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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 Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (2014) – Genre Pluralism in Cli-Fi (Bradon Smith)

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Bradon Smith

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (2014)

David Mitchell’s 2014 novel The Bone Clocks spans a single lifetime, from 1984 to 2043, beginning with the teenager Holly running away from home and ending with her in old age.1 Although the narrative takes in a plethora of other characters, voices, locations and events, Holly remains the thread that binds the narrative together. The plot is complex – too complex to summarize here – but consists of two ‘worlds’: the real world focusing on the relationships and tribulations of a variety of characters, who occasionally interact with or are acted upon by the characters of a second fantastical world in which two factions of immortal beings are engaged in an epic battle.

The book builds on thematic interests established in Mitchell’s previous novels. Indeed, his novels are interconnected, with characters from one often playing cameos in others: Mitchell sees his novels as all part of one universe, or as chapters ‘in a larger volume I’ll keep working on’.2 Previous preoccupations with temporality and with the eternal recurrence of events (prominent themes in Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas, in particular)3 recur as themes in The Bone Clocks. As in the earlier novels, characters transmigrate across centuries, and events can seem locked into spirals. This eternal recurrence includes the rise and fall of civilizations: in an image that draws on the common post-apocalyptic aesthetic of nature reclaiming urban space, one century-spanning character thinks that ‘there are...

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