Saturday, September 24, 2016

‘Cli-fi’: literary genre rises to prominence in the shadow of climate change - an oped by Professor Stephanie LeMenager


Could novels help us fight climate change? Asian Development Bank/flickr
A frail risk analyst rediscovers his inner frontiersman in a devastating flood that hits Manhattan; an insightful rural woman glimpses the grace of god in the revelations of biological science; genetically engineered hominids who purr themselves to wellness inherit a devastated Earth.
All of these plots belong to the genre of “cli-fi”. Which is to say that climate fiction is anything but predictable – which makes sense, given the unprecedented changes it attempts to address.
Cli-fi is the latest literary genre – and it’s growing so fast in popularity that there have been several university courses established this year which study it. But what exactly is Cli-Fi and who is writing it?
Climate fiction has been described as a close cousin of science fiction, as they both engage with controversial political problems, making use of fiction’s ability to conjure possible worlds. Sci-fi grew to maturity in the shadow of the hydrogen bomb and like climate fiction, it faced an unknown, catastrophic future.
But the topic of climate change demands more scientific subtlety and moral nuance than the problems presented by technologies intended to destroy the world. Now the gas-fuelled car, rather than the bomb, is the centre of impending disaster.
The science fiction writer Ursula LeGuin has noted the relationship of sci-fi to realism, in that both genres are based in an empirical understanding of how we know the world. Realism, like sci-fi, is based on a common belief that science shows us what is real. This is also the case with climate fiction. Some say cli-fi is a new literary genre that will help us prepare, psychologically, for global climate change. It is a new form of literature which truly faces the unknown.
Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior offers a prime example of this symbiosis between science and storytelling. By the end of the novel the central character, Dellarobia Turnbow, recognises herself as a principle actor in the worldwide crisis of our Sixth Extinction through the particular instance of the collapse of the North American monarch butterfly. She is guided by the novel’s anti-hero, Ovid Byron, who enters her rural community of climate change deniers to record the butterfly’s disappearance. Dellarobia measures her community’s evangelical preference for the immaterial and otherworldly against an increasingly persuasive scientific, realist point of view.
The monarch butterfly is threatened by global warming, but could be saved by fiction Chris Short/flickr
Kingsolver’s novel suggests that literature is necessary to make the scientific facts of climate change believable to the general public. Ovid Byron, a scientist named after two great writers, functions as a powerful storyteller. And where science typically plays the role of a superior and “real” form of knowledge, cli-fi suggests that science only becomes knowledge through storytelling and image-making.
But for other authors, fiction, like climate change, shows up human failings.
For example, in Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, the protagonist Mitchell Zukor works as a risk analyst. His job is much like that of a cli-fi writer: he creates scenarios and characters to enliven the almost unthinkable ecological crises that pose insurance risks for his company’s clients. His practice is based on mathematical calculation, but his sales pitch employs storytelling. But by the end of the novel, the limits of such a function are made clear. Zukor ends up alone in a devastated wetland where his ability to plant a garden proves more important than his ability to sketch possible futures.

Referendum on humanity

Ian McEwan’s Solar, the first serious novel about climate change by a recognised author, also betrays the modern novel as inadequate to the task of conceiving change at the scale of climate. McEwan’s anti-hero, physicist Michael Beard, uses climate change for his own gain in his attempts to capitalise on a dead colleague’s innovation in solar technology.
Through Beard, a scientist and salesman-storyteller, McEwan implies that knowledge and creativity are bound up with the basest of human desires, namely greed. As McEwan makes the reader think about planetary ecology through the mind of a flawed character, we begin to wonder if the novel itself, with its traditional focus on human psychology, is not demonstrating part of the problem. Even in our most imaginative ventures, we are too self-centered to make a sustainable world.
Similarly, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy satirises the excesses of human nature and its expression in late capitalism by depicting a post-apocalyptic earth suited only to genetically modified humanoids. Atwood’s Crakers, who can subsist on their own dung, are the ulimate no-impact men. Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl also offers a savvy fable of the externalities of global capitalism and greed, imagining the future as the province of modified humanoids. Like sci-fi, which so often imagines alien cultures in outer space, cli-fi can figure as a referendum upon humanity itself.
Climate fiction is important not because it provides solutions, but because it allows readers to imagine and experience the complexity of climate change. To enter a fiction is to enter a commitment to shared imagination, to the social action of claiming a point of view. “Humans are hardwired for social community,” Kingsolver’s Ovid Byron declares.
The novel, all literature, certainly cli-fi, are social forms of knowing and sharing what we know. With the help of climate fiction, the conversation might become large enough to meet the challenge of climate change itself.

