Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The new literary term, now being studied by academics around the world, ''cli-fi'', was first coined and publicized worldwide from a small office in south Taiwan.

I've been invited to speak as a guest participant at an academic forum on climate literature issues in November in Taiwan. Here is what I plan to say:

''Some thoughts on the rise of the ''cli-fi'' genre in the past few years, a new literary term that was coined by American climate activist Dan Bloom in Taiwan where he lives in south Taiwan near Alisan Mountain and blogs at The Cli-Fi Report at

A new generation of climate fiction dubbed ''cli-fi'' by Dan Bloom in Taiwan has emerged in the last few years, marking a strong consensus that has emerged over climate change and global warming.  Here are some  thoughts from a wide variety of sources on the rise of the ''cli-fi'' genre, and what the future might hold in the next 50 years of cli-fi.

Many cli-fi novels representing this genre focus on themes common across similar books: their framing of the climate change problem, their representations of science and scientists, their portrayals of economic and environmental challenges, and their scenarios for addressing the climate challenge.

Cli-fi novels illustrate in varying ways the problems attending the science-society relationship, the economic imperatives that have driven the characters’ choices, and the contradictory impulses that define our connections with nature.

Such novels provide a picture of the challenges that need to be understood, but scenarios that offer possibilities for change are not fully developed. Such cli-fi books represent a given moment in the longer trajectory of climate fiction while offering the initial building blocks to reconsider our ways of living so that new expectations and imaginaries can be debated and reconceived.

Over the past decade, a strong consensus has emerged over climate change posing risks that could end civilization as we know it.

Not surprisingly, a strong cultural response in the form of climate fiction or “cli-fi”has developed.

''Climate fiction'' aka cli-fi   is a cultural response to mostly scientific and policy discourses that offers a way of exploring dramatic social change through the perspectives of individual and social group experiences by way of fictional narrative.

So how is climate change framed in cli-fi novels and movies?  This is a good question for future study. 

The term “cli-fi” has been adopted by the popular press, and stories about this burgeoning genre began appearing in various media outlets worldwide, in several languages.

In the summer of 2014, the The New York Times ''ROOM FOR DEBATE'' forum section online created a discussion page in its online opinion section asking the question “Will fiction influence how we react to climate change?”, inviting published authors and climate change activists alike to comment and debate. Some saw the works as a catalyst to reflect our anxieties about climate change, while others saw fiction as a way to make the issue more palatable to the general public in order to motivate them to take action.

As part of a marketing campaign in 2013 -- for a paperback novel ''POLAR CITY RED '' by Jim Laughter -- Dan Bloom as a PR consultant to Mr Laughter initially identified cli-fi as a ''subgenre'' of SciFi, but merely to get along better with those in the science fiction community. For Bloom, Cli-Fi has always been, in his mind, a standalone, separate, independent genre.

Cli-fi is a  “new” genre that is indicative of the urgencies of the climate change issue in the last decade and a half despite and reflects a joint enterprise among writers, readers, journalists, and marketers, suggesting that attribution of the identity of cli-fi novels to a text constitutes an active intervention in their distribution and reception.


Some pronouncements about the cli-fi genre have promoted the idea that such works, rather than simplistically “educating” the public, try to represent our deepest cultural fears,  while others claim they change minds.

So  yes, the new literary term, now being studied by academics around the world, cli-fi, was  first coined and  publicized worldwide from a small office in  south Taiwan.

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