100 Years Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) Manifesto [2018 - 2118]
Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) Manifesto
2018 - 2118
As part of my thinking about the purpose and meaning of cli-fi, I sat down in 2018 to produce a creative writing cli-fi manifesto. I wrote the manifesto in hopes of highlighting some of the ways that writing within the genre can help shape our future over the next 100 years
The Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) Manifesto
[with a hat tip to Ryan Mizzen in the U.K.]
For decades, scientists and environmental groups have warned that we are facing a global ecological crisis. Yet in spite of this, action to address our predicament has been pitiful. It is therefore time for a radical new science communication approach using the arts as a medium, to bring about the changes we so desperately need. There is an emerging genre in the field of writing known as climate fiction, or ‘cli-fi’ for short. Cli-fi is not a sub-genre of sci-fi, but rather a stand-alone independent genre of its own.
The main benefit of using this medium to communicate science, is that fiction has a way of reaching a wider audience than non-fiction. Importantly, through cli-fi, we can explore future scenarios in ways which climate models and empirical data simply can’t express. To achieve different results, we need to try different methods. It is time for a green revolution, and cli-fi has a crucial role to play in bringing this about!
Never before has a species knowingly driven itself and all living organisms towards extinction. Yet through our relentless exploitation of the natural world and our reluctance to change our behavior, we now find ourselves in such a situation. We are entering a new geological period known as the Anthrocene; an age where human activity is regarded as the primary influence on the environment and on our climate. Our land, air and seas have been used as dumping grounds for our pollution. We have driven vast numbers of unique species into extinction. If we do not change our ways soon, we will be left with a planet devoid of much of the unique life which makes earth such an amazing planet to inhabit. Make no mistake that our heinous treatment of the living ecosystems we depend upon will be returned in kind, if we fail to act.
While there are many environmental issues competing for our attention, climate change is regarded as the most important issue that humanity faces. It is not a future threat; we are already seeing climate shocks around the world. However, the extreme weather, migration crises, conflict, melting ice, water stress, drought, wildfires, ocean acidification and coral bleaching are only a small glimpse of the future that awaits us. Should we fail to implement the strict carbon reduction measures proposed, all other issues will become redundant as life struggles to adapt to a violent new world full of unimaginable horrors.
What many people fail to recognize is that numerous modern day problems are inter-connected. We have adopted the neo-liberalism school of thought which has resulted in a consumer culture on steroids. Economic growth is prioritized at all costs. In this aggressive mind set, we lose compassion for our fellow people, for ourselves and for the natural world. Whilst we continue to purchase a wealth of goods and gadgets, our lives haven’t become any more enriched. We do not cherish the belongings which we own, but are addicted to the pleasure associated with purchasing new things.
All around us, landscapes have been utterly decimated to sustain our consumer tendencies. Without realising the extent of our actions, we have contributed to widespread environmental degradation and created massive carbon footprints through our profligate ways. Not to mention the many social implications, such as loneliness, anxiety, depression and mental health issues, which have come about as a result of this misguided policy model. To tackle the root of these problems will require a great deal of introspection, which may not be possible in the timescale we have to tackle climate change.
The good news is that it’s not too late to change course in regards to climate change, but this will require urgent action from our world leaders. In order to embolden our politicians, we need to show them that we care and that we demand immediate action! The first step is to educate the public so that they understand the threats and the solutions. As a community, we are then better positioned to elect politicians with a green agenda, and campaign against those already in power to deliver the sweeping reforms we need. Science communication must be our top priority!
PURPOSE, AIMS AND PRINCIPLES
A good story can engage people on different levels. By interweaving climate change and environmental issues into our stories, either explicitly through dialogue and plot, or implicitly through themes, we can bring these issues to the fore. Cli-fi is important. Read the 101 Ruminations on Cli-Fi here:
Cli-fi literary theory does not exist yet. It is that new. We are flying by the seat of our pants. The future beckons.