Professor Richard Chen (陳榮彬) presented an academic paper on ''CLI FI'' at an international conference in Taipei in 2014

陳榮彬

Professor Richard Chen (陳榮彬) presented this academic paper in English on ''CLI FI'' at an international conference in Taipei on May 4, 2014
 
 
 
 
From Sci-fi to “Cli-fi”:
The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Fiction
 
 
Presented by Richard Rong-bin Chen (陳榮彬)
National Taiwan University (NTU) - Taipei
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
 
Abstract 
 
    Ever since the birth of the term “cli-fi” on the internet, it has been a much debated sub-genre of sci-fi. One of the controversies surround it is that whether “cli-fi,” a term coined by the American freelance journalist Dan Bloom in 2008, is redundant when we already have sci-fi, which is supposed to deal with the relationship between science and fiction as a literary genre. As a preliminary academic study on “cli-fi,” this essay tries to perform a three-fold task. First, it will try to review the not-so-faraway history of cli-fi, whose origin might be traced back to The Drowned World (1962), the second novel by J.G. Ballard, the renowned British sci-fi writer. Second, the essay aims at demarcating the line between cli-fi and traditional works of sci-fi: that is, while the former is usually filled with apocalyptic and moral implications of climate catastrophes, the latter with the intention of exploring the possibilities of science and its relationship with mankind. Climate fiction is not only about global warming, but also a “global warning” which can send messages to as many people as possible. Third, the essay argues that the present situation of cli-fi shows the fact it has gone beyond the reach of genre fiction, and touched upon the more serious and philosophical issues such as the problem of “posthumanity.” With the participation of writers such as Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood in the discussion of cli-fi, the future of this genre surely has abundant possibilities and more writers will be attracted to write and more readers attracted to read works of cli-fi.
 
 
Keywords: Science Fiction, Climate Fiction, Cli-Fi, Climate Change, Climate Catastrophes, Posthumanity  
 
*Adjunct Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
 
 
Introduction
 
    When I first started to write this essay in May of 2013, the Moore tornado had just struck Oklahoma, killing at least 24 people and injuring 377 others. The catastrophic large-scale tornado had a film-like nature which easily evoked people of scenes in bestselling movies such as the disaster drama and sci-fi movie Twister (1996), which coincidentally set in Oklahoma. I think the growing frequency of this type of climatic disasters is obviously one of the reasons why the so-called “cli-fi” novels have in recent times caught much more attention from both readers and critics alike than in the past.
 
Ever since the advent of the term “cli-fi” on the Internet, it has been a much debated sub-genre of sci-fi. One of the controversies surrounding it is that whether “cli-fi,” a term coined by the American freelance journalist Dan Bloom in 2008, is redundant when we already have sci-fi, which is supposed to deal with the relationship between science and fiction as a literary genre. As a preliminary academic study on “cli-fi,” this essay will begin with a review of the not-so-faraway history of cli-fi, whose origin might be traced back to The Drown World (1962), the second novel by J.G. Ballard (1930-2009), the renowned British sci-fi writer.
 
In the latter parts of this essay, two more issues will be brought forth to be discussed in a more detailed fashion. First, how should “cli-fi” be studied in the academic world in the future? Actually this question essentially is dealing with the relationship between “cli-fi” and “sci-fi,” and it is also about whether we should continue to view the former as a newer part of the latter. Furthermore, what are some of the socio-political and even philosophical messages implied in some of the representative works of cli-fi in the recent years? What stances on the problem of “climate change” do the writers take by writing the works?
 
The Rising of “Cli-fi”: From the Past to Present
 
    The relationship between climate (and climate change) and literature can be as old as the Bible, which provides us with the famous “Noah’s Ark” story depicting how a family survived an eschatological flood. Almost 20 years ago, this specific literary relationship has been dealt with in Climate and Literature: Reflection of Environment (1995), a Texas Tech University Press comparative literature academic anthology edited by Janet Pérez, which in majority focuses on literary works of fiction from Central and Southern America. 
  
In spring of 2003, Granta, a renowned London-based British literary quarterly established in 1889, published a special issue entitled This Overheating World which obviously deals with the “global warming” problem which concerns many people around the world from a literary perspective. Both This Overheating World and Climate and Literature can be seen as a part of the “pre-history” of cli-fi, since the coinage of this literary term would not be possible until 2008.
 
