Why Cli-Fi?

April 8, 2017 Evan Shapiro 1 comment

To Cli-Fi or not to Cli-Fi, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous science fiction or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?

Yes, a somewhat bastardised version of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy. Yet if you take a moment to deconstruct it, the answer to why many authors are picking up and running with the Cli-Fi mantra is apparent.

Cli-Fi was coined by journalist Dan Bloom and he champions the propagation of the term through cli-fi.net, an academic and literary Facebook group – Cli-Fi, Climate Change & Literary Criticism, and other social media channels.

It is well established that science fiction offers authors and readers the opportunity to enter worlds of possibility. Science fiction has never been restricted by the word ‘science’. On the contrary, science fiction explores morality, social constructs and the edges of human behaviour. It is no surprise then, as we face climate change, the greatest dilemma to have challenged our species, that creative minds would act to both express their dismay but also to offer hope and possibility beyond what is considered in the media or around the water cooler.

I started writing my novel ROAD TO NOWHERE in 1996 as a reaction to stories of global warming in the news. It struck me as alarming then, that as a species we were being very slow to act. It alarms me even more now. I remember learning about greenhouse gasses in primary school and being taught about the life cycle of the sun and what life would be like for people at its different stages. These early encounters with popular science stayed firm in my mind and somehow colluded with many other ideas to form this book.

ROAD TO NOWHERE doesn’t sit easily within the Sci-Fi genre. It’s part thriller, conspiracy, satire, philosophical exploration and there is even a touch of romance. There is sex in there too, because for many people sex and desire are overpowering forces often never understood or controlled.

Cli-Fi brings all the competing genres within my book together and sums up what it is about. For me, that is an exploration of the fundamental duality of our species. Our determined headlong drive into self-destruction polarised by an opposing instinct for self-preservation and survival.

By exploring climate change in fiction, authors can take fellow human beings through an experience they have not considered. Isn’t that the function of all fiction?

By coining the term Cli-Fi, Dan Bloom brings works together that exist across the world of literary fiction. The aim is simple. We want to save the planet and we want to save our species and we want to save those we love and we want to save ourselves. It can feel powerless when observing history unfold, watching the proverbial train wreck before your eyes with no means in your power to change it.

Cli-Fi gives us that means. With the feeling of powerlessness, the ability to share ideas becomes essential. Words change minds and minds change reality.

As a writer, there are many stories I want to explore, but for the moment I can’t look away from the big glob of murky uncertainty before me. I must deconstruct it, I must make sense of what we are collectively doing. Is it too much to hope that along the way, I and other authors, might bring a few readers along with us? The conceit of the writer is all I can offer. At the very least if you don’t change your mind I hope I entertain you to the end. I suddenly feel like one of the members of the quartet on the Titanic, offering a melodic knowing tune as the boat sinks into the deathly cold waters. Regardless I will continue to Cli-Fi because frankly, I don’t know what else I can do.

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road To Nowhere

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Tom Jagtenberg
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Absolutely agree Evan. I’m not a cli-fi writer (yet, perhaps) but face the same problem. In the absence of other more effective options, for me writing about some of the issues and problems seems the best I can do. I try not to be discouraged by the fact that by addressing climate change and associated disasters in non-fiction is not a popular pastime, nor does it appear to generate large audiences outside the academic specialism system (which I have tried to move away from). I assume cli-fi is more popular and am encouraged by that fact. I write what I… Read more »
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