Move over sci fi, tru ro, and lit fic, Cli-Fi – short for climate fiction – is the newest trend in literature, and it’s gaining steam.
Cli-Fi is unlike any of the other genres you may already be reading, including science fiction, true romance, and literary fiction. The genre takes its inspiration from the impact climate change and global warming are having on our world. The theme is showing up in novels, short stories, and movies, set in the past, present or future.
The most famous Cli-Fi novel you may have read is Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. This engrossing tale, published in 2012 and reviewed by Moms Clean Air Force’s senior director, Dominique Browning here, tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a 28-year-old unhappy housewife who lives in a small town in rural Tennessee. One day, Dellarobia sneaks out into the valley near her home to begin an affair with a telephone repairman. Instead, she discovers that the valley is carpeted with millions of Monarch butterflies. These spectacular winged creatures should be in Mexico, not the southeast U.S., and a university professor who studies the butterflies warns that they are a disturbing symptom of global climate change. Will the Monarchs survive the harsh Tennessee winter? How will the aberration of their appearance change Dellarobia’s life and that of her friends and family?
Will readers come to understand that climate change is real, threatening and in immediate need of solutions?
That essentially seems to be the point of the Cli-Fi being produced. It’s not just about entertainment, though like other genres, if the stories don’t entertain and if the characters aren’t interesting and engrossing, readers will toss the books aside and movie viewers may get a refund on their popcorn. Writers and filmmakers who are turning climate angst into Cli-Fi are educating their communities about what our energy use is doing to our world as much as they’re trying to spin a good yarn.
If Amazon rankings are any indication, interest in climate fiction is growing fast. A quick search for “climate fiction” turned up almost 2,000 titles, including 2042: The Great Cataclysm by Melisande Mason, Climates, by Andre Maurois and Adriana Hunter, and Fall of Venus by Daelynn Quinn. With fallout from climate change unfortunately expected to get much worse before it gets better, the compendium of Cli-Fi movies and books can only be expected to grow.
Meanwhile, if you think your teens might be interested in Cli-Fi, here are 3 titles to send their way:
- Threatened by Eliot Schrefer – This is the story of a boy whose mother warned him about the “mock men” – chimpanzees – living in the trees near their home. Eventually, the boy, Luc, teams up with a man calling himself Prof to go into the jungle and study the chimps. What ensues is a story about “a boy fleeing his present, a man fleeing his past, and a trio of chimpanzees who are struggling not to flee at all.”
- Survival Colony Nine by Joshua David Bellin – Here’s the publisher’s description: “In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.” The story focuses on a young man who is part of a small group of people who have survived wars and environmental catastrophes and now struggle to overcome heat, dust, starvation and the Skaldi, terrible monsters that can infect human hosts. If your kids love sci-fi in the Alien mode, they might love this book.
- In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis – Notes the publisher, the author “thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.” It features a female hero, Lucy, who grapples with hunger, deserts, and threats to the pond that was once her life-saving source of water.