What is cli-fi?

While travelling in America recently I picked up a copy of US Wired and stumbled upon a new name for a literary genre called cli-fi.

US Wired features cli-fi, December 2013

US Wired features cli-fi, December 2013genre called cli-fi.

Wired had it signalled out in a section called Jargon Watch (page 38, December 2013 US Wired) and said about it: “Climate fiction. A subgenre of dystopian fiction set in the near future, in which climate change wreaks havoc on an otherwise familiar planet, cli-fi has attracted literary authors like Ian McEwan and Barbara Kingsolver.”

EGADS! I thought to myself. I have, in fact, written a cli-fi ebook!

My first ever ebook is launching in April 2014 for Amazon Kindle, and is called In Ark: A Promise of Survival. Until discovering cli-fi, I had been categorizing it under the genre of sci-fi. Indeed, my book about a woman living in the year 2044 who gets abducted by an eco-survivalist community fits very well in the cli-fi genre, more than sci-fi. But does anyone really know what cli-fi means?

I started tweeting about the genre and soon I was contacted by the inventor of the term cli-fi himself! Danny Bloom is a writer and climate activist living in Taiwan and is the visionary who first coined the term cli-fi in about 2007. He tells me that it is a subgenre of sci-fi. Danny is using the term partly because it is a sensible and timely trend in literature with authors writing more and more fictional stories with climate change as a backdrop or central plot. Partly, Danny is furiously working hard to make the world know about cli-fi because of his own passion of climate activism.

He tells me that he is a lifelong newspaper reporter and editor, with 40 years of professional journalism experience and has spent six years being a climate activist. He’s created cli-fi to give writers, editors, publishers and readers a whole new hook to hang their writing and reading interests on regarding climate change issues. More and more authors are starting to use the genre, including me. World famous authors like Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, MaddAddam) have written climate change fiction and are starting to get behind supporting the cli-fi genre. Atwood even tweeted about cli-fi. Danny tells me that a Canadian author Mary Woodbury is showcasing her work and also keeping the most up-to-date documentation of the cli-fi movement on her website clifibooks.com.

One requirement of the cli-fi genre is that the author accepts that climate change is a reality that is impacting the planet now and in the future. In my book, climate change is an important backdrop to the main character Mya Brand’s life, and presents her with survival challenges. So, no climate change naysayers need apply!

Danny gets a lot of his views on climate change from James Lovelock, who he has been a student of since 2006. He is also a media junkie who reads newspapers everyday.

“We have thirty generations to stop carbon emissions over our human species,” he said.

Are these unseasonal early blossoms in London a sign of climate change?

Are these unseasonal early blossoms in London a sign of climate change?

I’m all for a literary genre that fully accepts climate change as a real and inevitable threat to our planet. I have taken to heart the advice of climate change scientists who proclaim that we have thirty years until our planet is potentially destroyed by climate change. This is why I’ve set my book 30 years into the future, at a time when humanity is faced with environmental destruction that was never stopped. I’ve imagined what the world would be like, and invented a whole isolated group of people who could be busy now building their own eco-survivalist city in preparation for the need to survive.

Danny is successfully securing a lot of press attention for cli-fi, including being featured on America’s National Public Radio (NPR), being in Wired and many other publications. Below are a few recent articles about cli-fi:

‘Cli-fi’ – a new literary genre?

UK author Zadie Smith publishes ‘cli-fi’ short story in the New Yorker, excerpt

Australian Dictionary Lists ‘Cli Fi’ Literary Genre As One Of Several Words Of Year For 2013

Cli-Fi Gets Honorable Word of the Year Mention

In addition to making cli-fi a respected new literary genre, Danny is launching an award opportunity for an upcoming climate change author. The Nevil Shute-like Literary Award for Climate-Themed Novels is going to give a $1,000,000 USD to the author that can write a novel much like Shute’s 1957 novel “ON THE BEACH” and do for the world what Shute did in raising awareness about nuclear winter issues. For more information on the award and how to enter see here.

If you are writing or have written a cli-fi novel – you may want to connect with Danny Bloom. Follow him on Twitter (he is ever-present there) at @polarcityman. Email him at danbloom@gmail.com.

Or find him at his cli-fi central website.

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5 Responses to “What is cli-fi?”

  1. Dan Bloom February 7, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Fantastic post, bravo, Lisa. And good to you as your book gets ready to launch in April. There is now a large cli fi community worldwide, of writers like you fiirst and foremost and then others such as editors, publishers, newspaper reporters and PR people — and READERS! — who are together helping to create a new literary genre that might help move people worldwide. I consider all this to be the work of TEAM CLI FI, and we are all in this together. BUT the CLI FI WRITERS themselves matter the most. GO GO GO.

  2. Louisa February 25, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Hi Lisa
    Loved your post. I’m originally English and studied literature at the University of London and am now an environmental thriller author living in Australia. THIRST, my Antarctic thriller, is Cli-Fi (2012). I am a great believer in the power of story telling to help understand our world, and thrillers are a great genre to explore the big scary issues of our time. I am on http://www.lalarkin.com
    It’s good to learn that I am not alone and that Cli-Fi is growing.
    Best wishes
    L.A. Larkin

  3. Lisa Devaney February 27, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks so much Danny and Louisa! I’m really excited to soon be joining this global community of cli-fi writers! I’m here to support everyone as much as I can! Nice to meet you all!


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