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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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Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour (2012) – Class and Religion in Cli-Fi (Sylvia Mayer)

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Sylvia Mayer

Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour (2012)

Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour is a climate change novel that strongly focuses on how climate change is experienced in place. Set in rural Tennessee, in a small farmers’ community in the Appalachian Mountains, it draws attention to how local place in times of global warming must be understood: as deterritorialized space, that is, as a place defined by a combination of local as well as global ecological, economic, social and cultural forces; as multi-layered in terms of the different meanings it may have for its inhabitants at any particular moment; and as dynamic, both in the sense that it constantly undergoes concrete transformations and in the sense that the meanings attributed to it change over time. It is the novel’s protagonist, 28-year-old Dellarobia Turnbow, who experiences dramatic transformations of the place in which she lives and thus gradually develops such a complex sense of place. Through her accumulating experiences of place, the novel’s central themes become visible: the theme of climate change as a force of globalization that manifests in both non-human and human migration and entails the danger of species extinction, and the theme of climate change as a phenomenon that people perceive, interpret and assess very differently. The novel explores how different knowledges – most prominently, scientific and religious – attempt to make sense of climate change, it draws attention to the significance of social class and the role of the media in responding to and...

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