by Evan Shapiro in Australia
April 7, 2017
Oped Blog Post by Evan Shapiro in Australia, author of "Road to Nowhere"
To Cli-Fi or not to Cli-Fi, that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous science fiction or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?
Yes, a somewhat bastardized version of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy. Yet if you take a moment to deconstruct it the answer to why many authors are picking up and running with the Cli-Fi mantra is apparent.
Cli-Fi was coined by journalist Dan Bloom and he champions the propagation of the term through cli-fi.net, an academic and literary Facebook group, Cli-Fi, Climate Change & Literary Criticism, and other social media channels.
It is well established that Science Fiction offers authors and readers the opportunity to enter worlds of possibility. Science Fiction has never been restricted by the word ‘Science’. On the contrary, Science Fiction explores morality, social constructs and the edges of human behavior. It is no surprise then, as we face climate change, the greatest dilemma to have challenged our species, that creative minds would act to both express their dismay but also to offer hope and possibility beyond what is considered in the media or around the watercooler.
I began my novel ‘Road to Nowhere’ in 1996 well before the term Cli-Fi. I grew up under the threat of nuclear war and when that didn’t occur I found myself still alive and worrying about the hole in the ozone layer. Remarkably that problem was resolved with collaborative global effort. Governments listened to scientists and bans were placed on fluorocarbons. They were phased out and we all moved on. The same can’t be said for carbon pollution.
The difference might be as simple as greed. There is much more money to be lost by stopping oil and coal based power in comparison to the costs involved in stopping fluorocarbons that caused the hole in the ozone.
‘Road to Nowhere’ doesn’t sit easily within the Sci-Fi genre. It’s part thriller, conspiracy, satire, philosophical exploration and there is even a touch of romance. There is sex in there too, because for many people sex and desire are overpowering forces often never understand or controlled.
Cli-Fi brings all the competing genres within my book together and sums up what it is really all about. For me that is an exploration of the fundamental duality of our species. Our determined headlong drive into self-destruction polarized by an opposing instinct for self-preservation and survival.
By exploring climate change in fiction, authors can take fellow human beings through an experience they have not considered. And isn’t this the fundamental function of all fiction?
By coining the term Cli-Fi, Dan Bloom brings works together that exist across the world of literary fiction. The aim is simple.
We want to save the planet and we want to save our species and we want to save those we love and we want to save ourselves. It can feel powerless when observing history unfold, watching the proverbial train wreck before your eyes with no means in your power to change it.
Cli-Fi gives us that means. When all else feels powerless the ability to share ideas becomes essential. Words change minds and minds change reality.
As a writer, there are many stories I want to explore, but for the moment I can’t look away from the big glob of murky uncertainty before me. I must deconstruct it, I must make sense of what we are collectively doing. Is it too much to hope that along the way I and other authors might bring a few readers along with us?
The conceit of the writer is all I can offer. At the very least if you don’t change your mind I hope I entertain you to the end. I suddenly feel like one of the members of the quartet on the Titanic, offering a melodic knowing tone as the boat sinks into the deathly cold waters. Regardless I will continue to Cli-Fi because frankly I don’t know what else I can do.