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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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Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2014) – Adventure Cli-Fi (Kiu-Wai Chu)

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Kiu-wai Chu

Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2014)

Loosely based on Jean Marc Rochette’s graphic novel Le Transperceneige (1982),1 South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2014) is a cli-fi adventure movie that depicts human survival on the frozen planet Earth, in the near future of 2031. The movie deals with important issues in the age of climate change, such as the risks of geo-engineering, extinction and sustainability, social inequality and environmental injustice. The story begins in 2014 when governments all over the world start dispersing an artificial cooling substance, CW-7, into the upper layers of the atmosphere, in a collective effort to tackle climate change and bring down the global temperature to manageable levels. But the plan backfires catastrophically. Soon after the dispersal, the world begins to freeze. All life forms become extinct within a short time, except for some thousands of survivors, who are able to board a uniquely designed and engineered mega-train, the Snowpiercer, built by an engineer named Wilford. The train was originally designed for a luxurious locomotive cruise operating along a circular railway with a length of 438,000 km, encircling the Earth once a year.

Powered by an advanced ‘perpetual-motion’ engine, the train is a closed and self-sustaining ecosystem. Inside it, the passengers are separated into different carriages, which also divide them into distinct social classes. In the front section reside the god-like Wilford and the ‘sacred engine’ he invented that controls the entire train. Behind him,...

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