Universities nationwide tapping growing genre of "cli-fi'' in course offerings in 2016 and 2017
MONTPELIER, Vermont, USA
with a POST-SCRIPT BELOW by Dan Bloom of the Cli-Fi Report on how the AP story came to be
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Some of the books and movies now being considered part of the genre are old classics, while others were written more recently in direct response to today's changing climate.
"It's a very, very energized time for this where people in literature have just as much to say as people who are in hard science fields, or technology and design fields, or various social-science approaches to these things," said Jennifer Wicke, an English professor at the University of Virginia who will be teaching a course this June on climate fiction at the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont.
"This course gives them a model for creating and imagining English courses that will help the young people whom they teach understand that reading literature, looking at the arts, looking at film isn't something you do as an aside," said Bread Loaf school Director Emily Bartels, also a professor of English at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "It's something you do as you learn how to navigate your own moment in the 21st century."
Cli-fi, a term that emerged less than a decade ago when American climate activist Dan Bloom coined it for this express purpose, is now being discussed by academics across the nation and world.
Next month, about three dozen academics are expected to attend a workshop in Germany called "Between Fact and Fiction: Climate Change Fiction," hosted by the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study in the northwestern city of Delmenhorst.
The website for the workshop lists some contemporary examples of books that fit the definition: Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior," about an Appalachian town to which confused monarch butterflies have migrated; Nathaniel Rich's "Odds Against Tomorrow," the story of a mathematician coping with catastrophe in New York; and Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Water Knife," about water wars in the southwestern United States.
But some of the literature now being recognized as cli-fi was written decades, or even centuries, ago. Some of Shakespeare's works focus on humanity's relationship with nature. Works of fiction such as H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" or "The Time Machine" also fit the profile of climate fiction, Bartels said.
Retired Hampshire College Professor Charlene D'Avanzo, a marine scientist who spends her summers in Yarmouth, Maine, is about to publish her first novel, "Cold Blood, Hot Sea," the first of a three-volume series of what she describes as "cli-fi eco-lit novel and amateur sleuth mystery novels" sparked by what she sees as the harassment of scientists studying climate change.
She said that there's much uncertainty in the scientific study of climate change and that readers are more willing to accept uncertainty in fiction. In her first book, the protagonist is an amateur sleuth who investigates the mysterious death of a colleague who was crushed to death by a buoy on a research vessel off Maine.
"You have to make people care," she said.
In remarks in several phone interviews with the AP reporter above, Dan Bloom, who coined the cli-fi term and has runs PR for it since its inception, explains below how he came to be working with the genre, and why he had pitched the news article to the AP in January, finding the reporter in Vermont online and pitching the news tip to him by email and Twitter over a period of weeks.
The reporter emailed back to Bloom and said: ''I am fascinated by the idea. I bounced it off our news outlet's book editor and he said to 'go ahead and do it.' If you’d like to call me at my office here in the USA next week, we can chat."
Bloom called the AP right back from his home in Taiwan and chatted with the reporter for half an hour.
and Odds against tomorrow by Nat Rich.
"Nice to chat with you by phone," Bloom said in a subsequent email. "Have fun with this story if it works for you and your editors in New York and thanks for tracking it all down."
"I will send you a link to Bll McKibbens 2005 essay in Grist magazine where he said ''hey where are the novels and movies about global warming? We need artists to explore this issue too. Where are they?" Bloom added, noting:
"Well, cli-fi novels are in the pipeline now, and college students are reading them in dozens of cli-fi classes nationwide.
You can quote me on that if you want a quote.'
Bloom also suggested that the AP reporter speak with some people he might want to talk to for quotes, among them:
Elizabeth Ammons chair of English dept at tufts teaching clifi grad seminar this spring.
Edward Rubin former dean of Vanderbilt university in Nashville is teaching two clifi classes now this semester, one for freshman English dept and another for OSHER senior citizens in their 60s and 70s, fifty geezers enrolled. So he is teaching both youngest students and oldest students on campus this semester ... clifi class. Rubin also just published a clifi novel he wrote titled "the heatstroke line" about Zika virus! Good for quote too."
''And dede Cummings of Vermont's indie publisher Green Writers Press in Burlington, she is CEO and publisher and is doing a series of cli-fi novels already out ...one called "Marly" by Vermont writer peter Gould about wind turbine issues in Vermont. Both avail for quotes or interviews.''
''Bill mckibben wrote an important 2005 essay in Grist calling for climate novels. He might have good quote for you on this if you can reach him. What does he think of rise of clifi novels and so many college classes now?''
