Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cli-fi: the view from an 23 year old Australiam blogger

Sherryn Ghosh writes at SOOT:

"Cli-fi'' is the latest literary genre to hit bookshelves and cinemas. Feel free to brace yourself against the nearest climate change skeptic.

From biosphere collapse to punishing weather events and finally to mitigation unchained, this new genre is big, bold and scarily accurate. (And now featuring Matthew McConaughey.)

Now, no matter what your thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s recent [semi cli fi] space epic, Interstellar (it was awesome, how dare you!), here at the beginning of 2015, the tale of a dying world hits just a little too close to home.

While cli-fi been hailed as the younger, somewhat “naggier” [cousin] of sci-fi, often the events it describes are not only scientifically plausible. they're actual scientific predictions. Which makes the sight of an underwater New York, fun-sized human population (minus 1 billion Twitter followers) and Dennis Quaid all the more confronting.

Here’s my take on cli-fi’s greatest hits to date.

The Good
In a genre dominated by breaking ice shelves and raging storms, good climate fiction is still a human story at heart.
It’s often said that it began with NPR's applause for Nathan Rich’s novel, Odds Against Tomorrow, the tale of a man who predicts natural disasters for a living. But, for a nice little snapshot of the genre, pick up a copy of ''I’m with the Bears''. It’s a brilliant and intimate collection of short stories by all your favorite authors (from Margaret Atwood to Kim Stanley Robinson) and the proceeds of the book go directly into funding, a climate change initiative founded by author, Bill McKibben.

The Bad
The Day After Tomorrow. (Dammit, Dennis Quaid!)
Cli-fi tends to fall down (in spectacular surround sound) when its science is faulty. It’s probably little wonder. Climate scientists are treated with the same disbelief out in the real world. As Bill McKibben writes in his foreword to I’m with the Bears, the real problem with cli-fi might just be that “the truth is larger than what usually makes for good fiction. It’s pure pulp.” Take the poles melting almost in half within just 40 years for instance. Ridiculous, right? No science fiction writer worth his or her salt would expect an audience to believe that!

The Ugly
Let’s be honest, some cli-fi can be freaking scary. And, not ghouls and zombies scary, either. You’re-actually-doing-to-die scary. But, that’s precisely why it’s so important as an emerging genre. How do we tell the stories of our time? Through art – literature, film, internet memes. The awkward thing about cli-fi is that it’s telling the story of our time that no one wants to hear – climate change. The common narrative of denial is now so deeply rooted in society that meaningful action is still deadlocked. Cli-fi is that kick in the ass we all need. It’s not comfortable, but it sure as hell gets you out of bed.

As Bill McKibben says “science can only take us so far.” The facts are out there. Coping with the greatest challenge in our history will take something more than reason and understanding. It will take heart.

And if literature and movies can’t help us there, I’m not sure what can.

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