Saturday, March 30, 2019

'Fledgling new genre in fiction' from 2012 is all grown up now in 2019

by Dan Bloom, staff writer

"There is a fledgling new genre in fiction." 

Those eight words were how the climate blogger Judith Curry in 2012 introduced her blog titled "Climate Etc."

She wasn't talking about science fiction, but about a new approach that NPR radio (after interviewing Curry) called "climate fiction."

Curry pointed out to her blog readers the work of Adam Trexler, then a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Exeter in Britain was worth reading, in particular his blog post titled ''The Climate Change Novel:  A Faulty Simulator of Environmental Politics.'' 

Trexler stated in 2011 that “Over the last three decades, more than 200 novels have been written that try to imagine our future in a climate-changed world.”

He later turned his blog into a full-length academic book titled "Anthropocene Fictions," that looked into the 200 novels his blog had mentioned.

''I suspect that we will see the Cli-Fi genre grow in the future, it is certainly a rich topic to mine for fiction," Curry said on her blog in 2012. "Another issue that interests me in particular is the reaction to the use of novels to ‘teach’ the public explicitly about climate science. As a scientist, I would love to see more books in the genres of scientists in fiction and Cli-Fi.''

Since 2012, more and more writers have begun to set their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth's systems are noticeably off-kilter. The genre has come to be called, according to NPR, climate fiction -- "cli-fi," for short.

That was then, this is now.

''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," said writer Nathaniel Rich in 2013, whose debut cli-fi novel "Odds Against Tomorrow" became a modest bestseller that year and was translated to French as well.

According to Curry, who in 2013 was a professor and chair of Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, when novelists tackle climate change in their writing, they reach people in a way that scientists can't.

"You know, scientists and other people are trying to get their message across about various aspects of the climate change issue," 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.''

Curry, who began assembling a list of climate fiction novels on her blog in 2012, says she first saw a renewed interest in climate change fiction in 2004 with Michael Crichton's novel, ''State of Fear,'' which was about ecoterrorists.

Fast forward to 2019 and cli-fi novels are the talk of the town in over a dozen countries and languages. 

You've come a long way, baby.


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