Friday, February 6, 2015

Cli-Fi Guy

How an unaffiliated, independent climate activist and PR operative in a non-alligned country used his PR moxie to bring a five-letter genre term to worldwide attention, for better or worse, come what may....and all with a sense of humor and a certain playfulness with language, while never taking himself or this world too seriously..although Cli Fi Guy is very serious...and very much of this world...and determined......

Cli Fi Guy gets mail, lots of mail.

Most of it supportive and positive. Constructive.

Such as this email the other day from a cli fi reseacher overseas: [quote/unquote]

''Dear 'Cli Fi Guy': I've spent a happy hour reading over your blog post about "Cli Fi Guy"here  - it's a great read and beautifully set out and, of course, very useful for those of us who want a short-cut to the latest word on the cli-fi genre. As for some of your ''detractors'' - it seems to me they're already eating their own wordsCli fi is such a neat and useful term - and as you say (I paraphrase, badly), there was a time when sci fi was thought somehow lightweight and silly and stupid. I probably thought the same thing myself when, as a boy, I read Brian Aldiss' ''Non-Stop'' and found myself riveted; today, you can buy it in a scholarly edition with all the pomp and circumstance of benighted history waking up to its importance (I have an idea there's even a few lines on the relationship between an organism and its environment - and its adaptation or otherwise - which Aldiss included in its opening pages all the way back in 1958).

So: cli fi is here to stay,
and it is here to emphasize the way in which books, plays, films, the whole panoply of our cultural architecture has a role to play in reflecting our concerns but also highlighting them. 

In short, cli-fi is wonderful thing - particularly when you have a name for it!'' [quote/unquote]

Nice email.

But not all of what comes through the ethersphere is so nice.

people get nasty and not only tell ''Cli Fi Guy'' to drop dead and "get
lost!" and a few sci fi authors have written in and went so far as to
call cli-fi "the silliest genre term I have ever heard in my life" -- not taking into
account that their own beloved sci fi genre term  in the beginning was also ridiculed as a silly and stupid term. But it's true. It took 50 years for sci fi to catch on.

One Australian newspaper columnist who is into ''sci fi'' went so far as to diss the ''cli fi'' coinage as "an unlovely shorthand", while at the same time as praising it as an important new genre term, well, he wrote "cli fi is an unlovely shorthand for climate fiction."

For the same price, he could have called it ''a lovely shortland'' for cli/mate fi/ction. MOST PEOPLE see it that way, but detractors are everywhere. That's life online, where everybody
has an "opinion." What's not to like, James?

UNLOVELY? And what do you call SCI FI, then? [People are too quick to judge. Sure.]

This same Australian bloke, a good man yes, and a novelist himself, later apologized and wrote:
''Dear Cli Fi Guy:
 I know of your work well from down here in Australia. You and I are actually in furious agreement about the fact there's a lot of great writing about climate change going on and the importance of that writing ... But I must add and say that I do NOT have a particular problem with the cli fi term , so despite the ''unlovely term'' crack -- sorry about that, mate -- (which of course sounded a bit harsher in print than when I wrote it) .....I think we're pretty firmly on the same page. " [Dan adds: AND YES WE ARE ON THE SAME PAGE NOW!]


HATE MAIL TO 'CLI FI GUY': ... "that's the most stupid-sounding literary
term I ever heard" (said initially Guardian book industry reporter and blogger Alison Flood,
who it needs to be noted actually likes the cli fi concept and blogged
so, but at first coming into ear contact and eye contact and mind contact wih the term in 2013 said she "hated" the awkward-looking and awkward-sounding five letter term and its
sound to her eyes and ears.. Ouch. Now she's come around and converted. See her blog posts below.]

And then there are the ''clit lit'' jokes that flood into Cli FI Guy's inbox once a week, as if pre-written.

And those are the ''nice'' emails.