"So tufts Vanderbilt Middlebury ....if you google search for..... "cli-fi class spring semester 2016 climate fiction" ....dozens of classes at colleges appear. Check.
''And another good cli fi writer to talk to or interview in Maine is Charlene D'Avanzo author of new cli fi detective series with first novel in May titled HOT BLOOD, COLD SEA. And Meg Little Reilly in Boston who has a cli fi novel coming out in September titled "We Are Unprepared."
Later, in early March, two months after Bloom first contacted the AP reporter in Vermont with a gentle, soft-spoken pitch, the reporter wrote to Bloom with an advisory, saying:
"I am from Springfield mass . Went to tufts as literature major class of 1971. ..and after college worked as print newspaper reporter in DC and alaska and japan and taiwan. I am not a novelist and would not know how to write one. But after 2006 ipcc report I decided to use my media background.... like how to write a good short press release....and my pr skills... to try to boost the profile of the cli fi genre I coined in 2008 on my blog. And it caught on. Maybe it was in the air. So now this is my life's work 24/7 monitoring social media and websites for cli fi news and building a community of cli fi writers. I serve merely as cheerleader. The hard work is from the novelists themselves. I am just their cheerleader to help boost awareness of cli fi. "
"Yeah, the cli-fi meme has been picked by academics with PhD degrees and papers to present at intl conferences. They a big driving force now for cli-fi advocacy. I had no idea that academia would be so important but wow these conferences are now worldwide. It is a good development."
Finally, just before the article went live on the AP wire worldwide, the reporter sent Bloom a quick note to say that the story was coming out that coming weekend but that he was not able to get Bloom's name or connection to the cli-fi movement into his story for space reasons, and that he hoped Bloom would not be disappointed at the development over limited space in writing up the story for publication.
Bloom replied to the AP reporter: "Sir, no problem on not putting me in the article. I prefer in fact to remain the shadows. You know, the role of a good PR guy is to stay in the background and let the article follow its own arc. All this was never about ME, but about the real writers and academics and scientists doing the heavy lifting. I'm just the bat boy, unseen, invisible. I love being the bat boy. Let the quotes from others work their magic.''
''I am sure I will love yr story on Sunday. I already love it. Your byline will make the story sing! I am glad the Northwest Kingdom brought us together by email and phone. It was great to get to know you and I am now a fan for life! I love reporters, especially those like you who know how to tell a good story. Can't wait.!
And thanks for letting me know the date. Sunday. I will read it on Monday here and given AP reach with the wire, it will likely appear in print in the
''I am delighted!''
''I couldn't have found a better byline. Storyteller par excellence. Cli fi is in good hands.''
''My name not germane to the news article. I ' m just a quiet gadfly and I'm happy to promote the other people in the story. I know my place. In the shadows. But yes fun to meet you and renew my memories of Vermont. I was very lucky to find you! Thanks!!!!!! ''
''Dan - What a sleuth you are! I should/will write you into my next book... The AP reporter was a heck of a nice guy and in the small world world his sister and bother inlaw went to the college in Massachusetts I taught at for nearly 40 years - so we talked about that a bit. He was pretty impressed by you - said your news tipper pitch was unusual, very effective, and it was impressive that you found him. We talked about my motivation for writing the book (that about 5 years ago I heard a famous climate scientist - Ray Bradley- describe the harassment he had to deal with). He knew who Bradley was so he's well versed in climate change controversy. He wasn't sure what the exact focus of the article would be because he had way more to write about than he could. As you said, we should see something this weekend - by Sunday afternoon eastern US time. ''
She added: "Dan, there's no way I can thank you enough. If there's a special place in heaven for climate change warriors, you'll be there (no rush, of course...). "
Bloom then replied tback o Charlene after the article came out and after she was interviewed by the reporter:
''Yes! Good! I spent the past few months quietly setting up this AP article on cli fi in academia. First I spent a few weeks finding a reporter, looking in DC and Los Angeles and Boston. No luck. Then I got pr lucky with my pr detective shoes And by complete chance the clues led me to find wilson ring in Vermont. His byline . I mssgd him by tweets and email and by pure lucky ducky luck he was interested in my pr pitch. He said he would do a story on rise of cli fi in academia and the classroom if his editors agreed to it. So he is doing it now...soon....not about me...but about you and about
about the cli fi community we have been building. So last night he called me. He said he had some free time this coming weekend and the article will be an international wire story reaching over 1500 newspapers worldwide. he asked me for some names of actual scientist who have written cli fi novels. So I have him yr name and email address and he emailed you. !!!! So I wanted to alert you . what did he ask you and what did you say? I hope you had chance to quietly plug yr new Maine cli fi series. Yes? Bravo. I work in the shadows.''