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A Companion


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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Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter (2011) – Psychic Cli-Fi (Stef Craps)


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Stef Craps

Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter (2011)

Released in 2011, Take Shelter is an American feature film written and directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.1 Set in LaGrange, Ohio, it tells the story of a family man and construction worker, called Curtis LaForche (Shannon), who is plagued by a series of apocalyptic nightmares and visions. He starts to believe that he is developing paranoid schizophrenia, the illness with which his now-institutionalized mother was diagnosed when she was a similar age and which he has feared inheriting his whole life. At the same time, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the need to shelter his family − his wife Samantha (Chastain) and their hearing-impaired young daughter Hannah − from the coming storm that he cannot help thinking his terrifying dreams and hallucinations signal. Foremost among the protective measures he takes to keep his family safe is the renovation and expansion of the tornado shelter in his backyard, which he can ill afford and which causes him to lose his job and his health insurance, as a result of which Hannah cannot have the cochlear implant surgery she was scheduled to undergo. The question of whether Curtis is a prophet or mentally disturbed drives the film and remains unresolved until the epilogue, when his premonitions turn out to be true as an actual end-of-the-world storm is about to hit.

Take Shelter captures many of the anxieties of living in the post-9/11,...

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