Saturday, November 22, 2014

French magazine LE MONDE discusses rise of 'cli fi' in French text (translation here)

Le cataclysme fait

 couler de l'encre

[The climate cataclysm has ended up spilling some ink]


by Louise Couvelaire, for LE MONDE magazine, 
le 21 novembre 2014

http://www.lemonde.fr/m-actu/article/2014/11/23/le-cataclysme-fait-couler-de-l-encre_4526372_4497186.html

GOOGLE TRANSLATION SAYS:

Floods, hurricanes, superstorms, drought ... Climate change issues are inspiring writers and film directors around the world, from North America to Europe to Africa and India and Asia. A new genre,  dubbed ''cli-fi'', is educating readers and movie-goers and inspiring activists and political leaders about environmental issues. And it's catching on!

In Hollywood, there's "Noah," by Darren Aronofsky, released in France in April 2014.

In the US and Canada and the UK, apocalyptic fiction has a long history. Nuclear war, the Biblical last judgment, killer epidemics,  destructive asteroids, Armageddon  zombie attacks or alien invasions ... the end of the world is a promising literary niche that is always ready to be mined by fine writers and movie directors.

Today, the range is expanding to accommodate a new genre that  is all the rage: --  cli-fi, a shortened form modelled after the sci fi term and using the "climate fiction" phrase as in CLI-mate FI-ction to make it cli fi for short. But Americans are among the most ardent climate denialists in the world. But this rightwing climate skeptics movement is losing momentum. The city of Miami, Florida, is threatened by rising sea levels, fires ravage more every year California, drought befell Texas, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast of the country there  two years ago ... the weather is  finally changing attitudes. And as a result, we are seeing the rise of works -- short stories, novels and movies -- featuring  ecological disaster in the near future.

A click on the Amazon site leads to many novels of the genre, almost 250. And Goodreads, too. [And there are many sites about cli fi now from Paul Collins' FB page to Dan Bloom's Cli Fi Movie Awards site to other sitse focusing on nature writing and poetry and short story contests.] [And many media stories from the New York Times to the Winnipeg Free Press to TIME magagzine to the Guardian and the Financial Times also talk about cli fi. In France, we are listening, too. In Germany and Norway and Finland, too.]

First of these eco-doom books, The Four Apocalypses, the British J.G. Ballard, back to the 1960s. each part of this series is devoted to a different disaster, causing the destruction of human civilization: the flood engulfed in the world; The Wind in the storms of nowhere; Drought in the heat; fossilization in The Crystal World.

In the 2000s, Kim Stanley Robinson, star of science fiction, presented the Climate Apocalypse up to date with his new trilogy The 40 Signs of the rain, 50 degrees below zero and 60 Days and after.

Since, it's the wave.

Among other feathers like: Paolo Bacigalupi with The Windup Girl (Au Diable Vauvert, 2012) and The Water Knife (untranslated, 2014);

Saci Lloyd with Carbon Diaries 2015 (Pocket Jeunesse, 2012) Carbon Diaries 2017 logs a girl of 16 who lives at a time when the UK has imposed quotas on CO2 production;

and the famous Margaret Atwood with the flood of Time (Robert Laffont, 2012).

Even successful writers investing niche like Barbara Kingsolver with In Light (Shores, 2013) or with Solar Ian McEwan (Gallimard, 2011), a kind of joke on melting ice background, end of oil and energy green.



Some US universities including ASU and the University of Oregon and The University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), also captured the phenomenon, using the study of these novels to sensitize students to environmental issues.

Because that is what these authors and film directors  and activists are hoping for, to raise the alarm, a cri de coeur as we say in French, a cry of alarm, shouting from the rooftops. Meanwhile, als, scientists and their reports have not been able to move people, boring boring boring statistics.

So to touch the conscience of readers ... as well as spectators i the cinema, cli fi is here!

 Ten years after the Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, the big screen now connects the catastrophic blockbusters, like Noah (2014) or Interstellar (released November 5), whose main character, played by Matthew McConaughey, is charged with an astronaut explore other solar systems to save humanity to the brink of extinction.



IN FRENCH, THE ARTICLE SAYS:

Déluges, ouragans, sécheresses... Le changement climatique inspire les écrivains américains. Un nouveau genre, le cli-fi, sensibilise les lecteurs aux questions environnementales.


