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A Companion


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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Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013) – Indigenous Cli-Fi (Iva Polak)


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Iva Polak

Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013)

The Swan Book is the third novel by critically acclaimed Indigenous Australian author, Alexis Wright.1 Her previous two novels, Plains of Promise (1997) and the internationally famous Carpentaria (2006), reveal that the author’s preference lies in incorporating multiple realities into a meandering story in order to engage with Australia’s troublesome socio-historical and environmental issues. The Swan Book follows the same blueprint but, unlike the first two novels, it is clearly projected into the future, beyond 2050, ominously showing what Australia might look like as it approaches its tricentennial celebration, with scores of global refugees who wander around the country ravaged by climate change, in search of the remaining unpolluted plots of land (Figures 29–31). In this respect, the novel functions as a commentary on the social and environmental injustice in Australia and gels with strategic practices of climate fiction.

The storyline revolves around an Aboriginal girl, Oblivia, who survives a gang-rape by petrol-sniffing Aboriginal boys. Abandoned by her community, she falls into a sacred eucalyptus tree, where she taps into the ‘ancient memory’ of the land. When she is discovered by an old white woman, she can no longer speak. Her peaceful life with the old lady who brings her up, black swans and other displaced people by the swamp is disrupted when she gets abducted by the country’s first Aboriginal president, Warren Finch, to become his ‘promised wife’. She will embark...

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