Hannah Gal writes from London for the HuffingtonPost UK site:
''Cli Fi'' reads the sign at central London's Foyles bookshop in the St Pancras branch, pointing to
a temptingly inviting stack of ''Climate Fact and Fiction'' novels and nonfiction tomes, a vivid
testimony to the meteoric rise of the relatively new literary genre.
With writers such Michael Crichton (State of Fear), Hamish MacDonald
(Finitude) and Ian McEwan (Solar) embracing the genre, Cli Fi is no
longer on the fringe of popular culture but securely rooted at the
heart of literary mainstream.
Some titles are part of the UK's secondary school curriculum setting young
minds wondering, not just about global warming and climate change but
human behaviour, ethics and duty.
I mention the term ''Cli Fi'' to an avid reader of 14 years of age and her face
lights up. She loved Oisin Mcgann's ''Small Minded Giants'' so much, it
sparked a keen interest in the environment as well as an unquenchable
thirst for the genre. 'It's not just about dystopia and futuristic man
induced destruction of planet earth', she explains excitedly, 'it's
about human behaviour and there is always a gripping story line.'
Her response is also a
notion backed by Taiwan-based climate activist Dan Bloom, 64, a native of Boston and a 1971 graduate of Tufts University, the word maven who ''coined''
the phrase Cli Fi, short for climate fiction, a few years ago while doing PR for a cli fi thriller titled "POLAR CITY RED" (a novel by Jim Laughter).
''While most news reports
say the Cli Fi are
novels set in the present, near or distant future'' he explains, '''CliFi'
can actually also
be set in the past'.''
I speak to Mr Bloom, an eternally-optimistic environmental campaigner it seems, about the
gripping genre, James Lovelock's impact on his ideas and Russell Crowe's new Cli Fi
movie NOAH set in biblical times (Noah's ark and that flood) and set for a 2014 March release,
directed by Darren Aronofsky, the Harvard-educated film director with pizzaz. [NOTE: Recently, Aronofsky has hit a brick wall in the USA, where fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews have
been complaining about the liberties the Jewish-educated Aronofsky has taken with the "word of God," if that is what the Bible really is.]
Question: What writings within the Cli Fi genre have made an impression on you and why?
BLOOM: Two writers in the UK have published Cli Fi books that have made a
particular impression on me -- Hamish MacDonald who published "Finitude" in
2010, and Tony White who published "Shackleton Man's Goes South" in 2013
through the Science Museum in London, with a free download worldwide.
(White's book is notable because it is one ofthe few CliFi novels to set the location in Antarctica, rather thanthe usual settings of USA, Canada, Britain and other nations innorthern Europe).
BLOOM: I read Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behaviour" this past summer and
found it to be one of the best examples so far of CliFi literature. In
addition, I read Nat Rich's "Odds Against Tomorrow" set in a
kind of Superstorm Sandy Hurricane flood in
Manhattan in the near future, perhaps 2020 or so. Rich's novel was
written in a comical and satiric way but he also went deep into what
Cli Fi is all about.
Q Cli Fi is not dedicated to doom and gloom warnings of climate change but
concerns humans' overall impact on the planet as a whole. Is it right
to say that some writings within the genre even question some scientific experts'
stands on global warming?
BLOOM: Yes, good point. I am myself an optimist and see Cli Fi novels as
giving hope to readers, although if a writer goes into the doom and
gloom stuff that is okay too. All POV
are okay for CliFi, even climate denialists can write climate denial
CliFi novels sure. But most CliFi novels are written as expressions
of concern and hope, and that's good But yes it is right to say that
some CliFi novels like STATE OF FEAR by Michael Chricton (dead now,
author of Jurassic Park books too) question the scientific consensus
that climate change is happening, and hat is okay too. CliFi, like Sci
fi genre, is open to all writers, or all nations, or all ideological
BLOOM: I myself believe climate change is real and that global warming is
very real, so I myself hope that CliFi novels can help raise the
alarm, that's my goal with CliFi, however, i am open to all kinds of
CliFi books, both pro-AGW and anti-AGW.
Q How did you get involved with Cli
BLOOM: I am a longtime campaigner and media
I'm a self-taught climate activist since 2006 when a
series of articles about climate change appeared in the British media,
mostly the Guardian and several interviews with James Lovelock turned
me into one of his American students. He's my hero and my teacher in
all things about climate. I call myself "James Lovelock's Accidental Student" because almost everything I know about climate change and global warming comes from interviews I read about him, and one email exchange we had in 2008.
BLOOM: Since 2006, I was trying to find a way to use art or literature to
help raise the
alarm about the perils of unchecked and unmitigated climate change,
and I read several essays about how literature fan help in this way.
One was by British author Robert Macfarlaine in 2005 titled "The
Burning Question" and the other was a similar essay on the same theme
of art and literature as alarm bells about climate issues by Bill
McKibben in the USA in Grist magazine, also in 2005.
BLOOM: In 2008, I
started using the Cli Fi term informally on my blog about possible Cli
Fi movies, calling "The Day After Tomorrow" a good example of a CliFi
movie and of course, to come up with the term , I really did not coin
a new term I merely borrowed the sci fi term and rhyming sounds to
create the CliFi term. So I do not call myself the coiner of the Cli
fi term. I am just working now in my mid-60s as a popularizer of the
term. But I did not coin it.
BLOOM: I just borrowed the sci fi meme. Nothing really new about it, except that it
changes the discussion from sci fi to CliFi, which I consider to be
equally important, even more, as a literary genre. I live in Taiwan
and blog 24/7 about climate issues, in the hope of making a small
difference in a PR kind of way. But I am not a scientist, I have no
science background, and I am not affiliated with any group or
organization or university. I am a self-styled CliFi advocate. And I
am not a novelist either. My goal is to encourage real novelists and
short story writes to write CliFi novels and for the media to start
reporting on the term and their books.
Q Wikipedia tells us that CliFi film and books can also be set in the
past, are there any existing books/films
that you think should have 'CliFi added to their back cover blurb?
BLOOM: Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky of ''BLack
Swan'' fame will release a CliFi movie next March 2014 titled "Noah"
starring Russell Crowe and Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins, and set in
the Old World of the Bible some 5000 years ago. About the flood -- yes
THAT flood. So this movie, filmed in Iceland and in parts of New York
when superstorm Sandy was hitting the area, will be a CliFi movie set
in the past.
BLOOM: Bruce Sterling wrote a very good CliFi short story set
1000 years ago in the past titled "Master of the Aviary" and he knows
of my CliFi work now and while most news reports say the CliFi are
novels set in the present or near or distant future, CliFi can also
be set in the past too, sure.
Q For those completely new to CliFi, what would you recommend as must
read books within this genre ?
BLOOM: Tony White's "Shackleton's Man Goes South" and Hamish
MacDonald's "Finitude" and "Flight Behavior" and "Odds Against
Tomorrow" as above. Ian McEwan's "Solar" was also a CliFi novel,
although I did not care for it that much, it was too much of a
throw-away comic satire, in my view. But he is a great writer, sure.
BLOOM: Readers who are curious to find more cli fi books should check out
Mary Woodbury's CLI FI BOOKS webzine at
BLOOM: The CLI FI CENTRAL blog with photos of the FOYLES bookstore signs is here:
Follow Hannah Gal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hannahgal