Le cinéma décline le cli-fi, climate fiction : ci-dessus,  "Noé", de Darren Aronofsky, sorti en France en avril 2014.

Aux Etats-Unis, la fiction apocalyptique fait depuis longtemps recette. Guerre nucléaire, jugement dernier, épidémie tueuse, astéroïde destructeur, Armageddon, attaque de zombies ou invasion extraterrestre... La fin du monde est un créneau littéraire porteur qui se décline à l'infini, le plus souvent en version roman de gare.


Aujourd'hui, la palette s'étoffe pour accueillir un nouveau sous-genre de la science-fiction qui fait fureur : le cli-fi, comprenez « climate fiction », les romans d'apocalypse climatique. Les Américains figurent pourtant parmi les plus ardents climato-sceptiques de la planète.

Mais ce mouvement est en perte de vitesse. La ville de Miami, en Floride, est menacée par l'élévation du niveau des océans, les incendies ravagent chaque année davantage la Californie, les sécheresses s'abattent sur le Texas, l'ouragan Sandy a dévasté la Côte est du pays il y a deux ans... La météo finit par faire évoluer les mentalités. Et dope la production de ces œuvres mettant en scène le désastre écologique dans un avenir très proche.]


DÉLUGE DE TITRES

Un clic sur le site Amazon débouche sur un déluge de titres catalogués « climate fiction ». Le site britannique recense la plupart des romans du genre, soit près de 250.

Premiers de ces ouvrages écolo-catastrophistes, Les Quatre Apocalypses, du Britannique J. G. Ballard, remontent aux années 1960. Chaque volet de cette série est consacrée à un désastre différent, à l'origine de la destruction de la civilisation humaine : l'inondation dans Le Monde englouti ; les tempêtes dans Le Vent de nulle part ; la canicule dans Sécheresse ; la fossilisation dans La Forêt de cristal.

Dans les années 2000, Kim Stanley Robinson, star de la science-fiction, a remis l'apocalypse climatique au goût du jour avec sa nouvelle trilogie Les 40 Signes de la pluie50o au-dessous de zéro et 60 Jours et après. Depuis, c'est la déferlante.

Entre autres plumes du genre : Paolo Bacigalupi, avec La Fille automate (Au Diable Vauvert, 2012) et The Water Knife (non traduit, 2014) ; Saci Lloyd avec Carbon Diaries 2015 (Pocket Jeunesse, 2012) etCarbon Diaries 2017, journaux de bord d'une jeune fille de 16 ans qui vit à une époque où le Royaume-Uni a imposé des quotas sur la production de CO2 ; et la célèbre Margaret Atwood avec Le Temps du déluge (Robert Laffont, 2012).

Même des auteurs à succès investissent le créneau, tels Barbara Kingsolver avec Dans la lumière (Rivages, 2013) ou Ian McEwan avec Solaire (Gallimard, 2011), sorte de farce sur fond de fonte des glaces, de fin du pétrole et d'énergies vertes.

SENSIBILISER LES ÉTUDIANTS

Certaines universités américaines, dont celles de l'Oregon et du Wisconsin (Milwaukee), se sont également emparées du phénomène, utilisant l'étude de ces romans pour sensibiliser les étudiants aux questions environnementales.

Car c'est bien ce qu'espèrent ces auteurs et les militants, alors que les scientifiques et leurs rapports n'ont pas réussi à remuer les foules : toucher la conscience des lecteurs... ainsi que des spectateurs, le cinéma emboîtant le pas à la littérature.

Dix ans après le blockbuster hollywoodien Le Jour d'après, le grand écran enchaîne désormais les superproductions catastrophiques, comme Noé (2014) ou Interstellar (sorti le 5 novembre), dont le personnage principal, interprété par Matthew McConaughey, est un astronaute chargé d'explorer d'autres systèmes solaires pour sauver une humanité à deux doigts de l'extinction.
Pas sûr, cependant, que le phénomène garde longtemps son nom de « cli-fi ». Ce qui passait il y a quelques années encore pour de la science-fiction se rapproche désormais de la réalité. Au point que certains osent mêmeparler de « réalisme social » au sujet de ces scénarios de catastrophe écologique.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Interstellar is not about Jesus or the 12 apostles, PLEASE! NYT opedder David Brooks was over-reaching!