Dan Bloom, a Taiwan-based freelance journalist and writer from Boston, was involved in publicizing Polar City Red (2007), a cli-fi novel written by Jim Laughter which is set in Alaska in 2075, when he came up with the “cli-fi,” a term which obvious is the combination of “climate change” and “fiction” and easily evokes readers of “sci-fi,” which, in turn, is the combination of “science” and “fiction.”
 
The term “cli-fi” had existed without due public attention until a series of articles were published in 2013 and heated up its popularity among both readers and critics.[1]
 
For example, Rodge Glass, a British novelist and university lecturer, contributed an article entitle “Global Warning: The Rise of ‘Cli-fi’” for The Guardian, one of the mainstream British newspapers, writing in a welcoming tone that whenever a literary term “gains traction it is a chance to examine not only what it says about the writers who explore the new ground but also the readers who buy it, read it, discuss it” (Glass). Actually, before this piece got published, we also saw Husna Haq, a female correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, wrote a coverage article entitled “Climate Change Inspires a New Literary Genre: Cli-fi” in April 2013.
 
When talking about the rising of “cli-fi” in the literary world, three more points are worth emphasizing. First should be the publication of collections of “cli-fi” stories. Three years after the term had been created, Gordon Van Gelder, a famous American science fiction magazine editor, collected and edited more than a dozen stories for an anthology entitled Welcome to the Greenhouse: New Science Fiction on Climate Change (2011). As Van Gelder writes in the introduction of the book, he asked contributors to provide their perspectives on the problem of climate change, and the answers revealed in the stories are both pessimistic and optimistic, and most of the stories posed further problems rather than just giving answers. In the same year, a similar effort was made by Verso, one of the mainstream British publication houses: writer Toby Litt edited for the company I’m With the Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet (2011), a story collection with environmentalist stories written by award-winning novelists such as Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, and T. C. Boyle.
 
In the same manner, Tony Bradman, a senior British children’s book writer, was responsible for the publication of Under the Weather: Stories about Climate Change (2012), a volume, as Bradman explains in the introduction, consists of stories set in a wide range of localities from Siberia and Canada to Australia, UK, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Another British project came up the next year with the environmentalist novelist Gregory Norminton editing the story collection Beacons: Stories for Our Not So Distant Future (2013), whose contributing novelists donated all their royalties to Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the world’s poorest people.
 
The second place where we can see the booming of “cli-fi” is the universities providing “cli-fi” courses. For example, in the U.K. in June 2014, Institute of Continuing Education, Oxford University will provide a 5-day Literature Summer School course named Cli-fi? Climate Change and Contemporary Fiction, with lecturer Jenny Bavidge as its course director.[2] In winter 2014, a more formal course will be provided in Department of English, the University of Oregon in Eugene by Professor Stephanie LeMenager. Her course, The Cultures of Climate Change, will be one of the graduate seminars provided by the department, which, besides discussing interdisciplinary academic works, focuses on works of cli-fi by Nathaniel Rich.
 
When the “cli-fi” articles appeared in newspapers like The Guardian and The Christian Science Monitor in April and May, 2013, many debut writers, either coincidentally or uncoincidentally, published their first novels, which are unanimously about climatic catastrophes. For example, in Riders of the Wind (2013) by Lee Penny, we can see Tokyo almost destroyed by hurricanes, and in Summer Reign (2013) by G. Thomas Hedlund and Water’s Edge (2013) by Rachel Meehan, we can see the world plagued by abnormal and extreme climatic conditions such as floods, heat waves, storms, and draughts. This also shows a growing interest among the new-generation writers in writing works of “cli-fi.”
 
“Cli-fi” and Its Implications
 
As a preliminary study on “cli-fi,” one of the things to be done in this essay is an attempt to demarcate the line between cli-fi and traditional works of sci-fi. According to one of the exemplary definitions of science fiction provided by The Harper Handbook to Literature, it is a genre of fiction “in which new and futuristic scientific developments propel the plot” (418). While the definition is simple enough, it states something obviously clear: the point of science fiction is always about exploring the possibilities of scientific developments and its relationship with mankind.
 
