and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, partnering
with the Center for Science and the Imagination, the Rob and Melani
Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, and the Virginia G. Piper
Center for Creative Writing, set up the Cli-Fi Short Story Contest last year to encourage writers around the world to
explore the human experience of climate change.12 finalists have been selected, see here. And the winner will be announced in early September, with a nice $1000 prize coming their way.
“The center generally does research-based storytelling, getting
experts and creative writers together at the inception of a story idea
to ground the story in science, technology, and social policy. But we
also don’t want the story to seem too meticulously fact-checked to
take the blood out of it,” says Joey Eschrich, the Center for Science
and the Imagination’s editor and program manager recently told Joseph Horton, writing for Emerson College's Ploughshares blog. "Particularly when
discussing climate change, when the concerns are truly global and the
repercussions potentially distant or diffuse."
“It’s really hard to get people to relate, to put themselves into the
story of climate change. It’s just too colossal and abstract. In day
to day reality, it doesn’t seem real…How do you make this more real
The contest has chosen its 12 finalists, and early in September the winner (with a $1000 first prize check)
will be announced along with the release of the contest anthology, Horton blogged, noting that an
anthology featuring the 12 finalists and theirselected stories, a foreword from
Kim Stanley Robinson, who lent his name to the cli-fi story contest, and with an an interview with climate
fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi as well.
Though the stories were asked to
speculate on futures for our planet, their authors were also asked to
contend with the realities of today’s writing world, according to Horton. Eschrich told him that the
contest received over 500 submissions from over 50 countries, many of
them at the beginning of the contest window, which he thinks suggested
a previous lack of recognition and homes for these cli-fi stories.
“I expected a lot of polar bears stories, and we did get a lot of
polar bear stories, and stories about islands. There were a lot of
salvaging stories too. But the theme of people being really resentful
of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations and not really being
able to do anything with that anger was a major theme,” Eschrich
told Horton. “There’s a story about disaster tourism, this whole economy
that grows up around this village, and westerners arriving and wanting
to see the coral reefs before they fall apart…There’s also a story
about this young couple deciding whether to have a kid or not. This is
a near-future world where there’s been a lot of sea level rise. What
makes it great at the level of ideas is the kind of ethical questions
this couple has to answer.”
True to the center’s philosophy of “thoughtful optimism,” Eschrich
told Horton that the judges tried to avoid the narrative extremes to
find engaging entries grounded in scientific and technological truths.
“I think in a lot of cases the point of hopefulness in these cli-fi short stories is
the resilience of communities or the ability of people to adapt and
muddle through…I think people are going to respond to these human
stories about people making difficult choices.”
Meredith Martinez, Education Programs Manager at the Virginia G.
Piper Center for Creative Writing, was one of the expert judges from ASU wo acted as a contest administrator
and this also allowed her to read as a fellow writer.
She told Horton: “As a judge, I was most
excited by cli-fi stories in which a future situation of a society
transformed by climate change was crucial to the human drama unfolding
in the story’s pages. In other words, I was looking for stories in
which climate change was not merely a backdrop or a context, but was a
powerful determiner in how characters in the story thought, acted, and
configured their values. I suppose, in this sense, I was reading as a
writer, in that I was looking for how thoroughly and originally an
author cast his or her imagination forward into the future, and how
well the author wedded this imagined future to the action of the story
and to the characters involved in the action.”
“Of course, along these lines, another thing that good cli-fi does so
beautifully is allow a reader to vicariously experience what is
impossible, or implausible, for him or her to undergo in normal life,
and to rehearse emotions surrounding that experience.”
Kim Stanley Robinson lent his name to the contest
and his foreword introduces the anthology
that will be released next month in September.
When Horton asked KSR about what kinds of labels for this kind of
writing might be useful, KSR said:
“It’s becoming more prominent now because climate change is already
happening and global warming will be with us no matter what we do now,
though what we do now matters hugely in how bad the impacts will be.
So now, any near-future realist sf, which is only one
subgenre among many, has to include climate change just to be a
realistic scenario. You can call this cli-fi, [which is a newish subgenre of sf] if you like."
Cli-Fi Short Story contest winners judged by Kim Stanley Robinson were announced earlier in the summer by ASU organizers: grand prize gets a sweet $1,000 check when gonged GRAND PRIZE WINNER in September.
The emerging literary genre of ''cli-fi'' — championed by ASU and documented at the Cli Fi Report cli-fi.net and epitomized by novels like Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” — helps to imagine possible futures shaped by climate change and to encourage more creative thinking about how humans might respond and adapt.
A grand-prize winner will be selected from these finalists and announced in September.
IN ALPHABETIC ORDER: A to Z:
• Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World” [from Vermont]
• Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land” [from the UK]
@kellycowboy [lives in Chester, England, UK]
• Stirling Davenport, “Masks” https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/stirlingdavenport
Stirling is a writer, artist and traveler. She has spent most of her life doing various day jobs to support her writing and painting.
In 2005, she spent a year volunteering in northern India where she taught art to Tibetan refugee children and did the filming for a documentary about the exile experience. She has a keen interest in Buddhism and has made seven trips to Tibet over the past ten years.
• Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
Adam Flynn @threadbare lives in San Francisco and is ''trying to make Solarpunk a thing.'' - He is one of the main stewards in the solarpunk movement, having talked about solarpunk in Grist, Hieroglpyh, and ABC.net Australia. He has been described as a brand strategist based in San Francisco, who is heavily involved in the early stirrings of this movement. splendidvagabond.blogspot.com
Andrew Dana Hudson https://medium.com/@andrewdhudson -- wrote the thought-provoking On the Political Dimensons of Solarpunk at Medium.com. He is a communications associate at Center for Care Innovations.
• Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year” (bio info TBA)
• Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount” (bio info TBA)
• Matthew Henry, “Victor and the Fish” @MenryAZ Matt is an Arizona-dwelling Montana expat, PhD candidate in literature and environmental humanities, teacher, and writer. He lives in Tempe, Arizona
• Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides” -- is based in Canberra, Australia.
She blogs: "I entered the ASU cli-fi contest because I am passionate about the environment and about the need for climate change action and because I believe that the genre of cli-fi has an important role to play in depicting the climate future as it might be, good or bad, that the global community might hopefully be inspired to steer itself toward something that is sustainable, healthy and equitable for all....''
• Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still” in Guadalajara, Mexico @
• Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
• Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”
From Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, and now based in Los Angeles, Daniel writes on his Facebook page: ''My cli-fi short story was one of the 12 finalists in the ASU contest! Huge thanks to my friend Nick Iandolo, who not only wrote an amazing story himself, but kicked my ass into gear on this thing.'' https://www.facebook.com/daniel.thron.7
Dan is a major Kim Stanely Robinson fan, and has been forever. He's even read Robinson's doctoral thesis."
The contest received more than 700 entries submitted by writers from 67 countries. Finalists come from Australia, Germnay, Mexico, the USA and Canada, with 8 women and 4 men in the list.