Dallas-based reporter Andrew Hirschfeld recently published a news article on the website ”Mic” that was headlined “How climate fiction is helping people understand the planet’s uncertain future.” The item was picked up by the New York book trade magazine Publishers Weekly as a tweet on its Twitter page, and Margaret Atwood, the Canadian novelist mentioned in the Mic article commented to me in very brief email that read: “Yes, this is now front and center.”
There are now hundreds of cli-fi courses at community colleges and major universities around the world now, largely in part to how Margaret Atwood helped propel the genre, Hirschfeld noted.
Atwood, he said, has become a major figure across the cli-fi literary universe.
She not only helped the term catch on when she tweeted about it in 2012, but her 2013 novel ”MaddAddam” has been a popular teaching tool which largely summarizes the need for the genre in the first place, Hirschfeld added.
“People need such stories, because however dark, a darkness with voices in it is better than a silent void,” Atwood has been quoted as saying. Her book was part of the curriculum for a course on cli-fi at Brandeis University in 2015, according to Hirschfeld.
Cli-fi courses have popped up at major universities across the United States. The vast majority of young voters see climate change as a major issue — and young people such as 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have been at the forefront of major climate movements.
Climate change-themed literature is even starting to catch on in K-12 education, too, according to Mic.
“Places like Connecticut and Portland, Oregon are passing laws that would require climate change to be taught as part of the curriculum in public schools — which would include the use of cli-fi literature in English classes,” Hirschfeld wrote.
With the effects of climate change looming, he added, it only makes sense that Americans will need more ways to help them grapple with how the world is changing. We might very well need literary tools that speak to us beyond science textbooks and government charts, which for some readers, just might require a deep dive into the world of fiction.
But is thev publishing industry in general warming up to the climate fiction genre, as it once warmed up to science fiction and fantasy genres? That is a question that appears to be being answered in a positive way given the increasing number of cli-fi novels and movie adaptations entering the mainstream now.
The 2020s just might be the decade that climate fiction earns a place in American literary culture. If Greta Thunberg has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019, it will have sent a very clear message to book publishers worldwide: It’s time for cli-fi.
And if she was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year, it won’t change a thing. Her message is still getting across. The next 100 years are the time for cli-fi.