 Works of “cli-fi” can be very different from sci-fi in this aspect. Although readers might be exposed to many meteorological and scientific details in cli-fi stories and novels, what strike them as more impressive and astonishing are usually the apocalyptic and moral implications of climate catastrophes. For example, in The Rapture (2009), a thriller written by British novelist Liz Jensen, we can see a world plagued by the problem of melting temperatures and tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes destroyed cities like Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul. While these plot elements might sound surreal in the past, their verisimilitude has been greatly enhanced by Hurricane Katrina, the deadly Atlantic tropical cyclone which almost wiped out the American city of New Orleans in 2005.
 
Fictional natural disasters seem real enough in this post-Katrina era of climate change.
 
Another work of cli-fi Odds against Tomorrow (2013) can be read as a novel with a thrilling sense of reality. Not very long after the Katrina disaster, its author Nathaniel Rich moved to New Orleans and started to write Odds against Tomorrow, a novel set in Rich’s hometown New York City and written about a great flood which almost devours the whole city. Weird enough, just before the publication of the novel, Hurricane Sandy hit the city, causing a power plant explosion and great flood in Manhattan. In the end, it cost the city 148 lives and more than 68 billion dollars. For the New Yorkers, the illustration on the book cover cannot be more painfully evocative: famous skyscrapers such as the Empire Building were drowned in a water world. Actually, this motif of a world drowned in flood dates back to more than 40 years before the advent of the term “cli-fi.” According to many critics, the first “cli-fi” novel ever written should be The Drowned World (1962) by J. G. Ballard, one of the masters of British contemporary science fiction writer, which depicts a world almost drown in water after the melting of polar ice-caps caused by solar radiation.
 
To borrow the phrase used by Rodge Glass in his aforementioned The Guardian article, climate fiction is not only about global warming, but also a “global warning” which can send messages to as many people as possible. Also, just like Gregory Norminton argues in the introduction of Beacons: Stories for Our Not So Distant Future, the story collection he edited: “Global warming is a predicament, not a story. Narrative only comes in our response to that predicament.” In other words, for Norminton, writing “cli-fi” carries an extra responsibility of obeying the “moral imperative” of hope (viii-ix). “Cli-fi” differs greatly from sci-fi in the fact that, while both of them focus on exploring scientific possibilities, “cli-fi” actually is dealing with possible apocalyptic catastrophes which novelists feel that they might and should help to reveal to the whole world in order to prevent from happening. “Cli-fi” stories can do what scientific statistics cannot: that is, motivating and persuading readers.
 
The Philosophical and Socio-political Aspects of “Cli-fi” Novels
 
One of the most imposing warnings that “cli-fi” novels can provide is the problem of “post-humanity”: is mankind doomed to extinguish due to climate change in the future? Is human nature going to change in possible end-of-the-world scenes described in all kinds of religious and prophetic writings? One novelist pay due attention to these problems in recent years is obviously Margaret Atwood, the Canadian Booker Award winner who contributed one story for the aforementioned anthology I’m With the Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet. Atwood used her “Oryx and Crake” trilogy, which consists of Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013), to depict an imagined post-apocalyptic world caused by the technology of cloning and a devastating “waterless flood.” Although the flood in The Year of the Flood is only metaphoric, and actually it refers to a flood-like pandemic manmade plague which almost wiped out mankind, detailed depictions of extreme climate conditions, like higher radiation, warming sea water, droughts, and loss of seasons, can be seen everywhere. If not a “cli-fi” novel in its most strict sense, at least The Year of the Flood can be seen as an environmentalist novel.
 
Michael Crichton’s techno-thriller novel State of Fear (2004) and Ian McEwan’s Solar (2010) deals with the negative and controversial issues about the problem of climate change as a socio-political subject. In State of Fear, in order to promote the threatening nature of global warming, a group of eco-terrorists and environmental activists worked together to create a state of fear among the general public. For the eco-terrorists, they wanted to save the earth at the cost of a certain number of human lives sacrificed. And for the environmental activists, they just wanted to perpetuate the funding they received due to the social concern of global warming. What Crichton depicts in the novel is actually the very thin line between environmental activism and a possible type of terrorism founded on the basis of a fictitious pseudo-scientific theory of climate change and global warming.
 
 In McEwan’s Solar, the protagonist is the Nobel Prize winner who stole the technology of artificial photosynthesis needed for solar power plant from a deceased junior colleague. Toward the end of the novel, he was just one step away from being the scientific hero who solved the problem of global warming, but was found guilty of plagiarism. He was left with multi-million debts after his business partner abandoned their power plant project, and the panels of the plant vandalized by some unknown person. Though the novels by Crichton and McEwan both look cynical and anti-environmentalist, they can be seen as proofs of “cli-fi” as a genre with a self-reflexive nature, which reminds us of how difficult it usually is to differentiate between what is scientific and what is pseudo-scientific. While climate change can be scientifically true to some extent, it will be an ideological tragedy to push it to the extreme and leave no room for rational discussions.
 