UPDATE! THERE WERE JUST FOUR  (4) ASTRONAUTS IN THE CREW OF THE ENDEAVOR -- and  not ''12 apostles'' as David Brooks says in his own words top of his column, then refers to unfactchecked religious nuts at reddit............ THIS IS ENTIRE DAVID BROOKS NYT ''JESUS'' INTERSTELLAR  MEME IS inaccurate AND DAVID BROOKS SHOULD APOLOGIZE IN PRINT or at least issue a correction. Maybe Margaret Sullivan at Public Editor gig will look into this? And get response from David, who I like and respect at a writer?




David Brooks wrote, his own words NOT quoting anyone else here:

''In the movie, 12 apostles go out alone into space to look for habitable planets. They are sacrificing their lives so that canisters of frozen embryos can be born again in some place far away.'' 

Now some fundamentalist Christians and antisemitic JUDAS ''canards'' re Matt Damon as JUDAS are coming out of the blogger woodwork, inflamed by David Brooks of the NYT and some reddit posts and blogs by people saying that yes INTERSTELLaR is a Christian allegory because there were 12 original astronauts sent out into spac before COOP and gang and representing the alleged and imaginary ''12 apostles'' who never existed of course, as Jesus himself never existed as son of any god, nor was he a long awaited Jewish messiah of some imaginary god, but these die hard nuts are now even saying that one of the 12 astronauts, Dr Mann, who is really Michael Mann of UPenn who is in fact Jewish, that this Dr Mann character (representing the perfidious betrayer Jew ''Judas'' - who also never existed in fact except in the fevered minds of the anti-Jewish writers of the fake Christian propaganda Gospels, written primarily as propaganda against the Jews to recruit more souls for the fake Jesus cult which still apparently exists today!) who betrays Cooper forcing him to die in a black hole and get reborn so he can save humanity. Cooper also spends decades wandering desolate environments. "Lazarus".

EDITOR NOTE:  one reader told me this: 

''It is just a movie, but one that you must not have watched very closely. 

There were 12 Lazarus astronauts launched ahead of Cooper to search out habitable planets. Cooper’s name is Joseph Cooper. [ ****NOT: see Okay, a weird theory but Cooper may actually refer to Christ. That's why he didn't have a first name at all. Since, JC would be too on the nose for a Nolan movie. Hear me out here - http://ghantaguy.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/interstellar-the-symbology-of-interstellar-and-the-things-you-might-have-missed/?preview_id=142528597 ]***

BUT - http://interstellarfilm.wikia.com/wiki/Joseph_Cooper
''Joseph A. Cooper was his full name in the original movie SCRIPT not in the final cut of the movie, and also in the original script from 2008, the station at the end was called Space Station Jospeh A. Cooper''. FACTCHECK?

The Endurance had the ability to repopulate a planet through the fertilized embryos stored on-board. 

And one of the most well-loved of the Lazarus astronauts, turns and seeks only his own well-being. 

Now, you may or may not read religious symbolism into these details… but these details, in fact, occurred in the film.

 I tend to think that Nolan is a skilled enough storyteller to know that others would read religious themes into these details but it is also possible that those who do are overreaching.''.

I replied to TIM: ''Yes, there were 12
astronauts who went out earlier in the backstory to the movie, but
they were never called apostles in the movie and in the NYT oped by
David Brooks, he referred to these 12 astronauts as "12 apostles" in
his first reference, without telling readers why he was calling them
apostles or where he got the idea from. Turns out, as yu say so well,
he was over-reaching and later in his oped he revealed that he got the
idea of the astronauts as Christian apostles from the New Testament
story from online blogs and forums such as reddit. So yes, there is a
very nice religious and spiritual element to the movie, I felt it
also, but it was not specific to any one religion and certainly not to
Christianity or Judaism. So yes, Brooks, who is Jewish himself, i
might add, was over-reaching in his oped. But to report the news of
the way some online forums were reacting to the movie, that is legit,
and sure it's good to know how some religious people are seeing the
movie. But Brooks should have not called the astronauts as "apostles'
at the top of his column, that made it sound to readers as if HE was
calling them really as apostles. He needed to be more clear and also
to factcheck the reddit forums and others online now. They aer
spreading like wildfire. All over-reaching to serve a propaganda
recruitment purpose. Better not to over-reach and stay grounded, no?
That is all i am saying. ''



These bloggers and reddit peeps say things like this:

http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message2692393/pg1

Even the New York Times columnist David Brooks, rightwing conservative, who is himself Jewish, writes:

''Bloggers have noticed the religious symbols in the movie. There are those 12 apostles, and there’s a Noah’s ark. There is a fallen angel named Dr. Mann who turns satanic in an inverse Garden of Eden. The space project is named Lazarus. The heroine saves the world at age 33. There’s an infinitely greater and incorporeal intelligence offering merciful salvation.'' 



