Monday, February 11, 2019

NEW ZEALAND cli-fi news (blog)

A climate activist of the literary kind, [with some New Zealand connections]

by Dan Bloom

You might be wondering what a PR guy from Boston making his home in Asia since 1991 is doing writing a blog post for a New Zealand site. Well, for one thing, I am in touch with several reporters and literary critics and novelists in New Zealand, and at the same time, I am slowly inching my way toward your country. I started off life on the East Coast of the America, and then flew to Alaska for a 12-year stay among the Tlingit Indians and the Inuit people in Juneau and Nome, before flying over to Japan to work for an expat newspaper for 5 years and then taking a boat to Taiwan where I've lived and worked for expat newspapers since1996. So it's just a matter of time before the Climapocalypse arrives and I make my escape to ''Lifeboat New Zealand,'' as James Lovelock once dubbed your island nation. I'm more ore less retired now, but someone like me never really retires, and when people ask me what I do in retirement now I like to say I'm ''a climate activist of the literary kind.'' Here's why:

I'm 70. I'm not a novelist, and I'm not writing any books about climate change.

But since 2006, I've been working 24/7, no days off from my PR computer in 12 years, to promote climate activist ideas, novels and movies, free of charge. I don't charge anyone any fees, and I'm not in this for personal fame or money. I'm a promoter. It's my hobby, after retiring from a long and zigzagging career with newspapers in Washington, Alaska, Japan and Taiwan. And among the people in interact with online are several cli-fi novelists, literary critics and bloggers from New Zealand, among them Philip Temple ("Mistory)," James McNaughton ("Star Sailor"),  Gareth Renowden ("Aviator"), poet and literary critic David Herkt, and writers A.J. Fitzwater and Octavia Clade.

And then there's internationally-acclaimed novelist Eleanor Catton  who has a new cli-fi novel in the pipeline titled "Birnam Wood." Described as a "psychological thriller," according to her literary agent , the book is set in a remote area of New Zealand where "scores of ultra-rich foreigners are building fortress-like homes and stockpiling weapons in preparation for a coming global catastrophe."
The upcoming Lifeboat New Zealand novel, already written and delivered to her publishers, tells the story of a guerrilla gardening outfit who call themselves Birnam Wood (from a Shakespeare reference) and who are, as Catton's agent puts it, ''a ragtag group of quarrelling leftists who move about the country cultivating other people's land."

So cli-fi has made a home in New Zealand, too, and there's more to come.
My most engaging work so far as a PR guy has been to coin the rising new literary term, ''cli-fi,'' in 2011 and then to boost its popularity in the international media as a headline term and an actual literary genre, different and separate from ''sci-fi.''

To get where I am today, I used my informal PR skills to "plant" media articles about cli-fi in The New York Times in 2014 and in The Guardian in London, the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, and hundreds of media outlets worldwide, including several online outlets in Auckland and Christchurch. Based in a tiny kitchen office in my 5th floor apartment in Taiwan, I reach  out to the with pixels. I don't use the phone. I don't have a phone. I don't make any calls.

I'm a PR gadfly, on the fly. And I've never been so personally energized, although I need to underline that this is a very serious doomsaying business. I also get a lot of help from my friends online, via Twitter and FaceBook. I don't do Skype and I don't do phone calls. I'm somewhat of a neo-Luddite, I haven't flown since and I use a bicycle to get around my little town in southern Taiwan.  But I love email and internet filing systems. I'm a paperless PR operative.

This is all I do all day, every day. A happily retired journalist,  I curate a global website called The Cli-Fi Report ( and tweet around the clock to other climate activists and literary types worldwide seven days a week. I eat, breathe and sleep cli-fi, and I hit the hay each night fulfilled and exhilarated. I wake up every morning full of energy and new ideas.

And I don't make a dime from any of this. I'm paying it forward. Life's been good to me. I don't have much time left and in many ways I'm living on borrowed time. There was a near-fatal plane crash in Alaska in 1983, a heart attack in 2009 (with a tiny steel mesh stent keeping my ticker ticking).

Monthly social security checks from my native country are my only incoming income now, and they're just US$300 per check. I live a simple life, far from the large cities of the world. And nobody's ever  heard of me. I like it this way.

From a PR standpoint, all this is an interesting media story about an independent overseas blogger with no formal media or literary connections creating an entirely new literary genre to wake people up around the world about global warming. I'm not surprised because in a way this is very much where my wandering peripatetic life was always taking me. I was born to do PR. I'm not much good at anything else.

A friend of mine once said that with my climate PR work, I come across as a force of nature. But no, I'm just a servant of nature. I'm doing this work for the world, not for me. I never put myself at the center of things.  

I also never studied PR. But hanging around newspapers and newspaper people since my university days, I learned how PR works, what makes a good eye-catching press release, and how to gently pitch and approach editors and reporters.

My work as a climate activist of the literary kind is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

Have I done anything noteworthy? Maybe not.

Whatever, now I'm looking foward to reading Eleanor Catton's "Birnam Wood." I think it's going to be big and take the world by storm.

So in the end, will any of this make any difference in keeping the approaching Climapocalypse at bay? There's the rub. Who knows? 

Cli-fi certainly can't save the world. Maybe we've impolitely and somewhat arrogantly overstayed our time in the Anthropocene.


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