The Future of “Cli-fi”
 
In the 2003 spring issue of Granta, one of the most renowned British literary magazines, environmentalist Bill McKibben contributed his article “Worried? Us?” for the special issue entitle This Overheating World and wrote that
Global Warming has still to produce an Orwell or a Huxley, a Verne or a Wells, a Nineteen Eighty-Four or a War of the Worlds, or in film any equivalent of On the Beach or Doctor Strangelove. It may never do so. It may never do so. It may be that because—fingers crossed—we have escaped our most recent fear, nuclear annihilation via the Cold War, we resist being scared all over again. (42)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This argument seems to be wrong in at least two aspects. First, after J.G. Ballard has been joined by masters like Atwood and McEwan to be included in the genre of “cli-fi,” it looks highly probable that more and more classics of “cli-fi” will be created in the future. Also, from the discussions so far in this essay, obviously the fear McKibben mentions in the article should be either non-existent or overcome long ago, since, from my previous analysis, “cli-fi” has become a rising genre which is not merely a sub-genre of sci-fi.
 
    To conclude the essay, it should be stressed, three descriptive observations have been made above.
 
First, the development of “cli-fi” so far takes the form of newspaper articles, story collections, and just two university courses, so we hope more and more efforts from the academic circles and publication houses can be made in the future.
 
Second, “cli-fi,” due to its responsibility of bringing climate change problems to public attention, has a moral aspect of promoting an apocalyptic world-vision which is not always present in sci-fi.
 
Third, the apocalyptic vision of climate change and global warming problems is not always treated in a de facto way: that is, at least we can see some novelists, such as McEwan and Crichton, do not take this kind of worldview for granted. For them, what is fictional is not only the genre, but also the end of world the genre claims to avoid.   
   
 
 
 
 
Works Cited
 
I Primary Sources:
Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Ballard, J. G. The Drowned World. New York: Berkeley Books, 1962.
Bradman, Tony. ed. Under the Weather: Stories about Climate Change. London: Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2012.
Crichton, Michael. State of Fear. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.
Jenzen, Liz. The Rapture. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Laughter, Jim. Polar City Red. Deadly Niche Press, 2012.
Litt, Toby. ed. I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet. London: Verso, 2011.
McEwan, Ian. Solar. New York: Random House, 2010.
Norminton, Gregory. ed. Beacons: Stories for Our Not So Distant Future. London: Oneworld Publications, 2013.
Rich, Nathaniel. Odds against Tomorrow. New York: Picador, 2013.
Van Gelder, Gordon. ed. Welcome to the Greenhouse: New Science Fiction on Climate Change. New York: OR Books, 2011.
 
II Secondary Sources:
“Science Fiction.” The Harper Handbook to Literature. Ed. Northrop Frye et al. New York: Harper, 1985. 418-9.
Glass, Rodge. “Global Warning: The Rise of ‘Cli-fi’.The Guardian 31 May 2013. 7 April 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/may/31/global-warning-rise-cli-fi>
Haq, Husna. “Climate Change Inspires a New Literary Genre: Cli-fi.The Christian Science Monitor 26 April 2013. 7 April 2014. <http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2013/0426/Climate-change-inspires-a-new-literary-genre-cli-fi>
McKibben, Bill. “Worried? Us?” Ideas, Insights and Arguments: A Non-fiction Collection. Ed. Michael Marland. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. 38-44.
Norminton, Gregory. Introduction. Beacons: Stories for Our Not So Distant Future. Ed. Gregory Norminton. London: Oneworld Publications, 2013. vii-ix.
Pérez, Janet and Wendell M. Aycock, ed. Climate and Literature: Reflection of Environment. Lubbock: Texas Tech UP, 1995.


[1] Dan Bloom contributed an article entitled “Cli-fi Ebook to Launch on Earth Day in April” for TeleRead (http://www.teleread.com/), the website of North American Publishing Company (NAPCO). This might be one of the first places where the term was known to the world.
[2] More details about the course can be found on the institute’s website: http://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/component/courses/?view=course&cid=11662.

We need an ON THE BEACH for 2057. Who will write it?