And others are saying now that Cooper's first name in the movie  is Joseph, the alleged father of the alleged Christ child Joshua Ben Joseph and NEVER called Jesus in his lifetime, and COOP's  initials are therefore JC for ''Jesus Christ'', can you believe this? Was Joseph name ever mentioned on screen? I never heard it. Where and which part of the movie. I might be wrong, so please enLIGHTen me. smile

Brooks again in NYT oped: ''I suspect “Interstellar” will leave many people with a radical openness to strange truth just below and above the realm of the everyday. That makes it something of a cultural event.''

And Brooks adds: ''But this isn’t an explicitly religious movie. “Interstellar” is important because amid all the culture wars between science and faith and science and the humanities, the movie illustrates the real symbiosis between these realms.''

And the NYT really prints this: ''Bloggers have noticed the religious symbols in the movie. There are those 12 apostles, and there’s a Noah’s ark. There is a fallen angel named Dr. Mann who turns satanic in an inverse Garden of Eden. The space project is named Lazarus. The heroine saves the world at age 33. There’s an infinitely greater and incorporeal intelligence offering merciful salvation."



http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message2692393/pg1


Interstellar Christian Symbolism
-There are 12 original astronauts representing apostles. One of them (representing the perfidious Jew named JEWdas) who betrays Cooper forcing him to die in a black hole and get reborn so he can save humanity. Cooper also spends decades wandering desolate environments. "Lazarus".

-Basically, Cooper is Jesus. And we have an otherworldly unknown powerful presence who created the wormhole and tessaract that guide the events of the film.

-Also Holy Spirit/Ghost motif reaching out to touch or help people (including hand shake scene white light)

-And just like Jesus after his resurrection, he came back (albeit 3 days vs. 70-something years) then left again after a very short period of time.

- Noahs Ark with at end with Cooper space station and embryos for Plan B.

-And the entity that created the wormhole/tessaract have basically interfered with and guided Coop throughout his life going as far as to construct a tesseract for one particular moment in time. And what's the common positive Christian theme these days? God is love. God isn't the angry, vengeful God of past interpretations. Although not all Christian denominations follow the "God is love" theme but I think it's pretty common.

Mind blow 

Also don't forget about:

- Church organ music throught

- Adam and Eve metaphor ending with coop and anne hathaway starting new race on planet

but

Okay, a weird theory but Cooper may actually refer to Christ. That's why he didn't have a first name at all. Since, JC would be too on the nose for a Nolan movie. Hear me out here - http://ghantaguy.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/interstellar-the-symbology-of-interstellar-and-the-things-you-might-have-missed/?preview_id=142528597


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We are all cli-fiers now

 
I am a cli-fier. What does this mean, and are you perhaps a cli-fier, too?

First of all, cli-fi. A genre, a meme, a motif, a cultural prism, a critical prism, cli-fi. Are you on board?

Wikipedia defines it this way:

Cli fi (or "cli-fi") is an abbreviation which describes movies or novels about climate change and global warming issues. Climate change themes are also found in some science fiction and other speculative fiction. Such films and novels may be set in either the present or the near or distant future, but they may also be set in the past. Some movies and novels raise awareness about the major threats that climate change and global warming present to life on Earth, although not all of them have that kind of impact and are released or published merely as entertainments.


The phrase was originally abbreviated in 2008 in a movie-themed blog post, and it was also used separately and independently of that usage in two Wired movie reviews in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Bernie Bulkin, writing for the Huffington Post also explored fiction with climate themes in November 2013 in an article titled: "'Cli-fi: One answer to a climate problem'."


