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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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Maggie Gee’s The Ice People (1998) and The Flood (2004) – State of the Nation Cli-Fi (Adeline Johns-Putra)

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Adeline Johns-Putra

Maggie Gee’s The Ice People (1998) and The Flood (2004)

The Ice People (1998)1 and The Flood (2004)2 are set in near futures dominated by climate change (though, in the latter novel, this is never named as such). Both, therefore, might easily be labelled dystopian: certainly, each novel adopts a conventional dystopian motif – icescape and flood respectively – to depict the effect of climate change on the landscape.3 In The Flood, the novel’s narrative climax in a devastating diluvial event might also be termed apocalyptic. In the case of The Ice People, the dystopianism possesses sci-fi and post-apocalyptic elements; the novel depicts futuristic technological innovations, such as domestic robots and mini-copters, as well as, in the course of events, a complete social and environmental collapse, with humanity reverting to Palaeolithic living conditions.

Yet, although they adhere to dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic conventions, the novels resist the notion that environmental disaster can be rendered straightforwardly, maintaining a focus on the social complexities that underlie it. In their detailed analyses of the personal and political, they might be described, as with Gee’s fiction in general, as ‘condition-of-England’ novels.4 They offer, first, a detailed explication of the ties that bind the political and public with the personal and private, and, second, a critique of the extent to ← 91 | 92 → which socio-political lives, understood in these terms, are imbricated with the nonhuman environment. That is, they not only depict worlds devastated by...

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