A ''New Yorker'' magazine blog did a comprehensive and well-researched post in the summer of 2013, after the NPR story went wide, about
the rise of cli fi, but the writer, an environmentalist herself,
pronounced cli fi "dead in the water" -- well, paraphrasing here:
what Carolyn Kormann wrote was this:

"This liminal moment .....[Cli Fi Guy sighs: whatever a "liminal
moment means!] ....when the signs are everywhere that the climate in
which human civilization developed is gone, seems a natural subject
for fiction, and a number of recent novels have grappled with it --
Nathaniel Rich's "Odds Against Tomorrow," Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight
Behavior," and Ian McEwan's "Solar" among them. [MONEY QUOTE]: ''These books have been
labelled "cli-fi," but chances are that the name won't stick.''
It makes
the genre sound marginal, when, in fact, climate change is moving to
the center of human experience."

Oh really? ''Cli fi'' makes the ''cli fi genre'' sound marginal? A genre term name which defines the genre makes the genre sound marginal? Say that again? And if climate
change is moving to the center of human experience, why wouldn't a genre
about climate genre, cli fi, be important as a signfier of such a move?

And Carolyn, for more info, see the CLI FI MOVIE AWARDS list for 2014 at
and Wikipedia for the 'cli fi' entry...Cli fi lives and it will live on. But you were entitled to your opinion back then in the summer of 2013. What's your POV now? [Note: Carolyn wrote me via Twitter......  and I thank her for getting in touch with me and taking the time to correct some to the mistakes I made in my original post here, about her NYer piece, and they are corrected now. Basically, Carolyn and I  are on the same page, and that's what matters, not the ''stickiness'' or lack therefore of cli fi! .....But in fact, cli fi HAS stuck. There's no turning it back!]

SEE these links, Carolyn and tell me if cli fi has not stuck:

Cli-Fi News and Academic Links
1. The New York Times goes cli-fi with a Room for Debate forum titled
"Can Cli-Fi Save the World?" with 6 experts and plenty of comments
from readers (July 29, 2014):
2. The Cli-Fi Movie Awards is annual movie awards event that honors
and recognizes the best and most important cli-fi movies of the year:
3. A Twitter hashtag for #clifi promotes global discussion of the cli-fi meme:
4. Time magazine discusses cli-fi movies (May 9, 2014):
5. Wikipedia defines cli-fi and links to news articles that matter:

6. Jason Mark of Earth Island Journal with important op-ed in the New York Times
about cli fi on Dec 10, 2014

Let's repeat that NYer sentence one more time so it can have a fair
chance of coming back to bite the NYer editor who let that line get into print....perhaps one day in the
distant future, say, 2099 AD or so: "These books [and novels] have
been labelled "cli-fi," but chances are that the name won't stick. It
makes the genre sound marginal, when, in fact, climate change is
moving to the center of human experience." [They said same thing about sci fi in 1930s!]

Okay, then. Carolyn was entitled to her POV.

Then  there's Scott Thill, who stands up for the Cli FI Guy and who
nailed it in his Huffington Post
blog post in late 2014 on the rise of cli fi, calling cli fi a sort of
prism'', a concept that Cli Fi Guy loves and thinks should be kept
around for a long time. Thill, a former Wired reporter who lives in
Los Angeles, land of ''Bladerunner'' and other movies, wrote:

".....Cli-fi, like sci-fi ...and so
many more, is simply the cultural prism through which we monitor and
experience ourselves as we bleed our planet dry while trying to become
machines capable of continuing once our galactic luck runs out.''

Cli Fi Guy likes everything Scott Thill writes. Hopefully, there's a
book coming out soon about cli fi and penned by Mr Thill himself, or
so a litlle birdie whispers in the night breeze.

So not to worry. .......Cli Fi Guy is here for the duration, and cli fi as a
literary, media and Hollywood term has a long shelf life ahead of it,
at least four to give more centuries.

And hopefully, it will do some
good, if only in prodding novelists and book reviewers and newspaper
headline writers and Hollywood screenwriters into putting more cli fi
front and center as humanity hurdlles toward a not so user-friendly
End Times in the distanty future of 2500 AD or 4500 AD when the
Cimapocalypse really shifts into high gear and 99 percent of the human
species dies off in a series of mass die-offs.