• Cli-fi tries to answer philosophical questions about the fate of our species. There is no canon, no agenda, no school. You write it, we read it. • Cli-fi delves into the future as a way to analyze our current dilemma, here and now. Who will live to see the 25th Century? • Holocene, Anthrocene, Anthropocene. Cli-fi explores all scenes and judges all. Who let us down? Who will raise us up? • Teaching climate science is the role of school teachers. Writing cli-fi is the role of seers, visionaries, dreamers, prophets. • There has never been a time like this in human history when so much is at stake. Will cli-fi answer the call? • How on Earth did we end up this way? Who on Earth will have their say? Arise, all ye who write cli-fi. • There’s no accounting for the predicament we’re in. No one to blame, no one to name. Or is there? Cli-fi sees all. • Children born today are no different than children born before. But they will grow up to read, write cli-fi. (And. Face. Facts.) • Cli-fi is not a science, and it is not science. It is a literary genre in search of redemption, grace, salvation. It is your turn to try. • There will come a time when shoulders shrug, when faces droop, when smiles fade. But cli-fi can save the day. Arise! • If cli-fi is to serve any real purpose, it must soar above distractions and land in the public square. Discuss it, write it. • Cli-fi has no canon, no school, no leader. It belongs to all who embrace it. Use it as you will. • In some future time, say 2085, people will look back at the rise of cli-fi in 2015 and wonder why and how it grew. Who knew? • Do you cli-fi? Do you “do” cli-fi? Do you read or write or research cli-fi? Welcome aboard. • Cli-fi exists not to promote careers or obtain research grants or government funding. No, cli-fi just is. And rising. • Cli-fi is rising, yes. It’s in the air. It’s time has come. There is no wormhole that can stop it. • In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no need for cli-fi. Unfortunately, we live in cli-fi times. In a cli-fi world. Face it. • This is the Age of Cli-Fi, in the Antropocene, after the Holocene. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? • Who invited you to the house of cli-fi? No one. You came of your own accord, to look, to see. It’s an open house. • You write cli-fi because it gets under your skin and you can no longer look away. Peer into the future and tell us what you see. • The house of cli-fi welcomes everyone. Come in, look around, take a seat. There are books to read. And write. • 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 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 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. There’s time. • 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. Cli-Fi 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.
• If cli-fi is to serve any real purpose, it must soar above distractions and land in the public square. Discuss it, write it. • Cli-fi is an open book and open to academics and retired Chicago professors, like Gary K. Wolfe and his friend in Australia Jonathan Strahan. Niall Harrison, too. In fact, the entire sci-fi world is welcome to look into the SF subgenre of cli-fi. Even KSR supports it as a useful subgenre. Jeff VanderMeer, too. Charlie Jane Anders as well. John Clute, too.
• Where is cli-fi headed? To the future, that’s for sure, but not to any sci-fi future or to three-eyed giant squids wrestling in space operas. Cli-fi is not sci-fi escapism or nerdy cult geekdom. It’s more important than sci-fi, which was invented for children and teenagers. Cli-fi is for adults.
• Will cli-fi save the Earth! No. Will cli-fi save humankind? No. So what can cli-fi do? Raise awareness, that’s all. Are you in? Welcome!
. • Cli-fi as a full-fledged literary genre won’t fully blossom until 2050 or 2085. Maybe not until 2140. But there’s preliminary work to be done. Now!
• For those like Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strachan who haven’t yet adjusted to the sound or sight of cli-fi, get a new set of ears, eyes my friends It’s not the 1950s anymore.
• Cli-fi will deliver some nuggets of novelistic wisdom over the next 100 years when none of today reading this note will be alive. Cli-fi is for our descendants, all of them.
• Cli-fi was born in the 21st century. But it won’t blossom until the 23rd or 25th century. That’s how long we need to be in this for. Are you on board?
• Cli-fi won’t pay any dividends for another 200 to 300 years. That’s the kind of struggle we’re in. And even then, who knows?
Our task will not be easy. We are trying to educate people against a tide of biased news organisations, which seek to discredit the science around climate change. It will be an uphill struggle to present the current situation to some readers who have predefined views. We are also up against big fossil fuel corporations, who just so happen to be some of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the world and have a vested interest in preventing meaningful carbon reductions. In certain countries, these companies use their wealth to lobby governments for policies that will work in their favour. We do not have the same resources at our disposal, but we do have the pen, which is said to be mightier than the sword. Let’s prove this to be true!
Climate change will come to dominate our lives in the future, and we are ultimately fighting an enemy of our own creation. Our role as cli-fi writers can’t be understated in terms of communicating the science and the solutions. To date, many cli-fi novels have been dystopian in nature, but there is room for a wide variety of plots in this new genre. By reaching out to readers through our writing, we can spur them into action, which may give rise to the bold political leadership we need to help move us out of this situation. We are balancing on a precipice and the recent political earthquakes that have swept the world this year, could tip us over the edge if we fail to hold power to account. So let us unite in our love of the written word and change the world for the better. Let us write as if our lives and those of future generations depend on it, because for all we know this may just be the case.