When French academic Irene Langlet picked up her pen to research and write a longform essay on the origins of cli-fi and its related subgenre of sci-fi, she wrote it in French and published it on a French-language website. Fortunately, the essay has also been translated to English now as well as the links below will show.
“Cli-fi (climate fiction) novels and movies are multiplying and perhaps now form a genre in their own genre,” Professor Langlet starts off her essay, adding: “They express our concerns, our anxieties, our expectations.”
”The climate crisis is not a hypothesis,” she continues. “It already has its events (heat waves, hurricanes, giant fires in Siberia, California and Australia); it has its scientific bodies (the IPCC), its political summits (the COPs), its literary genre visionaries, its struggles (the student climate marches).”
Should we talk about a crisis? a warming? a change? a disruption? or everything change? Langlet asks, taking a cue from Canadian cli-fi novelist Margaret Atwood who coined the “everything change” concept a few years ago.
“And it also has its own literary and media genre: climate fiction, abbreviated as cli-fi by its coiner and pronounced “klaï-faï”, as (in principle) sci-fi, the professor notes.
“For those who have been advocating this literary genre for the last ten years or so (writers, journalists, academics, especially in the English-speaking world), cli-fi brings together all the stories that imply a consideration, direct or indirect, of the climate crisis. It can range from post-apocalyptic fiction to disaster fiction, from science thrillers to pure science fiction; but there are also thrillers, noir novels, romance novels, sentimental novels… This apparent dispersion of sub-genres in no way discourages the conviction of the promoters of cli-fi: for them, on the contrary, it is a sign, throughout the 20th century and now in the 21st century, of a slow convergence of various literary and narrative regimes towards today’s reality,” Professor Langlet shares.
”Once a simple setting, the climate crisis is now a narrative lever, if not the main theme of fiction,” she proclaims, adding: “The cli-fi term gives the genre a name for this new cultural order.”
”A cultural prism,” one might say, using a concept created by visionary American cli-fi expert Scott Thill.
If you can read French, here is the long essay in the professor’s native language.
And if you want to read an informal translation in English, here is a link.
The text is “heavy,” and there are many authors mentioned and introduced. Dr Langlet’s essay is perhaps the best popular essay written about the rise of cli-fi so far. Born in academia, her essay is now part of popular culture as well. Bravo.