Friday, September 16, 2016

What Dr Amitav Ghosh from Brooklyn got wrong in his sweet but brief shout-out to the cli-fi community worldwide on page 43 of his new book

​In all due respect, what Dr Amitav Ghosh from Brooklyn got wrong in his shout-out to the cli-fi community worldwide on page 43 of his new essay book on climate change titled "THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: Climate Change and the Unthinkable."​
​From page 43 of Amitav Ghosh's brilliant new essay on the literary, political and historical ramifications of climate change, in a book just released in English from the University of Chicago Press, edited by Alan Thomas there, titled THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: Climate Change and the UNthinkable," Dr Ghosh gives a brief shout out to the cli-fi community worldwide when he writes:  
"Is it the case that science fiction is better equipped to address climate change than mainstream literary fiction? This might appear obvious to many. After all, there is now a new genre of science fiction called ‘climate fiction’ or cli-fi."

​But Dr Ghosh, for all his erudition and smarts, is wrong about cli-fi, but at least he mentions the term in the book. Bravo for that! But sir, dear Brooklyn sage, cli-fi is not a genre of science fiction.


Science fiction is a genre of its own, and so how can another genre be a genre of science fiction? What you probably meant to write was that cli-fi is considered by some people to be a SUBgenre of sci-fi. That's better. ​That's close to reality but still not there. In fact, cli-fi is a separate, standalone, independent genre of its own, and is not part of sci fi at all. You need to try to undestand this, sir.

 people in the
among them
​David Brin,
have told me over the past few years
in separate emails
that they like the
term but consider
​it ​
not a separate genre itself but a subgenre of
​ ​

Perhaps that is what
​Dr Ghosh meant to say, too.
Because in no way is climate fiction
​-- aka cli-fi -- ​
a genre of science fiction.
How can one genre but a genre of another? Did you mean
​r Ghosh​
? That would make more sense.
​ You remember that I wrote to you by email in 2014 and asked your opinion of cli fi and if you had heard of it yet and you replied to me by email in 2014: "For some Western novels about climate change, cli-fi would be an apt term."

That said, it was nice to see
​Dr Ghosh
​ublicly acknowledge the
existence of cli fi
​ in his book with his brief shout out to the rising new genre on page 43.
Bravo. It
s a beginning in the scholarly



​ ​
​ A man, who,  by the way, I deeply admire as both a gentleman and a scholar and a novelist par excellence!​ Even his sci fi genre novel from 1999 ''THE CALCUTTA CHROMOSOME'' was fantastic!

So welcome to the club, Dr Ghosh!



On another very good website devoted to climate change narratives, one forum moderator writes:

''With all the talk of genre fiction in here, I wondered if we could have a conversation about the type of argument that Amitov Ghosh has (that no serious fiction writers are addressing climate change). I dislike it that the main narrative in the news lately is him saying that climate change is not being addressed in novels, when clearly IT IS. There is proof it is.

''So why is his narrative being furthered?

''Maybe Ghosh is looking to literary authors to address it and sees only genre fiction, which maybe he looks down on (?), tackling it. But literary authors ARE, such as Barbara Kingsolver...

''So, I think Ghosh is ignoring an entire canon of work, but also maybe we could look past genre vs. literary fiction and understand the many layers of style and appeal and storytelling that already exist out there to shed some hope or warning about our warming world.''

From another INDIAN newspaper reporter in INDIA who does not challenge Dr Ghosh at all for his incorrect opinions about novelists writing climate-themed books. Just another PR puff piece from INDIA sycophants and ass-kissers an brown-nosers. Yes sir, Master, Whatever you say Amitavji!

Book Review: Why don’t our writers take the climate crisis seriously?