Climate change suggests that we have been telling the wrong stories in novels and movies. Writers and screenwriters need to reconnect with the natural world and tell human stories. That resonate. The way ON THE BEACH in 1957 did. We need an ON THE BEACH for 2057. Who will write it?

NOTES:

''Writing a story is an act of projection. We imagine what it would be like to be this character, to live in this time, to be in this situation. ''

“The universe is not a machine after all,” proclaimed D.H. Lawrence, a man who never stopped paying attention to it; “it’s alive and kicking”. Kicking and singing and watching, too. Who will write its story?''

Reconstructing the End: Jeff Wood’s cli-fi novel ''The Glacier''

 

 

Reconstructing the End: Jeff Wood’s cli-fi novel ''The Glacier'' --a book Review by Joe Seale

TDR_BookCover_theglacier_7f75025a-dbea-4cc3-80c1-83ff5400d103_2048x2048

The early pages of Jeff Wood’s cinematic cli-fi novel The Glacier depict a landscape rearranged through a series of instantaneous and radical changes.

Jonah, the character who comes closest to serving as a protagonist, works hundreds of yards away from his fellow surveyors, plotting more houses for a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood that already spreads as far as the eye can see. The narrative lens then pans across multiple characters for brief 1-2 sentence snapshots that resemble a series of jump-cuts in a film, building suspense while disorienting the reader until, in a “ferocious and beautiful…spectacle,” everything disintegrates, evaporates: the world is abruptly destroyed. The viewpoint comes back to Jonah just before he is consumed by the wall of atomic fire. He calmly watches the destruction spread until it reaches him. He simply utters the word “Wait,” and “The Apocalypse pauses.” For the duration of an entire paragraph, the reader is trapped with Jonah “radiating between two worlds,” a pause just long enough to ponder the beauty of the moment, before he becomes a charred skeleton like the rest. But then something peculiar happens. The mushroom cloud implodes, the fiery wave flows backwards, bodies and atoms reassemble.

The world reconstructs itself, leaving its inhabitants dazed by the lost moment, by “what may or may not have just happened”—the Event has occurred.

What it means to “occur” in this book is hard to pin down, however.

Rather than proceeding along a linear chronology, The Glacier takes the reader on a journey through and around time. (“It is coming,” the Radiation Man tells Jonah, “But it has also already happened. And it is happening all the time now.”)

In this non-post-apocalyptic world, time works differently (or not at all), and the world feels like a different color on the page. What happens to space, too, is both warped and consequential. Before the Event, a small child runs out of his house to play in green field only to find his way blocked by “the monolithic wall of vinyl siding” from a subdivision that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere, the same subdivision Jonah stands in during the Event. This housing project, the rows and rows of houses, “the gray, suburban expanse…sprawl[s] endlessly toward the horizon of gauze and ozone,” ultimately filling a vacancy that the Event exposes in a flash like a camera in a dark room. With such patterning—expansion, destruction, expansion—Wood utilizes a fantastical depiction of the unceasing encroachment of suburbanization to explore what it means to be human in a world that has lost sight of itself as a result of constant development.

One method Wood uses to emphasize this lost sense of self is the very structure of the novel. The Glacier is written in the format of a screenplay—what its publisher, Two Dollar Radio, calls “a cinematic novel.”

The form allows Wood to blend the seamless and fluid movement of film with the creative flexibility and intimacy of prose. With its blocks of dialogue surrounded by swaths of blank space, the format can invoke disorientation. For setting, readers are given stage directions, and beyond the dialogue the only gateways inside the characters are brief facial expressions or a few parenthetical descriptions (“whispering frantically”). But despite having the look, feel, and pace of a script, The Glacier reads very much like a novel, even as it leverages the screenplay format to allow for abrupt jump cuts and shifting angles, producing a 360-degree view of a world that might otherwise appear flat on the pages of a traditional work of prose fiction.
If, in the normal process of reading a novel, the reader is a co-creator of the story (by merging the author’s vision with his own), the cinematic novel only accentuates this process. It assumes an even greater level of co-creation, or co-imagination, on the part of the reader, just as a script assumes a greater level of co-creation on the part of the director and crew. In short, the reader has to (or depending on your outlook, gets to) do a little more work to fill in the spaces Wood leaves blank. Much like a blueprint gives only a certain understanding of what a building really looks like, Wood’s cinematic novel provides all the necessary pieces but leaves the assembly up to the reader.
In addition to this phenomenon of readerly co-construction, The Glacier highlights a seemingly opposite theme of self-destruction. Near the end of the novel, Jonah describes the “something” that has happened/is happening/looms in the future, as a situation where “We’re conspiring to engineer the annihilation of ourselves.” But, for both characters and readers, these two processes—co-creation and self-annihilation—are in many ways related. One of the primordial pleasures for many readers is the sensation of the self disappearing during the reading process—the feeling that when we’re really, truly immersed in a book, a type of annihilation of self naturally occurs. In this sense, Wood’s book may suggest that losing sight of ourselves might not always be a bad thing.