That's not cli fi. That's prophecy. Wake up, o ye who think watching
football on TV is more important than preparing for what our
descendants will be facing, come the Last Days. Enough of this pop
culture distraction and cat videos, cute and fun as they are.

We have
work to do, people. Hard, difficult, mind-boggling work to do.

Are you with us? Are you of this world, or have you sold your soul
to the Great Distractor? Yeh, that pays, too. Not in the long run, but
for the short term, sure. Enjoy!

So while the Cli Fi Guy has a personal end date in just a few years, he is sure
others will carry on. So never give up the fight. We are in it for the long haul.

Stop fooling around, Face facts. Face up to it. We are doomed, doomed.
[Didn't Sargent Frazier say that on BBC's TV show "Dad's Army?" Check.]

Or is there another way to look at all this?

Cli Fi Guy is all ears and retains an open mind -- until his own personal end of life moment,
circa 2032, and then he won't have a mind anymore at all. That's what
his insurance company told him.

Peace, brothers and sisters. The Cli Fi Guy has spoken. With humor
and a grain of salt. Playfulness  gets us to the other side of midnight.

This is not a rant. This is a prayer.

Now to the ''Flood''.

Ace reporter Alison Flood in the UK wrote in 2013 on her semi-privte blog for a major
publishing from in London, Weidenfeld & Something, that she
positively almost threw up when she first encounterd the cli fi term.

"....a horrendous-sounding term, but apparently there is now such a
genre as "cli-fi" - climate fiction," she wrote on her blog.

A cli fi whisperer also told Flood -- a great cli fi name if there was
one! -- that when the term was first coined, at the time, there was a
fair bit of resistance - "What a stupid stupid concept ... completely
stupid and has no chance of catching on except among a small climate
nutter clique," wrote one commenter.

But now NPR and the New York Times and the Guardian have all picked up on
cli fi - it's "so hot right now" , according to NPR. And fast forward to
2015 and cli fi has been picked up by Slate, The New York Times, Time
magazine, the Associated Press, the Financial Times and dozens of
publications in Brazil, Italy, Germnay, Taiwan, Japan Norway and Spain.

Even aliens in outer space are talking about cli fi now. Ask Isaac Asimov.
He's worried about global warming, too, and  has been as far back as 1989.

Flood closes her cli fi blog spiel with a surrender of sorts.
writing: ".... "cli-fi" novels I've enjoyed over the years include
Kim Stanley Robinson's climate change trilogy, Stephen Baxter's
''Flood'' - which closes as the seas lap over the top of Everest, an
astonishing image, and - of course - JG Ballard's ''The Drowned
World.'' ...I might not like the
sound of it, but it looks as though "cli-fi" is here to stay." (SMILE)

In the great long ago, people didn't like the sound of sci fi, either, Alison!

So yes, Alison. Cli fi is here to stay...

Here. To. Stay.

And thanks for stopping by.

Cli Fi Guy. He's not  me , or you. He's all of us.

And yes, he's still got miles to go before he sleeps (you, too)
as these woods are dark and dank and Disneyfied and deep....



And do note, all ye who have scrolled down this far:
writer farmer Jason Mark of Earth Island Journal in Berkeley with important op-ed in the New York Times
about cli fi on Dec 10, 2014 went like this:


David Thorpe said...

Keep upping the temperature Dan, this is a cultural heatwave we're building. By the way, is this on your list?

Steve Salmony said...

Cli-fi is one of many paths to raise awareness of the global predicament humanity appears to have precipitated by its relentless overproduction, reckless overconsumption and unrestrained overpopulation activities. Congratulations, Dan, to job being done well.


David, i had not heard of that book from 2008 by Emily Diamond! thanks for the heads up. Who is she and where she is now, has she written anyything since. Sounds brilliant from the reviws i read online. Do you know her? - dan