By VINEET GILL | | 17 September, 2016

Amitav Ghosh. Photo: Reuters
Amitav Ghosh’s latest book on the climate crisis makes a case against the literary world that has, for all the wrong reasons, failed to seriously engage with this crucially important subject, writes Vineet Gill.
We run into hurdles of all kinds when trying to deal with the climate crisis. There are of course the many economic and political challenges that come in the way of every attempt of ours to respond to this problem: the challenges posed by our complete dependence on the carbon economy on the one hand, and by political systems sustained by such an economy on the other. But more than that, it’s the crisis of the imagination that limits, even hampers, our understanding of the subject. We lack the language — the metaphors, the imagery, the words — fit enough to engage with disaster scenarios like melting glaciers and rising sea levels. And whom do we blame for this crippling deficiency if not our greatest wordsmiths?
Amitav Ghosh’s latest book, The Great Derangement, is a j’accuse issued against all those literary writers who abdicated their social responsibility by being indifferent to the climate crisis — by far the greatest predicament facing humanity. Why did someone like John Updike, for instance — a writer of superhuman erudition and curiosity — never address this subject in his writings, most of all in his novels?
The modern novel has always been adept at looking inwards — it celebrates the Self and regards the “collective” with suspicion, even distaste. And climate change isn’t something you can write about without looking out at the world. At one point in The Great Derangement, Ghosh cites a few lines from one of Updike’s reviews, where the latter defines the novel as an account of an “individual moral adventure” that is unconcerned with “men in the aggregate”.  While this may sound like the form itself has certain inbuilt limitations, Ghosh rightly takes issue with such a narrow view of how the novel can be defined.
As he writes: “ is a matter of record that historically many novelists from Tolstoy and Dickens to Steinbeck and Chinua Achebe have written very effectively about ‘men in the aggregate’.”
So why should contemporary novelists — or, in Updike’s case, near-contemporaries — be any different? And why is it that the coming climate catastrophe barely figures at all on our cultural radar?
The 20th-century split between the high arts and sciences is another explanation that Ghosh offers in this context, though he fails to mention the great “Two Cultures” debate between C.P. Snow and F.R. Lewis. As many would remember, Snow was the one who advocated the miscegenation of the arts and sciences, while Lewis, with puritan resolve, dreamed of a literary sphere free from the certitudes of scientific theory. Today, any work of fiction grounded in science or technology is relegated from the literary mainstream to what Ghosh identifies as the lower cultural rungs of sci-fi or genre fiction. That in itself is one aspect of the larger problem.
Writing about nature — natural catastrophes in particular — is another. One of the most intriguing bits in  this book involves an autobiographical account of the author helplessly trapped on a Delhi street after the city is impacted by a rare weather phenomenon. On 17 March 1978, the national capital was struck by a sporadic tornado, which turned parts of the city upside down and led to some 30 fatalities. (That we rarely get to read about this freak event, in magazines or books, further testifies to Ghosh’s central thesis.)
One of the most intriguing bits in  this book involves an autobiographical account of the author helplessly trapped on a Delhi street after the city is impacted by a rare weather phenomenon.
“Glancing over my shoulder,” he writes, “I saw a grey, tube-like extrusion forming on the underside of a dark cloud: it grew rapidly as I watched, and then all of a sudden it turned and came whiplashing down to earth, heading in my direction.” Crouched on the floor behind a parapet, Ghosh bears witness to “an extraordinary panoply of objects flying past — bicycles, scooters, lamp posts, sheets of corrugated iron, even entire tea stalls”.
It’s a powerful scene of devastation, expertly described. Still, the author admits that he has been, for all these years, at pains to translate this first-hand experience into the fictional domain: “... no tornado has ever figured in my novels.” And here we return to the creative anxiety that hinders writers from depicting grand catastrophes in literary fiction — a condition that the author of the present book, by his own admission, also suffers from.
In the latter half of the book, the focus shifts from literature to the history and politics of the climate crisis. The attempt throughout is to actually establish links between the cultural, historical and political interpretations of this subject — an approach pioneered by the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, whose work Ghosh routinely draws upon in The Great Derangement.
Another recent document explored a similar approach. It was written not by a poet or novelist or historian, but by a religious leader. Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on climate change, called Laudato si’, was acclaimed the world over for its clear-sightedness and honesty. It remains required reading for anyone choosing to seriously engage with this subject. The closing pages of Ghosh’s book present a comparative literary analysis of sorts, with the Laudato si’ held in contrast to that other landmark climate-change document of our age, the Paris Agreement.
“The Encyclical,” he writes, referring to the Pope’s letter on climate change, “is remarkable for the lucidity of its language and the simplicity of its construction; it is the Agreement, rather, that is highly stylized in its wording and complex in structure.” The level of complexity and postmodern chicanery found in the Paris Agreement — one sentence in the document, Ghosh tells us, runs to 15 pages — are all products politico-corporate machinations, of vested interests pushing their case. The Agreement is composed with the kind of language that draws its vocabulary from Orwellian doublespeak. As The Great Derangement emphasises throughout, the crisis of language is at the heart of every human predicament. And now, if our writers are not leading the way, we’re more than doomed.

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I do agree that more writers should recognize climate change as a crisis worthy of investigating in their fiction, but it's not as if the subject has gone ignored--a narrative that should end now as it's wrong. I've studied climate change in fiction novels for years now and curate a website, interviews, and database for authors who write eco-fiction and/or climate change novels. I have overwhelmingly found that writers DO care about and tackle climate change in fiction. Over the past three years I've posted 431 novels of the eco-fiction variety, at least 75% of which are about climate change. That includes authors and novels of some notability and, at best, is only a sample of these books. Please quit spreading this false truth that writers aren't doing their job when it comes to global warming. Give them some credit. See

