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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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Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – Apocalyptic Cli-Fi (Alexa Weik von Mossner)

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Alexa Weik von Mossner

Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Much as it was criticized at the time of its release in 2004, Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow1 holds a special status within the emerging genre of cli-fi cinema. Despite its many scientific inaccuracies, the movie stands out as the first Hollywood mega-blockbuster that self-consciously was about climate change rather than just using a climatically changed environment as narrative setting and background. Other climate-themed films such as Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer2 and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road3 feature spectacular environments that severely limit what their protagonists can and cannot do, but these protagonists are not scientists, nor do those films aim to bring to life, as The Day After Tomorrow does, an actual scientific scenario such as the shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Countless commentators, scientists and otherwise, have stressed that the spectacular disasters on display in Emmerich’s film are not actually part of this or any other scientific scenario, and that the scenario itself is a hypothetical model rather than a prediction.4 However, the film’s treatment of climate change nevertheless was pertinent enough at the time of its release to fuel a national debate. In the USA, The Day After Tomorrow received more than ten times the press coverage ← 133 | 134 → of the 2001 IPCC report5 and the Bush administration was so nervous about the potential impact of the film that it tried to muzzle NASA climatologists in...

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