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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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David Brin’s Earth (1990) – Epic Cli-Fi (Ursula K. Heise)

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Ursula Heise

David Brin’s Earth (1990)

David Brin’s Earth explores global warming as part of an epic portrayal of our planet’s future. The novel develops a panoramic view of the middle of the twenty-first century thematically, through its explorations of demographic growth, socio-economic inequality, resource extraction, biodiversity loss, pollution, rising sea levels, political conflicts, digital technologies, global media, privacy and surveillance, and weapons technologies. It also models planetarity formally through a multidimensional narrative architecture that seeks to encompass the vast multiplicity of perspectives that global issues involve, at the same time that it aims to convey a sense of the planet’s societies joined in crisis. Given the ambitious scope of Brin’s novelistic project, it is little surprise that the novel falls short in some of its engagements with gender, violence and justice. But by fusing epic narrative with the parallax and fragmentation of the high-modernist urban novel, Earth delivers a structural blueprint for novels that aim to engage with climate change as a global social and ecological crisis.

Set in 2038, Earth focuses on the possibility of global destruction – at first sight, not because of climate change but a techno-scientific experiment gone wrong. The British physicist Alex Lustig, one of the world leaders in ‘cavitronics’, the artificial creation of diminutive black holes, has discovered a black hole in the Earth’s crust, which is threatening to absorb the planet from the inside out. He and his international team assume at first that...

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