As readers know, global warming is 100 percent real and human-created. That is why we needed a genre term for novels and movies about climate change and that is why the semi-goofy 5-letter nickname of “Cli-Fi” was coined, promoted, and picked up by the media. Why was the media so keen on the cli-fi term?
Well, for one thing, in terms of editing and newsrooms and space on page, and kindness of eyeballs, be they reading pixels online or real words on newsprint in magazines or newspapers, cli-fi is quick and to the point.
It is said as “klai fai” (klye fye), like sci-fi, and it reads easily on the page and in to the ears on radio and TV reports.
So headline writers like the term. So do literary critics and newspaper editors. It has a ring to it. Dozens of newspapers and magazines, 100s even, have already been using the cli-fi term for reader-friendly eyeball purposes.
Of course, cli-fi is a shortening of “climate fiction” or the longer “climate change fiction” but those terms, while good, are too long for a newspaper headline or magazine subhead.
Plus, the rightwing denialists have been using the term of “climate fiction” to mock the books and movies by Al Gore, James Hansen and Michael Mann at UPenn. So ”climate fiction” has a toxic ring to it, since the rightwing has already claimed it as their own.
Therefore, “cli-fi” has a better ring to it, and it is not toxic at all. And it’s in the air. It hits the ear nicely as well on NPR and on CNN.
So cli-fi is the term that we will be using for the next 100 years. It works. Nobody owns it, nobody is getting royalties from it, nobody controls it.
Editors approach the term on their own and give it their own spin. It’s that kind of term, reader-friendly, editor-friendly, author-friendly.
Hey, it’s not easy thinking about global warming. Cli-fi, a short and sweet term, helps us think about it. Headline writers love it. Subheadline writers use it. Nothing beats cli-fi as a term for the kinds of novels and movies we need now and for the next 100 years.
Such labels work well for editors and headline writers and even literary critics, and the cli-fi classification can help us think through the mess we are in.
That’s why cli-fi was coined, that’s why it hit a nerve in the culture at large, that’s why we are here today discussing cli-fi. It works.
From a word-coinage perspective, and from an editor in the newsroom perspective, and from a headline writer’s need for a short, pithy, easy to remember term, cli-fi fits the bill.
It is perfect for these times. Long may it thrive as a focal point of the mess we are in and for the ways we explore solutions to the mess we are in.