So yes, I am a cli-fier. I support cli-fi in all of its recent iterations. It's been cli-fied and cli-blogged and cli-lighted, PR'd and media prompted, New York Times'd and Financial Times'd overseas, too -- and AP'd on the wires and NPR'd on the radio and Eco-shock'd in Canada, too. It's all over the Web now. And once the cat is out the bag, as it is, there's no stopping cli fi now.


I think you know.

Cli-fi is about the future. Our future, your future. The future of your descendants 30 generations down the line. It's a cri de coeur, a shout from the rooftops, a man in a Carhartt jacket talking not about Detroit but about Michael Mann, and no, that was not Michael Mann in the guise of Dr, Mann in Christopher Nolan's spaceboy movie "Intersteller." What some are calling "Intershtellar," with maybe Mel Brooks primed to produce. It's that kind of a meme. A memetric, a suma cum laude blessing on all that we are and do now in the first light of the 21st Century. A clue, yes, about where we're headed.

Anyone can be a cli-fier, and anyone can be cli-fied. Cli-fried? I hope not!


What does it take to be a cli-fier? It takes independence and courage and a fearlessness about standing out from the crowd. not being afraid to go it alone when need be and to stick to your principles, to your vision, to your path. You have a path, we all do. Follow it.

Cli-fiers come in all stripes and colors, and nationalities, too. They speak a Babel of languages, not just English. Yes, cli-fiers also speak German and Japanese, French and Chinese, Taiwanese and Hakka, Hebrew and Arabic, Norwegian and Finnish, Hindi and Swahili, too. Click! Click! Click!

They speak in all the languages of this Earth and they live and work in every nation on Earth. You surely have cli-fiers as neighbors, housemates, significant others and room-mates, co-workers and colleagues, partners, spouses. Cli-fiers are everywhere now.

But it's true, yes, you can't always see them or hear them.

Are you a cli-fier? I bet you are! [Or you're not one yet, you probably know someone who is, right?]

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paolo Bacigalupi on 'cli fi' - "I don't think of myself as writing 'cli-fi' but I'll take the label."


Paolo Bacigalupi on 'cli fi' - "I don't think of myself as writing
'cli-fi' but I'll take the label." 


see


The rise of 'cli fi': When climate-themed literature takes on global warming and devastating droughts

"The more you pay attention, the more horrifying the world is," says writer Paolo Bacigalupi

Friday, October 24, 2014

Muckrack Tweets re ''Can ‘cli-fi’ movies save the planet? ''

Can ‘cli-fi’ movies save the planet? (Maybe ‘Cliffies’ can help)

entertainthis.usatoday.com — After we used the term "cli-fi" in a post the other day to describe the growing sub-genre of dystopian sci-fi movies focused on the effects of climate change, we heard from climate activist Dan Bloom on Twitter, who told us that he coined that catchy term!
a day ago
Thanks for RT - one of my favorite authors! @MargaretAtwood: Can 'cli-fi' movies save the planet?usat.ly/1tMsmPX via @USATODAY
a day ago
RT @clificentral@JenZoratti .@MargaretAtwood Can 'cli-fi' movies save the planet? (Maybe 'Cliffies' can help) usat.ly/1tMsmPX via #clifi
a day ago
Can 'cli-fi' movies save the planet? (Maybe 'Cliffies' can help). There sure are a lot of them. usat.ly/1tMsmPX via @usatodaylife
a day ago
Can 'cli-fi' movies save the planet? (Maybe 'Cliffies' can help) usat.ly/1tMsmPX@usatoday @polarcityman #movies #climatechange

'CLI-FI' EXPLORES CLIMATE CHANGE IN LITERATURE

'CLI-FI' EXPLORES CLIMATE CHANGE IN LITERATURE


http://www.momscleanairforce.org/climate-fiction/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MomsCleanAirForce+%28Moms+Clean+Air+Force%29

EXCERPT:

Move over sci fi, tru ro, and lit fic, Cli-Fi – short for climate fiction – is the newest trend in literature, and it’s gaining steam.
Cli-Fi  is unlike any of the other genres you may already be reading, including science fiction, true romance, and literary fiction. The genre takes its inspiration from the impact climate change and global warming are having on our world. The theme is showing up in novels, short stories, and movies, set in the past, present or future.
The most famous Cli-Fi novel you may have read is Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver. This engrossing tale, published in 2012 and reviewed by Moms Clean Air Force’s senior director, Dominique Browning here, tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a 28-year-old unhappy housewife who lives in a small town in rural Tennessee. MORE AT LINK ABOVE!

