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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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Liz Jensen’s The Rapture (2009) – Thriller Cli-Fi (Terry Gifford)

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Terry Gifford

Liz Jensen’s The Rapture (2009)

English novelist Liz Jensen’s sixth novel, published in 2009, titled The Rapture, is a thriller set in England in 2013. The theme of the novel is concerned with alternative responses to impending environmental disaster. Here, everyone wears dark glasses and there is a turbine in view from every window, but still ‘the latest projections predict the loss of the Arctic ice cap and a global temperature rise of six degrees within Bethany’s lifetime if nothing is done now’.1 ‘After the Copenhagen climate summit failed to deliver’, Planetarian eco-groups have set up sustainable communities to await the extinction of the human species as Gaia does her work.2 An alternative is provided by ‘the Faith Wave creed brought over by the British citizens who abandoned their sunshine homes in Florida and returned to the UK after the global crash’ and have now established 50,000 churches.3 With their own kind of fatalism they await signs of the ‘Rapture’ – the beginning of the apocalypse when the faithful will be lifted up to heaven and the remainder punished with natural disasters extinguishing the species. So, in this novel, faith in sustainable communities is set against a particular form of religious faith, in their different responses to an impending environmental crisis. But the ‘generalized malaise’ is global in the range of its concerns: ‘world preoccupations remain an uneasy, toxic mix’ that includes not only advanced signs of economic meltdown, social breakdown...

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