Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Cli-fi, pop culture and climate change: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

From Hollywood movie moguls to Madison Avenue’s advertising slogans, pop culture is finally catching up with ”cli-fi” these days. After all, it’s the decade of Greta Thunberg and her Million Woman climate movement. No Nobel Peace Prize this year but there’s always next year or the next. There were 300 nominations for the prize in 2019 and there will be 500 next year. Greta will win it one year but maybe not until she’s 25 or 29.

Meanwhile, the popular American TV show “Jeopardy” last March used ”cli-fi” as the answer of a special “clue.” And a syndicated crossword puzzle in August  ran a ”clue” that led to the answer, which was spelled without a hyphen since crossword puzzles don’t permit hypehs: ”clifi.”

So hey, dear Readers, let’s get back to the headline above: ”Cli-fi, pop culture and climate change: is there light at the end of the tunnel?”

The answer is pretty clear: there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is long and winding and we won’t know what the final mile will look like until we get there. It could take 500 more years, 30 more generations of man (and woman), before we know what we’re facing.

Meanwhile, from science fiction fan conventions in London to cosplay forums in Japan and fantasy fanfic novels in Seattle, climate change has become front and center. Margaret Atwood said just the other day, in a brief message online responding to a news article about cli-fi’s rise: “Greetings! Yes, this is now front and centre.”

And The New York Times published a crossword puzzle earlier this year that had a clue for a 5-letter word in a “down” column that read: “Dystopian novels like ‘The Carbon Diaries’ [by British writer Saci Lloyd].

The answer, the crossword editor told us, had to be “clifi,” without the hyphen, he reasoned, given the other words taking shape in the same area of the puzzle.

This year has been a busy year for the cli-fi genre in pop culture circles, and the “Jeopardy” mention was just icing on the “global warming” cake, so to speak.

The 2020s, beginning in just a few months, seem set to become the Decade of Cli-Fi, with new movies, novels, comic books, graphic novels and sci-fi sagas set in the near future with stories which combine the apocalyptic with the utopian, the dystopian with the promise of better things to come.

After all, we’re the real deal, aren’t we? We are the human beings who have evolved from monkeys, fish and stardust to become the uncanny creatures that we are today. We helped make this current world and now we have two choices: we can help repair this broken Earth or we can resign ourselves to the End Days and just give up.

Me? I ain’t giving up and I plan to work with the repair team for the rest of my final days. My lucky generation has had a good 60 to 80 sweet orbits around the Sun, and the next few generations will get a chance at even more orbits and more sunshine and more dreams.

Will we ever colonize and settle on Mars? No way. Our home is here on Planet A, this Earth with a capital E, this home among the million billion stars that still peek through the night sky in Alaska, South Africa, Tasmania, Patagonia, New York.

Last March, New Jersey literary critic Amy Brady, who writes a monthly ”cli-fi trends” column for the Chicago Review of Books penned an article for the Oprah Winfrey corporate magazine “O,” headlined “Seven Books That Provocatively Tackle Climate Change: They Each Fit Into The New Genre of Cli-Fi.”

Oprah! Who knew?

Jeopardy? Who would have guessed?

A syndicated crossword puzzle! Do pop culture wonders never cease?

So yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just can’t see it yet.

About the Author
Dan Bloom curates The Cli-Fi Report at He graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Modern Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Washington, D.C., Juneau, Alaska, Tokyo, Japan and Taipei, Taiwan, he has lived and worked 5 countries and speaks rudimentary French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live for a few more years.
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