Inventing ''Cli Fi'' Literature

Inventing ''Cli Fi'' Literature

How to write about what we’re doing to the planet? In what genre, what form? I grew up outside of a small town in northwestern Colorado, and in recent years spruce and pine beetles have devastated forests throughout the Rockies, turning evergreen slopes a dead maroon. Beetles have always attacked and killed the trees there, just as the Atlantic Ocean has always bred hurricanes and droughts have scoured California. The difference—which we give the name ''climate change'' or global warming —lies in the new frequency and intensity of these events. A 2013 study from the University of Colorado found that drought and warmer sea-surface temperatures best explain the trees’ increased susceptibility to the beetles, and warmer and drier conditions are almost certainly what the coming decades have in store for the American West. Meanwhile, on a drive through the mountains, great bristling stands of living green- and blue-needled trees alternate with brittle dead zones, and the mind slips among memory, evidence, and anticipation: landscape I saw as a kid, landscape I now see, landscape that I foresee. The experience itself is a bit like hesitating between literary genres. There’s the novel of memory (and couldn’t “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu” be translated, if you didn’t know better, as “In Search of Lost Weather?”); there’s the satire of contemporary life, complete with hand-wringing ruminations on the environment from the driver’s seat of a non-electric car; and there’s the work of science—or climate-science—fiction, set in the not-too-distant future, in which the coniferous forests of the West are no more.
Climate change has occasioned a lot of good journalism, but it poses as tremendous problems for imaginative literature as it does for electoral politics, and for many of the same reasons. The worst effects aren’t yet here, and even when global warming is the suspected culprit behind a hurricane or a drought, its fingerprints are never to be found on the scene of any particular disaster. Fictional characters, like flesh-and-blood citizens, have more urgent concerns than the state of the climate twenty years hence. Nor is it easy for people, real or imaginary, to feel any special moral relationship to the problem. Oil-company executives may be especially guilty, and environmental activists especially virtuous. The rest of us, in the rich countries, are culpable to such a similar degree that we might as well be equally innocent. So it is that a crisis at the center of our collective life exists for us at the margins of individual consciousness, as a whisper of dread or a rustle of personal implication. The main event of contemporary civilization is never, on any given day, the main event. It cannot be imagined as a punctual occurrence, like the “airborne toxic event” that hangs over DeLillo’s “White Noise” or the nuclear war, remembered as “a sudden shear of light and then a series of low concussions,” in the background to Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
Perhaps this is why climate change hasn’t yet left a literary footprint commensurate with its historical weight. [NOTE TO BEN: IT WILL IT WILL, AND IT'S CALLED ''CLI FI'']MATE! Ecological anxiety, to be sure, belongs to the atmosphere of plenty of realist fiction, and warmer, crazier weather darkly adorns many futuristic novels whose primary catastrophe has been unleashed by genetic engineering, peak oil, viral plague, or class warfare. Novelists not generally regarded as sci-fi authors have even set a handful of works in the drowned world of tomorrow. But few imaginative writers have dealt with the present-day experience of global warming in a direct and concentrated way. [BEN: please see the relevant pages for this at Wikipedia, there are TONS of cli fi novels out there now, from Nathaniel Rich's ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW to Barbara Kingsolver's FLIGHT BEHAVIOR. Please do some more reading, sir!]
The strongest work of cli-f -- to use a term t“10:04,”hat is trending now --  I’ve read is Ben Lerner’s novel  in which the significance of daily life—the books people write, the personal relationships they try to sustain—threatens to dissolve in the face of what is, for the narrator, “a future I increasingly imagined as underwater.” By the end of the novel, the underwater future has materialized, for a time anyway, in the shape of Hurricane Sandy, which in the fall of 2012 battered New York City and submerged its lower-lying districts. Even so, Lerner’s narrator, whose neighborhood and apartment are spared, feels that this future doesn’t quite include him. “Another historic storm had failed to arrive,” he says, then adds:
Except it had arrived, just not for us. Subway and traffic tunnels in lower Manhattan had filled with water, drowning who knows how many rats; I couldn’t help imagining their screams. Power and water were knocked out below Thirty-Ninth Street and in Red Hook, Coney Island, the Rockaways, much of Staten Island. Hospitals were being evacuated after backup generators failed; newborn babies and patients recovering from heart surgery were carried gingerly down flights of stairs and placed in ambulances that rushed them uptown, where the storm had never happened.
