Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Stephen Kelly, UK culture writer in London

''With more and more cli-fi novels and movies on tap, I cannot stop thinking about how it is now possible to mine affecting, resonant drama out of the certainty of climate change catastrophe. It's no longer science fiction. What I'm saying here is that living through the twilight of humankind is gonna be worth it for future cli-fi novels and movies.''

-- Stephen Kelly, UK culture writer in London

h/t/ JW/GRDN and PC/FT

Webposted by staff writer and agencies: August 19, 2018 A.D. (''Anno Donaldo'')

The world is likely to see more extreme temperatures in the coming four years 2018-2022 -- to be accompanied by more and more cli-fi novels and movies to mirror reality -- as natural warming reinforces man-made climate change, according to a new global forecasting system.
Following the summer of 2018 heatwaves and forest fires in the northern hemisphere, the study in the journal Nature Communications suggests there will be little respite for the Earth t until at least 2022, and possibly not even then.
“Everything seems to be adding up,” said the author of the paper, Florian Sevellec of the French National Center for Scientific Research.
Meanwhile, an updated literary critique in 2013 by Pilita Clark in the UK's Financial Times newspaper suggests that cli-fi novels are here to stay and will become more prominent in the publishing world over the next 4 years, and possibly into the next 3 decades. 
“There is a high possibility that we will be at the peak of cli-fi novels and movies for the next couple of years,” says a translatlantic observer based in Asia.
James Renwick of Victoria University of Wellington said the new forecasting system was clever, but its value will only be clear in the future. The broader trend, however, was clear.
“If the warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions continues, years like 2018 will be the norm in the 2040s, and would be classed as cold by the end of the century,” he wrote.
Enter cli-fi, stage center.
The literary world already has plenty of genres, from chick lit to gran lit, cyberpunk and sci-fi. But as the Arctic melts, the planet warms and carbon dioxide levels reach their highest point in human history, a new class of fiction has been added to the list: climate fiction, or cli-fi. 
“It’s a definite trend,” according to UK academic Adeline Johns-Putra, chair of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment in the UK and Ireland. Until the 1990s, she said, only a handful of novels mentioning climate change were published. Over the past 13 years alone, however, more than  150 have made it into print, including at least 50 in which it is a central theme. 
A cli-fi novel  that stirred a lot of  interest in recent years was ''Odds Against Tomorrow'' by US novelist Nat Rich, author of the recent Sunday New York Times Magazine 66 page article about climate change politics titled "Losing Earth." 
His popular cli-fi novel was about a storm that devastates New York City. Its cover, showing a submerged Manhattan, was created in March 2012, according to a spokesman for the book’s publishers, Farrar, Straus and Giroux – seven months before superstorm Sandy swamped the city. 
Mr Rich was just going over the final proof of the novel when the storm hit in October; he woke up the next day to see his fictional work brought to life. He had never heard the term ''cli-fi'' until in 2013 he started doing interviews for the book, he said, but he thought such fiction was likely to become more common. 
“I think we will increasingly see more novels that incorporate cli-fi  themes as more people begin, or are forced, to contemplate the catastrophic ways in which we have transformed the planet,” he said.  “It’s always possible that a popular novel or book can contribute in some way to bringing about political change,” he said, citing Rachel Carson’s 1962 environmental classic ''Silent Spring'' and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel ''Uncle Tom’s Cabin.'' 
What novelists can do is try to make sense of the ways in which these vast, and often abstract, public issues intersect with our inner lives. 
There has already been a shift in the kinds of literary works mentioning climate change over the years, says Oregon-based Adam Trexler, one of the few scholars to have compiled a database of such books. By his count, just over 300 were published between 1962 and 2011, starting with J.G. Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic work ''The Drowned World.'' 
Many of the 70-odd books written up to the late 1990s were science fiction, says Mr Trexler, and tended to treat climate change as one of several problems rather than the main one. The pattern changed to cli-fi as growing numbers of notable writers began tackling the topic, from Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake) to Michael Crichton (State of Fear), Jeanette Winterson (The Stone Gods), Ian McEwan (Solar) and Barbara Kingsolver (Flight Behaviour). 
This is in line with growing public concern about the climate, says Mr Trexler. “There’s a slow curve of public awareness of the importance of climate change and an increasing sense that we ought to do something – and why aren’t we?” he said. “So you get important, literary authors doing really interesting work.” 
Cli-fi has a long way to go, however, before it becomes as popular as the bestselling classes of crime, history or romance, say UK and USA literary agents. Even non-fiction books about climate change are a tough sell, said the influential London book agent Caroline Michel. 
“The minute you mention climate change or cli-fi you can see publishers’ glazed looks,” she says. But that does not mean books about climate change will not sell if they are written by talented authors, she says. 
So it is clear that things have changed a lot in the 13 years since the British author and academic Robert Macfarlane wrote in 2005 an essay "The Burning Question" in the Guardian bemoaning the “deficiency of a creative response” to global warming, especially compared with the huge numbers that had tackled the nuclear threat. Brooklyn novelist Amitav Ghosh said the same thing in a book he wrote in 2016.

So yes, extreme temperatures are ‘especially likely for next four years’ and will be accompanied by a host of new cli-fi novels and movies. Get ready.

The cyclical natural phenomena that affect our planet’s climate will amplify the effect of man-made global warming, scientists warn, as literary critics call for more cli-fi novels and movies to mirror the events that are unfolding 2018-2022. Prepare.


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