''Cli-Fi'' Ruminations Pose Philosophical and Literary Questions About the Purpose and Direction of Cli-Fi Genre
On Twitter, Cli-fi theorist Dan Bloom has shared many of his cli-fi musings, and compiled a list of them to share with other people -- mostly intended, he says, for potential or would-be cli-fi novelists, academics studying the emergence of the genre, reporters researching news story about the rising genre and of course, current cli-fi writers themselves. And, he points out, readers of cli-fi, too.
You can find his list of some of his cli-fi thoughts on a blog here. We recently asked Bloom, who is not a novelist or a literary critic, why he sat down to write these thoughts down and how he did it, and who he had in mind when he wrote them down. He was kind enough to reply in a few emails to explain his zen-like ''cli-fi ruminations.''
QUESTION: So, Dan, what's this all about? You're not an academic, you don't have a PhD, you're not a literary theorist or a literary critic or a novelist, so what were you driving at in writing these thoughts down? And how did you do it?
DAN BLOOM: I wanted to gather my thoughts about what direction I felt cli-fi is going in, should go in, might go in in the future, and its philosophical and literary meanings. So using the 140 chararacter limit of the usual Twitter post, in order to keep my thoughts concise and brief -- and readable, without being verbose -- I sat down on my bed in my spare time, and lying on my back with my head propped up on a pillow, I merely jotted down on my cellphone screen shorts Tweets either late at night or early in the morning. I was just thinking to myself, and thought the ideas might be useful to writers, critics, academics, literary theorists, PhD scholars, book reviewers and readers.
QUESTION: And what do you hope the publication of these ideas might do?
DAN BLOOM: I wrote them down with no real purpose or intention, other than to try my hand at putting my thoughts down on paper (on screen, that is) and to see if anybody out there in readerland or writerland or academia or the literary criticism or book reviewer world might find some of the "cli-fi ruminations" useful or food for thought. That's all. I mostly wrote them down for myself, though, to think out loud to myself and for myself, and to try to clarify in my own mind what cli-fi is all about now and might be about in the future. I really didn't have any real purpose in mind, just to use the Twitter format to keep things neat and concise. And, I found out, as I began writing them down, about ten or twelve at every sitting, that the ideas were interesting and provocative to me, if nobody else. So I found the exercise, the thought experiment, useful for me, first of all. If anyone else gets anything out of them, great. I really just wanted to experiment with a short concise form to write down some ideas I have about the direction of cli-fi and its future.
QUESTION: So, then, which ones did you like best and which ones didn't you like so much, after you wrote them down?
DAN BLOOM: Good question. In fact, I wrote them all down, without thinking of which ones "worked" or which ones didn't. I just wanted to make a record and then see later on if it added up to anything. So yes, some of the ruminations work very well, and some don't work as well, too, and I decided in the end, that in fact, it's up to each reader to decide which of these ruminnations work for them, and which ones don't. I didn't edit myself, and I just let the thoughts come out, almost like writing poetry. The ideas just came out of my mind as I began typing. I am now writing about ten a day, and I plan to compile 100 or 500 or 1000 eventually. But I will be happy to reach 100.
QUESTION: Can you give us some examples of which ones you like best?
DAN BLOOM: Well, I like them all, of course, They are just a record of my thoughts as I jotted them down. But on looking at them later, I do see that some of them are more positive and inspiritng and even motivational than some of the others, which might seem dystopian or apocalyptic to other people. So I feel that it's up to each reader to take the ruminations and check off the ones they like and the ones they don't like so much. To five you an example, below I will mark in BLUE those ruminations I like best because I feel they might be useful to literary critics and writers and readers who want to understand what cli-fi is. And every reader will have different choices. I think that is what is most interesting about this thought exercise. Everyone will have different reactions. So here they are:
• Cli-fi isn’t a marketing term or a bookstore shelving category, and it’s more than a literary term. It’s a password into the future and those who know it, know.