The passage is the exception proving the rule that the contemporary experience of climate change has so far eluded the grasp of literature. Lerner can write a novel, set in the present, that deals with the subject head-on, but only by becoming essayistic, journalistic (the narrator is aggregating news stories in his head; he is neither evacuating a hospital nor being evacuated himself), and, even then, only amid the heaviest weather yet visited on New York City this century. If climate change has, to date, proved hard to write about, that’s because it exists for most of us, to date, as something that afflicts different neighborhoods, distant cities, or future times.
A number of Octobers ago, I spent a few weeks in a cabin in Colorado that was also hosting an abundance of black flies. (The cabin was built, it so happens, from beetle-kill spruce, a form of lumber that is more available these days than before the beetles knocked off so many trees.) The buzzing of the flies persisted throughout my stay, in spite of energetic fly-swatting campaigns, and some time after leaving the cabin I had the thought that the noise of the flies, in my ears all day without often becoming the main thing on my mind, wasn’t altogether unlike my daily awareness of climate change. A sense of what we’re doing to the planet accompanies me all the time, but mostly as a distraction, a morbid static in the air. You try not to listen; sometimes, you can’t help it. Or so I found myself thinking, coming up with the idea for a play. It may say something about the difficulties involved in writing about climate change that I could figure out no way to face them other than by deploying the disreputable technique of allegory and the outmoded medium of the theatre.
An urban couple lives in an apartment thronging with flies. As the play opens, they’ve hired exterminators to rid their home of these bugs, these irritants. That was the explicit premise; the implicit part, gradually to become clear to the audience, was that flies have infested not only this particular dwelling but the world at large, and that their presence is a symptom of climate change. The couple’s effort at pest control fails, and the flies return. The couple resume their old routine, sometimes swatting at and sometimes trying to ignore the minor presence in their lives of what is arguably the world’s major problem. I liked the idea that, because this was a play, there would be no flies onstage. The reality that they intimated would thus be, in another sense, unreal. Because we are aware of climate change and, also, we are not.
It’s somewhat embarrassing, in the 21st century, to produce an allegory on any subject; the technique strikes us as both antique and naïve. I was able to keep writing and, above all, revising, because it seemed to me that climate change was such a vast development, with so many of its consequences available only to the imagination, that I had to deal with it allegorically or not at all. And I told myself that it had to be a play for the stage, instead of a novel or a screenplay, because the theatre, being confined to the use of a few actors and a handful of props, is a natural medium for allegory: the inherent poverty of its technical means allows for symbols and ideas to remain the abstractions that they are, even as the theatre grants them a certain invisible concreteness. The filmmaker or novelist, on the other hand, will be tempted to visually portray or physically describe just those things whose very nature is to exceed our capacity to depict them.
But was my cli-fi play, which I ended up calling “Buzz,” really a climate-change allegory? In writing it, I often forgot about my troupe of invisible flies, much as the characters do. At other times, I felt like they were more suggestive of perennial human problems like aging, disappointment, or decay. There was something intermittent about the meaning of my rather heavy-duty symbolism, and about whether the flies signified anything at all. But this, too, I thought, could work in the play’s favor. Objectively, almost everything we do is connected to climate change; subjectively, almost nothing. Except that from time to time the objective situation becomes a subjective truth.
In the end, I found that what I was writing had to be a comedy even more than an allegory. The scale of our planetary crisis dwarfs us as individuals and has so far defeated us as citizens, which meant that the efforts of any single household to confront the problem could only be joked about. “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” Nell says to Nagg in Beckett’s “Endgame.” Helplessness is a species of unhappiness, and my unhappy play about our deteriorating climate has at least had the merit of making me laugh more than anything else I’ve written. It’s sometimes suggested that peoples with especially calamitous histories —the Jews, the Irish— have especially comic sensibilities. If so, climate change may afford writers of all nations the chance to become comedians, even as they do not lack for tragic material. [BEN, again, please read Nat Rich's ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW. It came out two years ago...]
Benjamin Kunkel’s ''cli fi'' play “Buzz” is being performed in Brooklyn until November 22, 014. It was published in book form earlier this year.