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Cli-Fi

A Companion

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Edited By Axel Goodbody and Adeline Johns-Putra

What is Cli-Fi?

Climate change fiction is a new literary phenomenon that emerged at the turn of the twenty-first century in response to what may be society’s greatest challenge. Climate change is already part responsible for extreme weather events, flooding, desertification and sea level rise, leading to famine, the spread of disease, and population displacement. Cli-fi novels and films are typically set in the future, telling of disaster and its effect on humans, or they depict the present, beset by dilemmas, conflicts or conspiracies, and pointing to grave consequences. At their heart are ethical and political questions: will humankind rise to the challenge of acting collectively, in the interest of the future? What sacrifices will be necessary, and is a green dictatorship our only hope for survival as a species?

Each chapter in this volume offers a way of reading a particular literary text or film, drawing attention to themes, formal features, reception, contribution to public debate, and issues for class discussion. Popular novels and films (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capitol trilogy, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, Ian McEwan’s Solar, and The Day after Tomorrow) are examined alongside lesser known writing (for instance J. G. Ballard’s «proto-climate change» novel The Drowned World and Antti Tuomainen’s Finnish thriller, The Healer), and films not generally thought of as being about climate change (Frozen and Take Shelter).

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.

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Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy (2003–2013) – Post-Apocalyptic Cli-Fi (Dana Phillips)

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Dana Phillips

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy (2003–2013)

In the MaddAddam trilogy, Margaret Atwood explores climate change, mass extinction, genetic engineering, globalization, cultural decadence, industrial modernity’s failings and – in the face of all these things – the possibilities for environmental resistance. Despite its futuristic setting, much of the trilogy’s content derives from familiar elements of the present-day world. This helps Atwood avoid the workmanlike exposition that often features in sci-fi set in alien terrain or a remote future. It also helps make her attitude to environmental calamity and its causes seem less censorious than darkly comic: she presents daring ideas and devastating images with satirical zest.

As the trilogy opens, the everyday reality of the post-climate change and post-industrial era is immediately apparent. Atwood details the failures of modernity throughout Oryx and Crake (2003), where the reader learns everything one needs to know to understand her fictional universe (see below). The second and the third novels in the trilogy revisit familiar scenes, and are devoted to backstory and further complications of plot. The Year of the Flood (2009) chronicles the activities of the God’s Gardeners, an environmental resistance group and religious sect. The Gardeners raise food and keep bees on the rooftops of abandoned buildings, offer shelter to battered women, compose ‘green’ hymns and collude with corporate renegades, by means of the online game Extinctathon, to help counter the devastation of the natural world. MaddAddam (2013) follows the adventures of its titular...

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