Exploring the blogosphere last week, I found a forum sponsored by Science Fiction and Fantasy World on a whole new genre – Cli-Fi.
Panelist Mary Woodbury defines Cli-Fi as “an abbreviation for “climate fiction,” which is pretty straightforward. It refers to fictional works where climate change…is involved.”
Claude Nougat says that what she likes most about climate fiction… is that like the best of science fiction, it forces you, the reader, to consider the Big Questions facing us: What are we doing to our planet? … can we survive and protect the world we love for our children?”
Brian Burt refers us to his SFF World post What is Cli-Fi and Why Does It Matter? where he reminds us that “SF has a rich history of tackling environmental themes, and ‘cli-fi’ is at best a loose subcategory of classic science fiction” whose subject is “What will the world look like if weather patterns alter drastically,” causing dangerous environmental change and global social destruction? “What kind of social and political chaos will result, and how will we cope?”
Claude Nougat’s novel Gateway to Forever is a good example of the new genre. With the extinction of all living things on earth on hand, the 1% of richest and most powerful people plan to remove themselves to the “Forever Planet,” “a world exactly like ours used to be before we messed it up. A virgin planet of the right size, about the same as Earth, the way it was before industrialization.” An alternate plan is for several thousand people to hibernate in the Antarctica and start again when the world is empty.
Nougat considers Cli-Fi ” a positive development for writers of speculative fiction with a passion for environmental themes. And, for those of us who also feel impassioned about environmental causes, it’s a win-win. I believe fiction can communicate messages (like “we’re mortgaging our planet’s future for short-term economic gain”) in ways that are more visceral than nonfiction books addressing similar concerns.”
Story-telling remains popular because it organizes what seem like the random happenings of our days and the disturbing chaos of our world into compelling plots that can rivet our attention to issues we would rather ignore.
“Surely there must be a better way to adapt,” we exclaim when Cli-fi proffers only heartless dystopian solutions -and that is what it is for.