A brief excerpt from the book itself explains more about the author's misunderstandings about climate-themed novels, be they be genre novels (which he looks down upon for some reason) by sci-fi authors or ecofiction authors [Atwood, KSR, VanderMeer, Nathaniel Rich, Arthur Herzog, JG Ballard] : "How, then, did the provinces of the imaginative and the scientific come to be so sharply divided from each other? According to Bruno Latour the project of partitioning is always supported by a related enterprise, one that he describes as ‘purification’, which is intended to ensure that Nature is consigned entirely to the sciences, remaining forever off limits to Culture. This entails the marking off and suppression of hybrids—and that, of course, is exactly the story of the branding of science fiction, as a genre separate from the literary mainstream. The line that has been drawn between them exists only for the sake of neatness; because the zeitgeist of late modernity could not tolerate Nature–Culture hybrids. ''Nor is this pattern likely to change soon. I think it can be safely predicted that as the waters rise around us, the mansion of serious fiction, like the doomed waterfront properties of Mumbai and Miami Beach, will double down on its current sense of itself, building ever higher barricades to keep the waves at bay. ''The expulsion of hybrids from the manor house has long troubled many who were thus relegated to the status of genre writers, and rightly so, for nothing could be more puzzling than the strange conceit that science fiction deals with material that is somehow contaminated; nothing could better express the completeness of the literary mainstream’s capitulation to the project of partitioning. And this capitulation has come at a price, for it is literary fiction itself that has been diminished by it. If a list were to be made of the late-twentieth-century novelists whose works remain influential today, we would find, I suspect, that many who once bestrode the literary world like colossi are entirely forgotten while writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Raymond Bradbury and Philip K. Dick are near the top of the list. ''That said, the question remains: Is it the case that science fiction is better equipped to address climate change than mainstream literary fiction? This might appear obvious to many. After all, there is now a new genre of science fiction called ‘climate fiction’ or cli-fi. But cli-fi is made up mostly of disaster stories set in the future, and that, to me, is exactly the rub. The future is but one aspect of the age of human-induced global warming: it also includes the recent past, and, most significantly, the present. ''In a perceptive essay on science fiction and speculative fiction, Margaret Atwood writes of these genres that they ‘all draw from the same deep well: those imagined other worlds located somewhere apart from our everyday one: in another time, in another dimension, through a doorway into the spirit world, or on the other side of the threshold that divides the known from the unknown. Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, and Slipstream Fiction: all of them might be placed under the same large “wonder tale” umbrella.’ ''This lays out with marvellous clarity some of the ways in which the era of global warming resists science fiction: it is precisely not an imagined ‘other’ world apart from ours; nor is it located in another ‘time’ or another ‘dimension’. By no means are the events of the era of global warming akin to the stuff of wonder tales; yet it is also true that in relation to what we think of as normal now, they are in many ways uncanny; and they have indeed opened a doorway into what we might call a ‘spirit world’—a universe animated by non-human voices. ''If I have been at pains to speak of resistances rather than insuperable obstacles, it is because these challenges can be, and have been, overcome in many novels: Liz Jensen’s Rapture is a fine example of one such; another is Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful novel Flight Behavior. Both are set in a time that is recognizable as our own, and they both communicate, with remarkable vividness, the uncanniness and improbability, the magnitude and interconnectedness of the transformations that are now under way.''

It's really sad that Dr Ghosh wants to be ''proscriptive'' about what kinds of fiction should be deployed for talking about this subject. Whilst the sections on climate change geopolitics and history are brilliant analyses, Dr Ghosh's idea for fostering the conditions for novelists to tackle global warming impact issues only in ''serious mainstream literary circles'' is too proscriptive. Has he never heard of genre novelists? So this otherwise brilliant book is a near-total fail in the chapter about climate novels since 1960 written by ''genre'' writers. The author did not do his homework on this and his prejudice toward genre novelists does not serve him well. There have been sci-fi and speculative fiction and eco-fiction novels about climate change issues from the early 1960s to today, and Amitavji does not seem to grasp this point. In India, not one literary critic challenged him on this, and this article appears in the India Guardian not the UK Guardian and written by an Indian journalist and literary critic who has not studied the history of climate-themed literature in the West. But literary critics and reporters in North America and the UK will be sure to challenge him on this. His view of what constitutes "literature" is antiquated and prejudiced. Hopefully, after living in Brooklyn for over 25 years he knows that genre novelists from Ballard to Turner to Atwood to Robinson to Vandeermeer have been writing about climate change for over 50 years, and yet he pretends in this book that only ''literary fiction'' by so-called serious VIP novelists can tackle global warming issues. Which is why I found it curious that Ghosh more than once brings up the matter of 'serious fiction' and its upturned nose. To bring up climate change in a novel, Ghosh writes in his book, which I have read, 'is in fact to court eviction from the mansion in which serious fiction has long been in residence; it is to risk banishment to the humbler [genre] dwellings that surround the manor house.' But why take serious fiction so seriously? After all, its conventions don't have a monopoly on human imagination. The lines between categories of fiction are blurry at best, and if something called science fiction or climate fiction can better accommodate what is urgent, then maybe we should let it. At the same time, to give the essays their proper due, the book in the end is hugely impressive. Dr Ghosh's arguments about realism and the exceptional are especially interesting!

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