British literary scholars Axel Goodbody and Adeline Johns-Putra are the editors behind a new volume of collected literary essays by writers around the world, and the theme is the rising new genre of climate fiction. While it’s mostly geared for fellow academics and literary scholars, it will also appeal to the general reader, too, according to publishing industry sources. It’s a rich, timely collection of over 25 essays that makes an important contribution to the field of environmental humanities. It does important work defining and charting the breadth and variety of cli-fi and is sure to appeal to those exploring cultural responses to the Age of Trump.
Its 29 chapters, five of of them devoted to movies, the remainder to novels, range from genre science fiction through to literary modernism and young adult fiction, drawn from across Europe and North America, Australia and South Korea.
With chapters headings such as Psycho-Geographical Cli-Fi, Geological Cli-Fi, Political Cli-Fi, Urban Dystopian Cli-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic Cli-Fi and Biopunk Cli-Fi, among others, the collection features reviews of such novels as Ilija Trojanow’s ”The Lamentations of Zeno, ”Maggie Gee’s ”The Ice People” and ”The Flood,” T. C. Boyle’s ”A Friend of the Earth” and Nathaniel Rich’s “Odds Against Tomorrow.” Be sure to see the review of Liz Jensen’s “Rapture,” too.
There’s also film reviews of Franny Armstrong’s 2009 documentary ”The Age of Stupid” and Roland Emmerich’s 2004 international blockbuster ”The Day After Tomorrow.”
”Climate change fiction” is a new literary phenomenon that emerged at the turn of the 21st century. While some cli-fi novels and films are set in the near future, many are also set in the present.
The book, which includes an introduction tracing the emergence and influence of cli-fi, is directed towards general readers and film enthusiasts as well as teachers and students. Written in an accessible style, it fills the gap between academic studies and online blogs, offering a comprehensive look at this timely new genre.
Not everyone is aboard with cli-fi. Science fiction writer John Scalzi hasn’t yet seen the light.
“I don’t suspect the genre term will ever catch on,” he says, not having read Goodbody and Putra-John’s essay collection highlighted here. “The phrase has been around [since Scott Thill in Wired magazine used it in a sci-fi film review in 2010] and as far as I can see hasn’t actually caught any real traction, [unless you count major articles in The Guardian, The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters News Service.]”
His personal medical opinion, spiced with his trademark humor, which he posted on Facebook: ”In my personal opinion, cli-fi does not sound terribly pleasant, sort of like a fungal growth or other thing you have to take medicine to get rid of.”
But in another train of thought, he added: ” Now I’m not saying that climate change should not be addressed in fiction (speculative or otherwise) because, of course, it should.”
Maybe after Scalzi reads this volume of academic 29 essays about cli-fi, he will change his mind.
Time will tell.