightly off-topic: if you’re interested in cli-fact in podcast form, I can recommend Unburnable that focuses on suing the hypocritical Norwegian government due to them opening the Arctic for oil drilling. Another podcast (in Finnish) that I can recommend is Tulevaisuus hanskassa. Now, Finnish podcasts (apart from the hilariously obscene Radio Sodoma) are usually not very good but this one was actually OK. It features some bright people as guests, such as Ville Lähde, Kirsti M. Jylhä, and Toni Lahtinen. The podcast’s slogan is that it “contains hope,” so it makes for nice, optimistic listening during the walk to work, even though I sometimes find it hard to share that optimism.

P.S. I just got back from the Gender Studies Conference in Jyväskylä and I’ll write a detailed report of it soon, after I’ve let the experience simmer a bit.
Featured image credit:


climate fiction "cli fi"
Daily update November 25, 2017
Cli-fi for the sci-fi wary
Gaia Gazette Nov. 23, 2017 
Okay, you got me, climate fiction is science fiction. But it's not really speculative, is it? Climate change is happening, whether we like it or not, and the scenarios laid out in these books are entirely likely, if not inevitable. Rather than being an interesting thought experiment, these books are meant to be a ...

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