Putting ‘cli-fi’ front and center is one US literary activist’s quiet quest
One man’s simple promotional PR idea about how to boost the rising literary genre of cli-fi will eventually reach millions of people worldwide. Here’s a brief background story about how it all came to be, ups and downs and all.
On a November day in 1996 Dan Bloom disembarked on a lush subtropical island in the Western Pacific and began a late-life dive deep into being a climate activist of the literary kind. But it didn’t happen all at once. The peripatetic world traveler, who already had made sojourns in France, Greece and Mexico, among 14 other countries (including 12 years as a newspaper editor in Alaska and Tokyo) used his first few years on the island to penetrate deep into its sparsely populated hinterlands. He arrived as an observer and couldn’t even speak the local language.
After almost 15 years of exploring the island’s small cities and rural mountain regions, learning about the people’s various cultures and cuisines, Bloom came to realize that climate change and global warming issues were not high on the islanders’ concerns.
And to be honest climate issues were not high on the American expat’s agenda either until 2006 and even more so in 2011 when he woke up to the realization that humanity might very well be facing an uncertain future in coming centuries if runaway global warming was not brought under control.
Thus began a period of reading every newspaper and magazine article about climate change that he could get his hands on in the local library and online, and by 2011 Bloom had come up with an idea: why not take the popular term of sci-fi (for science fiction) and re-christen it with a minor spelling and pronunciation tweak to come up with cli-fi (for ”climate fiction”). Thus, as the now 70-year-old Bloom tells the story, was a new climate-themed literary genre born and spread worldwide via an energetic non-stop 24/7 online PR campaign that he ran from his kitchen table in his fifth floor apartment.
Bloom says he is fully aware that his literary PR activities might not result in anything long-lasting or even useful, but he hopes they will, given enough time.
But judging from reactions from literary critics, writers and readers from around the world, it does look like cli-fi is here to stay. The simple five-letter term, which rhymes with sci-fi and is pronounced as “klai fye” seems to have held up a mirror to the world we live in now, and what started out as mere doodle on a napkin at a sidewalk noodle shop over a couple of glasses of cold beer on a summer night has turned into something real and tangible.
Does anyone care? Not really.
But the old man says he loves his PR work, and most importantly, he seems to really mean it.
”I finally found myself with cli-fi,” Bloom tells a visiting reporter. “I hope to live to 100, but 83 will be fine, too. Even if I make it to 75, it’s been a good, long life, no regrets.”
Bloom’s earnest enthusiasm obviously has struck a chord in a growing online cli-fi community worldwide. He says he has received many Tweets and Emails from readers around the world since 2011 and there’s no end in sight.
Now the soft-spoken futurist is looking to expand his PR activities to reach literary critics and academics in non-English speaking countries as well, from Italy to Istanbul, from Paris to Pakistan. He’s not quite certain what he will do next, but he plans to “keep putting cli-fi front and center,” as he frames it.