- Cli-fi is more than a genre term, much more than that: it’s a code word, a password, a secret handshake; it is bringing us together as one
- Cli-Fi is not for you or your children or grandkids, no. It’s codeword for future generations, as yet unborn. And born they shall be. In next 30 generations.
- Cli-Fi cannot, will not, save us from what’s coming. Too late for that. But it’s here, now, always. We have 30 generations to prepare. See?
- In the future, come 30 more generations of man, there will be no Cli-Fi. By 2500 A.D. (Anthrocenus Deflexus) it will be too late.
- People want cli-fi to offer solutions, comfortable happy fixes. Aint gonna happen. We are ”doomed, doomed” as a species, and we did it to ourselves.
• Cli-fi won’t make much of a difference either way you define it. It’s just here, now, beckoning future writers. It’s not sci-fi, never was
- Cli-fi is more than a mere genre: it’s a cri de coeur, a warning flare, a pathway to the future before it’s too late. See? #CliFi’s here now
- If the rising new literary term “cli-fi” makes you ‘cringe’ at first sight or hearing, don’t give up on it yet. With time, you will come to see it for what it is.
- Cli-fi is not sci-fi, it is not eco-fiction, it is not subgenred to anything earlier. #CliFi is a hashtag burning its stamp into our very skin, as we prepare.
- Cli-fi is more than a genre term, much more than that: it’s a code word, a password, a secret handshake; it is bringing us together as one.
- Cli-fi wasn’t just a case of slapping a new name on an old genre. It’s much deeper and existential than that. Think game-changer, new directions.
- We’ll never make it out of here alive. That’s cli-fi in a nutshell. Man the lifeboats, prepare to test the seas of one season after the next.
- Cli-fi defines a line the sands of time that no man can cross without trepidation or reverence. There’s a reason we are here. What is it?
- If cli-fi is one thing, it’s a chance to choose our future. One door leads here, another door leads there. Choose wisely: Your descendants are waiting.
- There’s a tragic flaw in our genes, a selfish shellfish that doesn’t want to share. This DNA will be our downfall. This Earth shall abide.
- Cli-fi doesn’t choose sides. We do. Choose your weapon, use it wisely. We are here by the grace of God, and someday we won’t be. God knows.
- You could say that in a post-sci-fi world, cli-fi has come to rescue us from oblivion. Not true. No way.
- You might not really be interested in cli-fi, or where it is going. But trust me, cli-fi is interested in you. Why? Becos the End is nigh
- When all is said and done, cli-fi points in only one direction. It’s for everyone to find it on their own. ON THE BEACH from 1957 has clues.
- Cli-fi is not about who coined it or who popularized it. It’s about much more pressing things, like how many more generations before the End?
- I never met a future I didn’t like. No, that can’t be true. Some futures spell the end of humankind. It’s in the cards. Choose your exit.
- Cli-fi is neither pro nor con. It just is. Take your pick. Choose yr sides. We are at war w/ a future that threatens all futures. Arise!
- Cli-fi is so much a part of this world that on first hearing the word or seeing it in print, it slips right by, invisble, unnoticed.
- If by some remote chance you find yourself reading a cli-fi novel without realizing it’s cli-fi, you have arrived.
- There are are still 30 generations to be born before the real apocalypse begins. This now is just a rehearsal. An audition.
- Cli-fi leads to a meeting of the minds, borderless, rudderless, unconsolable. Will we get there on time?
- If you think time is running out, or has already run out, in terms of the unspeakable cli-fi future we face, you are very close to solving the riddle. Why are we here?
- I don’t want to sound pessimistic, as optimism must abound and console us. But listen to the wind, hear the chimes sing, ring.
- Cli-fi has a place in our hearts and minds, now and forever. But forever is no longer forever. We sold the farm.
- Cli-fi can, and will, shine a light on the darkness that is about to befall us. Let’s stick together and shoulder the burden.
- You didn’t know cli-fi was coming. Nobody did. It’s taken us by surprise.
- There will be days when cli-fi is beyond us, unscoutable, undetected. All the more reason to pay attention.
