As I recounted in a blog post here the other day, there are some novels and movies now that tell human stories about 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, according to Czech journalist Jaroslav Totusek at the Lidovky newspaper in Prague. Although I coined the “cli-fi” term in 2011 and wrote about it extensively in dozens of media outlets since then, from The New York Times to San Diego Jewish World, with an international website set up since 2013 at www.cli-fi.net, Totusek was somehow under the impression that Greta Thunberg was the main driver of this literary genre. He was wrong. He innocently reported false news.
Here’s the correction, in plain English.
As I coined the term and spent the past eight years boosting its media profile worldwide, I have to admit I could not understand how Jaroslav, a college graduate and a culture reporter par excellence in the Czech Republic, could write in his local newspaper that “Greta Thunbergova,” as the Prague paper referred to the 16-year-old Swedish climate striker, should be given credit for what I did. On the other hand, since I have no ego in this at all and in fact dropped my ego in 1983, I was glad to read that she is actively promoting “cli-fi” to millions of her young followers around the world on Twitter and Instagram.
Totusek, a graduate of the University of Jyvaskyla, is the culture editor for the Lidovky newspaper and often writes about Hollywood movies and European art house films. He is articulate and knows the culture business worldwide from A to Z. But he goofed bigtime.
I was further surprised when I read in his newspaper 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. Jaroslav never checked with me, not even in Czech.
There was no mention of my name or link to my website in his un-factchecked and unvetted article . How did Totusek make that naive mistake in his reporting?
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.
“The 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 news report was “I romany varují pred klimatickou zmenou. Zanr ‘cli-fi’ je na vzestupu.”
Czech is Greek to me, but I was nevertheless 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, even if this reporter made a big gaffe in the way he reported the news.
Perhaps the late great Prague novelist Franz Kafka would have had a field day with this offbeat and humorous news published in his native country last week.
Fact-Czeched or not? The state of international journalism is in metamorphosis, I guess.