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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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Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid (2009) – Documentary Cli-Fi (Alexa Weik von Mossner)

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Alexa Weik von Mossner

Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid (2009)

Franny Armstrong’s climate change documentary The Age of Stupid1 opens with a sequence of images that is somewhat unusual for a non-fiction film. After a creative visualization of the ‘big bang’, viewers are presented with a racing timeline and a quick succession of images that show the evolution of life on earth. The last few seconds of the sequence depict human civilization from its early days to the recent past and then extends into a speculative future, ending on a series of post-apocalyptic images: London flooded, the Taj Mahal in ruins, Las Vegas buried in sand and the Sydney Opera House up in flames (Figure 16). This, viewers are told, is the state of the world in 2055, and the film that follows is a look back from that speculative future to the time when humans burned fossil fuels as if there was no tomorrow, a time that is now recognized as the ‘age of stupid’. Other climate change documentaries, too, have alluded to apocalyptical themes at times and fiction films such as The Day After Tomorrow (2004) revel in the visual spectacle of global apocalypse. What makes The Age of Stupid special is its use of a hybrid form of storytelling that mixes the factual with the fictional while passing itself off as a documentary. This unusual combination has been quite successful in influencing viewers’ attitudes toward climate change, and Armstrong’s...

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