THE GLACIERBy Jeff Wood
Two Dollar Radio, Oct. 2015
Paperback, 160 pp., $15.95
—————–
Joe Seale is a writer and critic working on his PhD in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Georgia, where he currently serves as the Assistant to the Director of the Writing Intensive Program. He received his MA from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2014 and his BA from the University of West Alabama in 2011.

Climate change creating a new strain of science fiction, a subgenre dubbed "cli-fi"

Climate change creating a new strain of science fiction, a subgenre dubbed "cli-fi"
oped in the WASHINGTON POST                
                   
Is climate change due for an Uncle Tom's Cabin moment? The 1852 bestseller helped transform abolitionism into a mainstream cause. Now, "cli-fi" is trying to do the same for environmentalism.
                       
The emerging genre is a cousin of sci-fi. But its books are set, writes Angela Evancie on the NPR books site, "in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth's systems are noticeably off-kilter." And it's gaining both fans and writers.
                       
The climate-change canon dates back to the 1962 novel The Drowned World by British writer J.G. Ballard. In it, polar ice caps have melted and global temperatures have soared. Presciently, he depicts some coastal American and European cities under water.
                       
But Ballard's work didn't pinpoint humans as the cause of Earth's precipitous decline. It wasn't until the mid-2000s that authors started grappling seriously with our role in impending environmental catastrophe.
                       
In 2004, Michael Crichton released State of Fear, a novel about eco-terrorists. Ian McEwan followed up in 2010 with Solar, a story about a jaded physicist who tries to solve global warming. And in 2012, Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior gracefully explored how one town is reshaped by a changing ecosystem. As The New York Times wrote in its review of the book: "How do we live, Kingsolver asks, and with what consequences, as we hurtle toward the abyss in these times of epic planetary transformation?"
                       
Perhaps the best-known "cli-fi" work is Nat Rich's Odds Against Tomorrow. The book sold more than 100,000 copies and drew major media attention.
                       
In it, a near-future New York is submerged when a Category 3 hurricane hits. As Rich was editing the final proofs, Sandy submerged much of the East Coast, a strange moment of life imitating art.
Rich and others say that fiction can stir emotion and action in a way scientific reports and newscasts don't. Kim Stanley Robinson has a new cli-fi novel coming out in March 2017 titled "New York 2140" and set in the year 2140, about a NYC half submerged by rising seas, with the rich remaining in the tall skyscrapers and the novel is, according to KSR, utopian in nature, rather than dystopian.
                       
"You know, scientists and other people are trying to get their message across about various aspects of the climate change issue," Georgia Institute of Technology professor Judith Curry told NPR. "And it seems like fiction is an untapped way of doing this — a way of smuggling some serious topics into the consciousness" of readers who may not be following the science."
                       
                                                   
"I think the language around climate change is horribly bankrupt and, for the most part, are examples of bad writing, really," Rich said. "I think we need a new type of novel to address a new type of reality … which is that we're headed toward something terrifying and large and transformative. And it's the novelist's job to try to understand, what is that doing to us?"
                       
A growing number of young adult YA books also attack this topic, including Mindy McGinnis's Not a Drop to Drink, and Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries 2015.
 
Even the post-apocalyptic Hunger Games trilogy hints at a climate-ravaged earth.
-- The Washington Post

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fall 2016 university classes on cli-fi

2085-1 Lavender, I

Science Fiction Studies

Cli-Fi or Environmental Science Fictions


Humanity has polluted the oceans, altered the atmosphere, and caused both plant and animal species mass extinctions, among other impacts on the environment. Have we permanently altered/changed/damaged our planet? The term Anthropocene denotes our current geological era in which human activities have become a telling factor in global environmental change. Has the human epoch doomed us? When science fiction consequently goes green, it produces fascinating climate fictions or cli-fi. We will consider types of ecological degradation in this course as we explore the close relationship between science fiction, ecology, and environmentalism.

