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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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Introduction (Axel Goodbody / Adeline Johns-Putra)


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Axel Goodbody and Adeline Johns-Putra


Since the late 1980s, when it first came to the attention of a wider public, global warming has been generally (although not universally) recognized as one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century. Models of its future development, predictions of its likely political, social and cultural impact, and proposals for measures to limit the rise in temperature and mitigate its consequences have been hotly debated over the last thirty years, and they are likely to remain subjects of contention for the foreseeable future. This public concern has latterly been accompanied by a growing body of climate change fiction. The emergence of cli-fi (an abbreviation in analogy with ‘sci-fi’ apparently coined by the journalist Dan Bloom in 2007) as a new genre of fiction and film, reflecting but also to a degree informing views and shaping conversations on climate change, was greeted in a series of articles in the press in the USA and Britain in 2013.1 Climate change fiction has become the subject of numerous blogs and reading forums on the Internet, and a focus of growing academic interest.

Defining cli-fi

Cli-fi is not a genre in the scholarly sense: it lacks the plot formulas and stylistic conventions that characterize genres such as sci-fi and the western. However, borrowing from and often embracing elements of different existing genres, it ← 1 | 2 → provides a convenient term for an already significant body...

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