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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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T. C. Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth (2000) – Activism in Cli-Fi (Adam Trexler)

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Adam Trexler

T. C. Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth (2000)

A Friend of the Earth (2000) was published at a key moment in American public consciousness of climate change. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 1997, providing a shortlived window of hope to many for a true, international response to climate change. Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 1999 brought new visibility to the issue, and raised hopes that the world’s largest economy would take resolute actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the Pacific Northwest, arsons and other acts of ecotage by Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front were attracting national headlines and widespread condemnation. In December 1999, the Seattle World Trade Organization protests mobilized over 40,000 activists in an alliance of labour, anti-globalization and environmental commitments. Boyle’s novel is primarily set in two time periods. Much of the action takes place in 2025, when the collapse of both environmentalism and the relatively stable climate of the Pacific Northwest affords a perspective for biting satire of late twentieth-century activism. In retrospective sections set primarily in 1989–90, the novel makes this critical approach to climate action present, exploring the moment when radical environmentalism first peaked in public consciousness, from the vantage point of its greater visibility ten years later.

Critics generally noted a growing concern with climate change amongst the American public, but treated the sections of the novel set in the early 1990s as transparent, dark...

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