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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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Will Self’s The Book of Dave (2006) – Satirical Cli-Fi (Bradon Smith)

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Bradon Smith

Will Self’s The Book of Dave (2006)

Will Self’s 2006 novel The Book of Dave1 weaves together two worlds: one, an account of the episodes from 1987 to 2003 seen through the eyes of a misanthropic London cabbie, Dave Rudman; the other, a post-apocalyptic vision of a flooded England and a society governed by a curious theological system. The two worlds are connected by the book of the title. Separated from his wife, and denied access to his son by a restraining order, Dave has a schizoid episode and writes a book containing all his views on the world and society – his legacy for his son – and buries it: ‘a bundle of proscriptions and injunctions […] derived from the working life of London cabbies, a cock-eyed grasp on a mélange of fundamentalism, [and his own] vindictive misogynism’, as his psychiatric doctor describes it.2 Hundreds of years later, rising seas caused by climate change have turned the hills of Southern England into islands, creating an archipelago, Ing, and the Book of Dave has been unearthed as the foundational text of this new society and its religion.

The novel is, most obviously, a scathing satire of organized religion, and especially its more fundamentalist factions. The absurdity of the future society of Ing having formed its repressive social structures and theology based on the rantings of a deranged taxi driver mocks the idea of a literal reading of any foundational religious text....

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