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Fall 2016 Courses | English - UMass Amherst

https://www.umass.edu/english/fall-2016-courses 翻譯這個網頁
Fall 2016 Graduate English Course Descriptions ... we'll have a reading of new work near the end of the semester; we may have a few guests; field trips; ..... We will read contemporary novels from a variety of genres: cli-fi (climate fiction), social ...

[PDF]Fall 2016 English Undergraduate Program Schedule of Classes

www.albany.edu/english/.../Fall_2016_English_UG_Bulletin_for_web.... 翻譯這個網頁
2016年8月8日 - But a strong surge in critical attention to the ecological crisis, climate change, ... Today's preoccupation with “Cli-fi” genres of various sorts is one manifestation ... We will spend the initial part of the semester addressing issues.

Integrative Core Curriculum Courses for Fall 2016 - College of Arts ...

sites.jcu.edu/cas/...fall.../integrative-core-curriculum-courses-fall-2016/ 翻譯這個網頁
Integrative Core Curriculum Courses for Fall 2016 · fall2016wordcloud ... EN 125, Seminar on Academic Writing (multiple sections) .... CL 250, Classical Drama in English (3 credits); CO 140, Journalism Practicum (1 credit, instructor .... Might cli-fi fiction raise our awareness about climate change and thereby shift our attitude ...

Cli-fi literature enlisted to create college climate change agents - World

https://world.wng.org/2016/.../cli_fi_literature_enlisted_to_create_colle... 翻譯這個網頁
2016年3月17日 - Cli-fi is the cool new literary genre taking English Departments across the world by storm. ... water wars in the southwestern United States, also fall in the new genre. ... Daniel Bloom, a writer and climate activist, coined the term cli-fi, and it came into use in the 2000s. ... 1986-2016 WORLD News Group.

Amitav Ghosh is criticized for his book on WRITING THE UNIMAGINABLE (see reader comment below)

Amitav Ghosh is criticized for his book on WRITING THE UNIMAGINABLE (see reader comment below)


Broadlands






Starting a discussion...

Mr. Ghosh, among others, has misunderstood the situation in Bangladesh with respect to climate change. A 2014 peer-reviewed article in "Climate Risk Management" by Hugh Brammer addresses this. "Bangladesh’s dynamic coastal regions and sea-level rise".
His introduction is to the point..."There is a widespread misconception that a rising sea-level with global warming will overwhelm Bangladesh’s coastal area contour by contour and will thereby displace as many as 10–30 million people in the 21st century e.g., (Gore, 2009; Houghton, 2009). In some accounts, that situation will be aggravated by high rates of land subsidence (Syvitski et al., 2009), a recent doubling of the rate of sea-level rise (Smith, 2012) and rapid, on-going rates of coastal erosion (Vidal, 2013a,b). The accounts given to-date imply that the Bangladeshi people are helpless against a rising sea-level and will be unable to resist the rising water. Those assumptions and descriptions are incorrect. Bangladesh’s coastal area is not uniform, nor is it static. It is dynamic, and so are the people of Bangladesh."
Mr. Ghosh describes Hurricane Sandy as improbable and unprecedented. This is another misunderstanding. A hurricane called "The Long Island Express" devastated the same region in 1938. Wikipedia has described it...
"Hurricane Sandy not the first to hit New York: A 1938 storm 'The Long Island Express' pounded the Eastern Seaboard. The storm formed near the coast of Africa in September of the 1938 hurricane season, becoming a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island on September 21. Long Island was struck first, before New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Quebec, earning the storm the nickname the ‘Long Island Express’. The winds reached up to 150 mph and had waves surging to around 25–35 feet high.[The destruction was immense and took a while to rebuild. The western side of the hurricane caused sustained tropical storm-force winds, high waves, and storm surge along much of the New Jersey coast. In Atlantic City the surge destroyed much of the boardwalk. Additionally, the surge inundated several coastal communities; Wildwood was under 3 feet (0.91 m) of water at the height of the storm. The maximum recorded wind gust was 70 m.p.h. at Sandy Hook.
In 1938 (one of the warmest years on record in the US) this extreme weather event might have been improbable and unprecedented, but not today.
A point to be made? Will authors years from now ask if the unimaginable was our lack of appreciation for historical climatology, our rush to a "settled science" and a misguided attempt to mitigate the climate quickly with improbable technology? Have we learned nothing from our experiences in the 1960s and 70s?

and 2.

See THE CLI-Fi REPOR at cli-fi.net