‘Cli-fi’ has moved from a fringe concept to a marketable genre of modern ficiton

After a glacially-slow start in April 2013, when NPR ran a five-minute radio segment produced by Angela Evancie about ”the rise of a hot new genre” that she dubbed “cli-fi,” to Professor Jennifer Hamilton’s recent pronouncement on an Australian website that “Cli-fi” has moved from what was once a fringe concept to what is now a very marketable genre of modern fiction, cli-fi has arrived. There’s no stopping its rise worldwide now. It’s in the air, and even the early naysayers who were skeptical about adding a new literary subgenre to traditional science fiction’s many subgenres are coming on board now.

This is good for writers, for publishers and for readers. Cli-fi is here to stay, and most importantly, to make a difference. While Nevil Shute’s 1957 pulp fiction novel about nuclear war and nuclear winter “On The Beach” was a very public warning about the dangers of nukes being used by military powers around the world, so too will future cli-fi novels, as yet unwritten, warn future generations of the dangers and risks of runaway global warming and unstoppable climate change. When will this new Nevil Shute arise and in what country will he or she reside? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, there is only good news for fans of cli-fi and for academics studying the genre. Jennifer Hamilton put in this way: “In a fictional sense, solarpunk sits across the table from “cli-fi”. In recent years, the term cli-fi has moved from a fringe concept to a marketable genre of fiction. Coined in the first instance by a PR guy in Taiwan, it has grown so big that scholarly researchers are now able to produce studies of the genre’s conventions. In addition, new novels and short story collections are now published in this genre category each year.”

Almost daily now, mentions of cli-fi appear online in book reviews, academic papers and magazine essays. A recent mention noted: “One could argue we live in the golden age of literary dystopia, with the resurgence in popularity of classics like George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Maddaddam trilogy,’ as well as the emerging genre of cli-fi — speculative fiction set in a place of environmental devastation.”

There’s even a Hollywood listing now of favorite cli-fi movies at the popular imdb website, headlined “Best Cli-Fi or Climate Change Movie Climax.”

Film producer Dean Devlin has produced a new cli-fi movie titled “Geostorm” starring Gerard Butler and it’s due for worldwide release in October this fall.

It’s true, a summer intern at the New Yorker magazine wrote in a blog post in 2014 that while “cli-fi was an interesting new genre term to think about, it probably won’t last as a literary term.” Well, that was 2014 and now it’s 2017, and cli-fi is on a roll. The New Yorker was wrong when it wrote: ”These books have been labelled ‘cli-fi’ but chances are that the name won’t stick.”

Fat chance.

So as we approach the last few years of this second decade of the 21st century, and as 2018 and 2019 move toward 2020, bookmark “cli-fi” on your computer and get ready for more and more novels using this genre as a global platform. It’s written on the wind. We are here.

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report.
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