Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Climate Fiction - A New & Exciting Genre Emerges

Today at Publishing Perspectives I read about the new fiction genre labelled climate fiction or cli fi. 

In Why Climate Fiction Has Gone Viral Claude Nougat wrote:

"It’s climate fiction, a new genre that is quickly going viral, mainly because it is organically linked to climate change. It’s no coincidence that the term cli-fi was coined by a climate activist, Dan Bloom, back in 2008. Climate activists view climate fiction, or “cli-fi” for short, as a “hot” new genre designed to wake up the public to the dangers of global warming. Short of actually saving the planet, the hope is that emotional cli-fi narratives will move people to action far more effectively than a string of scientific data projections. And, as recently reported by the New York Times, climate fiction is already put to use in some American universities to sensitize college students about environmental issues and how to handle them."
The article went on to talk about how climate fiction titles aren't always about apocalypse. Sometimes they are just stories based on "what if" scenarios about the climate. Many years ago I read a book that fell into this category. Forgive me for not remembering the title, but the novel was about a new ice age. It was rather fascinating. As ice sheets drove Europeans into Africa, white people became the refugee minority. They were second class and the black Africans lorded over them.

As for the growing public appetite for climate fiction, I believe it's caused by the widespread need for people to process and imagine what it's going to be like living on our world in the coming years. Substantial changes are already happening. Oceans are rising and our food supply is threatened. Just because our governments and many people choose to ignore reality does not mean that millions of other people aren't trying to psychologically prepare themselves.

Stories are how our brains train for difficult events. Usually we hope they never happen to us, but climate change is something all of us will have to deal with. The emergence of it as a prevalent subject in fiction is a hopeful step for humanity to become accountable for its actions. Fiction has often played a role in making social progress. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe encouraged the abolitionist movement. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair ushered in badly needed reforms in labor and food safety. 

Climate fiction will help us understand that we are part of a global ecosystem. I hope we'll learn to start nurturing our world instead of damaging it.