When American literary critic Amy Brady began pondering on her Twitter feed if the new genre of cli-fi was a legitimate literary genre or just a passing fancy, the seeds were planted for her to launch a dedicated cli-fi literary column in the Chicago Review of Books, edited by Adam Morgan and titled “Burning Worlds.”
The monthly column launched on February 7, 2017 and has had six iterations so far, with more to come.
In the first column, Brady, a versatile and graceful columnist, set the tone for readers, writing: “Burning Worlds” is a new monthly column dedicated to examining important trends in climate change fiction, or “cli-fi.”
“It astonishes to think just how long humans have known that the Earth is getting warmer,” Brady noted in her introduction, adding: “The term “global warming” didn’t enter public consciousness until the 1970s, but scientists have studied our planet’s natural greenhouse effect since at least the 1820s. In 1896, a Swedish chemist named Svante Arrheniussome concluded that human activity (like coal burning) contributed to the effect, warming the planet further.
“And yet, here we find ourselves in 2017, still wrestling with manmade climate change like it’s a new phenomenon. Why have we not acted sooner? The answer may lie in what [Brooklyn] author Amitav Ghosh calls humanity’s ”great derangement”: our inability to perceive the enormity of the catastrophe that awaits us.
“That’s where fiction writers come in,” Brady said.
“For years, authors have been writing ‘climate change fiction’, or ‘cli-fi,’ a genre of literature that imagines the past, present, and future effects of climate change. Their work crosses literary boundaries in terms of style and content, landing on shelves marked sci-fi and literary fiction.
“Perhaps you’ve read one of the classics: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain. Then there’s Ian McEwan’s Solar and J. G. Ballard’s 1965 novel The Burning World, from which this column derives its name. Each of these novels — like others in the genre — help us to “see” possible futures lived out on a burning, drowning, or dying planet.
Here at the Review, we feel it’s time to give cli-fi more attention. To that end, we bring you “Burning Worlds,” a new monthly column dedicated to examining what’s hot (sorry) in cli-fi. It’ll feature interviews, reviews, and analyses of the genre with the hope of generating a larger conversation about climate change and why imagined depictions of the phenomenon are vital to the literary community — and beyond.”
The tone of the column was set and Brady dug in, interviewing Kim Stanley Robinson for her second column, 11 cli-fi writers for her third column, UMass scholar Malcolm Sen for her fourth column and cli-fi novelist Aaron Thier for her fifth column. Her sixth column was a profile and interview of Jesus Carrasco, a novelist from Spain.
As a result of her cli-fi column in Chicago, Brady has been invited to appear on several podcasts and contribute articles to the Yale Climate Connections website. In addition, several other literary critics and academics have taken note of her column and mentioned it in their own columns.
So “Burning Worlds” has taken off, and Amy Brady is leading the way.