new genre of literature and cinema that has received a lot of
attention of the past 12 months, most notably from NPR radio and the
Guardian newspaper in London. Now it's about to get media attention
worldwide from two news stories in print and online, one from TIME
magazine and the other in the national pages of the New York Times.
Both publications will note that cli fi stands for climate fiction
novels or movies, just as sci fi stands for science fiction. Margaret
Atwood, the great Canadian writer, has written an oped on ''cli fi’'
recently, too. Some people, like sci fi historian H. Bruce Franklin
and novelist Kim Stanley Robinson call ''cli fi'' a subgenre of sci
fi, and that’s fine, too.
Time will discuss the origins and genesis of cli fi as a new literary genre for movies and novels, while also calling Darren Aronofsky's new cli fi movie "NOAH" for what it is-- the first in what may become a trend in Hollywood: cli fi moives.
The New York Times will discuss climate change education and climate science education in general and in university settings, interviewing several academics and literature professors about the use of cli fi novels and movies in the classroom.
‘Sometimes, fiction is the best way to win friends and influence
people — H. G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ and George Orwell’s classic,
’1984′ come to mind,” cli fi novelist John Atcheson will tell me when I
ask him about this. ‘Each provoked a visceral reaction that
galvanized the culture around it, changing forever the way issues such
as class and totalitarianism were perceived. Shute’s ‘On the Beach’
made the consequences of nuclear war real, and therefore,
‘In a scientifically-illiterate culture such as ours, these kinds of
myth-based meta-narratives may be the best way to communicate complex
scientific issues like climate change,” he will add. “Myths, as Bill
Moyers and Joseph Campbell revealed, are not necessarily false, nor
are they automatically at odds with science. At their best, they
provide another way of viscerally experiencing a truth.’
‘A spate of novels and movies that feature climate change as either an
overt part of the story-line, or an implicit backdrop against which
mythical heroes strive may be creating the critical mass for a
cultural awakening that allows climate change to be perceived at that
pre-rational level — the kind of limbic awareness that motivates
change,” he said. “Or so we can hope.’
TIME magazine and the New York Times are speaking uo. Is Hollywood listening?
"Cli fi is a really interesting idea," says a writing teacher in Georgia. " I teach creative writing, not literature. But if
the opportunity came up in the future to teach literature, I think
this is a great idea. I know many colleges already have literature
courses that focus on environment--in a couple interviews I had last
year, that was one of the courses I would have been teaching, though
they didn't use the term cli fi. But it is an increasingly popular
She added: "I didn't realize there was such a big divide between those who believe
there is a problem and those who don't. Maybe on colleges there isn't
such a big divide? I've never heard of anyone on a college campus
seriously questioning whether there was a problem. That doesn't mean
no one ever has, but it may mean that the mainstream thinking on
campuses is that this is something we really need to pay attention to,
and of course young people are especially interested since these are
problems they have to figure out how to address.''
"I think it's great you're working on this. I'm not sure if cli fi is a
'trigger word' or a 'solution word', but I think it's clever and could draw
attention to the issue, and that in itself is important," she added.
A futurist living in California told me:
''About "Cli Fi"... it's a new term for me, so thanks for sharing the
genre term with me. As the idea of this as a genre is new to me, I don't have a
out opinion. My feeling-in-the-moment is that anything that helps make people
aware of such an urgent situation is generally good... and people often
respond to fiction more readily that non-fiction writing, for a number of
reasons. Perhaps story gives people a way to make sense of and begin
ideas that otherwise can feel overwhelming and thus tend to get shut out.
Perhaps story also gives people a way to feel feelings that would also
otherwise be overwhelming and thus be shut out. There's a saying I've
there's more truth in fiction than non-fiction.''