February 26, 2014
In the Climate Spectator of 25 January the author, David Holmes, asks the following question: Cli-Fi: could a literary genre save the planet?
The article begins as follows:
‘More than 10 years ago, in an issue of Granta, environmentalist Bill McKibben lamented the fact climate change has not been able to capture the literary imagination in the same way as the nuclear and political pathologies of the last century:
“Global warming has still to produce an Orwell or a Huxley, a Verne or a Wells, a Nineteen Eighty-Four or a War of the Worlds, or in film any equivalent of On the Beach or Doctor Strangelove.”
The need for a narrative form that can communicate the seriousness of climate change to a broad public is more urgent than ever, but one impediment has been been in its way. This situation is about to change, with the imminent rise of cli-fi, a new genre of climate fiction.’
As my readers know, Thirst, my Cli-Fi thriller, published in 2012, has been described as ‘The best Antarctic thriller since Ice Station.’ But it’s more than a pulse-pounding action thriller. It is the story of an ordinary, and flawed, man working on a remote station in Antarctica who must risk his life to prevent a global catastrophe, deliberately triggered. The story can be seen as an allegory for accelerated climate change. It raises some scary questions, but cocooned in a fictional world. Fiction is less confronting that non-fiction, but it can be just as powerful, possibly more so, because it engage the readers’ emotions. Thrillers especially do this, as they take the reader on a roller-coaster ride of emotions from despair to hope, from terror to relief, from joy to grief and so on.
Thirst is going to be released in Asia by Readers’ Digest and I was interviewed by the magazine. I was asked for my thoughts on the biggest issue of our time. I said it is climate change, which is also the most side-stepped issue of our time, especially in my home country, Australia. Too big, too costly, someone else’s problem. But what fiction can do is take you into a world where people’s lives and happiness are being impacted by it. For this imaginary world to mean something, the characters must be well-rounded and credible. Characters we can identify with and understand, and that goes for the villain as well as the hero. The character who triggers the disaster in Thirst believes he is doing the right thing. Because in very tiny ways we are all a little bit of the villain. We all waste energy or run the tap too long. We don’t always use sustainable building practices and we drive the car when we could just as easily walk or catch the bus. I’m as guilty as anyone.
So I am delighted to hear that Cli-Fi as a sub-genre is taking off. If you would like to read more of The Climate Spectator article, please CLICK HERE.
Dan Bloom, who is interviewed, has a great blog, CLICK HERE, on all things Cli-Fi. Well worth looking at.
PHOTO: taken by Dan Bloom in Foyles Bookshop, London, displaying Cli-Fi Fiction, Aug 2013.