Saturday, June 4, 2016

For now, it's cli-fi. Get used to it. Quit your bellyaching! - An Oped for our times

I have been waiting for someone to write a good OpEd in the New York Times or the Guardian about why the new literary term of cli-fi is a genre whose time has come, despite the misgivings by some critics who are thrown off by the five-letter buzzword itself. I can't waiti any longer so I am going to write the OpEd myself today and put it out there for readers now and in the near future to ponder. It's not a manifesto and it's not telling anyone what terms they need to use or not use. It's just an opinion piece that's been germinating for some time, and since no one wants to go out on a ledge and write it, I'll do it here.

We are in the Anthrocene, what some academics prefer to spell as the Anthropocene but I prefer to shorten to Anthrocene, both for space and pronunciation reasons. Call it as you will, spell it as you wish. The British say it as anTHROpocene, while the Yanks say it as ANthropocene. Some even say it as anthroPOcene. See what NPR has to say. Better yet, ask Andy Revkin at his Dot Earth blog.

Look, science fiction no longer matters. Sorry about that, but it's true. We are living in an age that demands novels and movies about climate change and global warming issues that go beyond sci-fi and head directly into stories about climate anxieties here and now (and in the very near future as well.)

Call this new genre what you will, the name is not important. For now, I call it cli-fi. Others might want to call it anthropocene fiction or anthro-fi. Others might prefer the spec fic term. All nicknames are good. New ones will appear, too. It will not matter what the final name of the term we are discussing here today is. What matters are the stories our storytellers will tell. Our movie directors, too. Art has a place in our society, and we need it even more than ever now. Cli-fi, we sigh, the end is nigh.

But no, the End is not night. Chin up, there are many more generations of man to come. We made it this far, we will make it even futher into the 25th and 29 centuries, even the 35th and 61st centuries. We are humans, we can dream.

Now how to use literature and cinema to throw some light on where we are now and where we are headed in the future in terms of climate change and global warming? Let the storytells take charge. Let the publishers do their things. With Kim Stanley Robinson's much awaited novel set in 2140 and titled "New York 2140" -- set for a March 21, 2017 release and which is already being heralded as perhaps the first really truly cli-fi novel of the 21st century (and there will be more, for sure) -- the outlines of a new publishing genre are becoming visible.

Cli-fi, cli-schmigh. Call it what you will. But most of all, don't be afraid of this new genre that does not have an official name yet. Read it, write it, use it, teach it, study it. This is where we are headed. Jokes aside, cli-fi has nothing to do with what some people think it does. No, no, no, not that. And no, it's not the ugliest collection of five letters ever written down on paper. in the history of mankind. And yes, whatever name it finally takes on, it's here to stay. Who knows what we will call this genre in 2050? By 2099 an entirely new collection of letters might very well replace it, sure.

For now, it's cli-fi. Get used to it. Quit your bellyaching!

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