“There are some novels and movies now that tell human stories about the what climate change is like or might be like in the distant future. The genre is not sci-fi, but rather cli-fi, and it’s on the rise,” writes Czech journalist Jaroslav Totusek for the Lidovky newspaper in Prague. And Greta Thunberg is the main driver of this literary genre, what could be called a subgenre of science fiction but dubbed in English as climate fiction.”
Imagine my surprise when read this the other day on a Czech-language website that Google News had put on my climate change news feed! “Greta Thunbergova,” as the Prague newspaper referred to the 16-year-old Swedish climate striker, not only coined the term herself but she was actively promoting it to millions of followers around the world on Twitter and Instagram.
This was news to me, as the saying goes, but the Czech report was interesting news, too. Using Google Translate to decode the article into English, I learned that ”climate fiction” is called “klimatickou fikci” in the national language of the Czech Republic, and that “climate change” is called “klimatickou zmenou” in the local language there.
Totusek, a graduate of the University of Jyvaskyla, is the culture editor for the Lidovky newspaper and often writes about Holllywood movies and European art house films. He is articulate and knows the culture business worldwide from A to Z. So you can imagine my surprise when I read that cli-fi was first introduced in America by NPR reporter “Angela Evanciova” (Angela Evancie in English) who in 2013 interviewed New Orleans cli-fi novelist “Nathaniela Riche” (Nathaniel Rich) the author of “Odds Against Tomorrow.”
Totusek reported that the novel was about “hurrikan Sandy” and the rise of excessive ”carbon dioxide” emissions (“oxidu uhliciteho”) around the world causing ferocious hurricanes, prolonged droughts and terrible typhoons in Taiwan and Japan. The newspaper in Prague also reported about a cli-fi novel from 2004 titled “State of Fear” by Michael Chrichton (“Michaela Chrichtona”).
The Lidovky website also said, and here I quote the story verbatim in translation, that “Greta Thunberg is credited with helping to create the cli-fi genre, as modern literature responds to current trends on Earth, including runaway global warming.”
“Young Swedish activist, now visiting the United States for a round of media interviews on talk shows and Congressional hearings, also helped raise the profile of this subgenre of sci-fi,” the newspaper added, noting: “The genre is now experiencing a huge increase in popularity thanks to this young climate activist who has consistently raised the issue in the media and in speeches to world leaders and movie stars like Arnold Schwarzeneggar and music icons like Bono.”
The headline of Totusek’s astounding news report was “I romany varují pred klimatickou zmenou. Zanr cli-fi je na vzestupu.”
It’s Greek to me, but I’m glad to see the ”cli-fi” genre term getting picked up by reporters in many non-English speaking countries, too, even in the Czech Republic.
“Literatura reaguje na soucasnou situaci. Nejinak je tomu i v prípade ‘cli-fi’ (zkratka pro klimatickou fikci), podzanru vedecke fantastiky, který se zameruje na klimaticke zmeny,” the report concluded.
I’d like to think that the famous Czech novelist Frank Kafka would have had a field day with this ”Greta Thunbergova” stuff if he was still alive today!