- Cli-fi doesn’t mean resignation or giving in to the darkness ahead. To the contrary, it means taking up arms.
- If a time shall come when all else fails, cli-fi may just come to the rescue. Make room.
- Cli-fi cannot answer all our questions or undo the deeds we have done. No. But she can unburden us of our fears.
- There will come a time when there is no time left. That’s where, and when, cli-fi comes in.
- Who will write the cli-fi of the future? They will be legion, legends. Welcome them.
- Cli-fi is more than a mere genre term, much more than a literary term. It’s a battle cry, a cri decoeur, a shout-out to future generations: “We tried to warn you!”
- Think positive, think cli-fi. Think future generations, think now. Think the end is nigh unless we change our ways.
- There is no way out of here, said the sailors to the sun. Thirty more generations is all we have left. What then?
- Ploddingly, one step at a time, we are marching to future days. Cli-fi cannot stop the deluge, yet we must not surrender. Never.
- With sea levels rising in future times, Nature has been turned on its head. Cli-fi paints a picture, sight unseen.
- If we could see CO2, smell it, know that is there, over-loaded, we might be able to put out the fires. But it is invisible, odorless.
- Whatever generation you belong to, know in your heart that there is no way out of here. Nature has spoken, Earth recoils. Write on.
- To show respect to the Earth, which is our home in the cosmos, please always capitalize the word as ”Earth.” Earth matters, tell the copy desk. Lowercasing it is beneath us.
- Cli-fi cannot, will not, lead the way. This is a clean-up action, and way too late. But it matters nevertheless.
- One cannot see the future, cli-fi is blind. But the stories we tell will matter, even if it is all for naught.
- Cli-fi, by indirection finds direction out. Your words on the page must be balanced, insistent. Always. And never lose hope.
- Not doomed yet? What will it take to connect the dots? Not doomed yet? Some overly-rosy displays of optimism in print could be seen as pathological.
- As humans, ike all life forms, we are hardwired and programmed to believe that the near future will be similar to the recent past. Our Achilles heel, so to speak.
- Cli-fi won’t solve our problems, and can’t undo what’s done. Fasten your seatbelts. This is a ride to Hell.
- Climate change is more than a fact of life. It is the result of human ingenuity, greed, rapaciousness and fear. Fear not: cli-fi is here. Write it.
- I came to the table naive and unquestioning. I left totally convinced there will be dead people, lots of dead people. That was the genesis of cli-fi.
- You might not want to go down the cli-fi road, and that’s okay. It’s not a pretty picture, not a happy selfie. It’s disaster, writ large.
- In the long and rambling history of humankind, cli-fi will be just a blip on the radar screen. Pay it no heed.
- You weren’t born yesterday. Your descendants may not even be born at all, ever. That’s how unfathomable cli-fi is.
- If you can manage to fit the personal stories of cli-fi between the covers of a book, do it. With trepidation. Know your audience.
- Cli-fi will have no denouement, no act three, no happy ending, no Greek chorus, no social media take-away. Push send.
- Sorry, but this is how cli-fi is going to be, in the Anthropocene. Just 12 letters spelling doom.
- I wish there was some cli-fi way out of here, but there ain’t. Ain’t ain’t ain’t. Ain’t ain’t ain’t times, ten thousand times ain’t.
QUESTION: So in the end, what were you driving at?
DAN BLOOM: You know, as this all unfolded, I had no idea what I was doing, nor did I want to know what I was doing. I just did it. They came to me, when I made in the evenings or in the early mornings. I hope they will prove useful to some people -- maybe cli-fi novelists working now or in the future with the genre, or maybe readers or literary critics or academics writing papers about cli-fi for academic or research journals. I amost feel like this was a kind of automatic writing. I just wrote down what was in my mind, and one idea led to another, one by one. But not all of them "work." But I will let others decide for themselves which ones work and which ones don't. For them. For me, they all work. I was just sitting in bed jotting things down to myself.