Cli Fi is short for Climate Fiction and is a term first coined by journalist, Dan Bloom, to describe the increasing number of books written about climate change and its effects. Many Cli Fi novels are set in the present or the near future. They explore various scenarios based on what might happen to the planet if world leaders do not act now to implement plans combatting the threat of climate change and the inevitable environmental damage. Some books are distinctly dystopian, telling of disasters and destruction—but by no means all novels have such dark themes and many prefer to tell stories of hope for the future.
Cli Fi stories are usually thought of as belonging to the Science Fiction genre and may also be thrillers, adventures or romances although since Climate Fiction is considered a sub-genre of Science Fiction, many readers assume they are also necessarily full of spaceships and aliens. That’s a shame because many Cli Fi books are based in a world which is easily recognisable today and with which readers might readily identify.
I must admit I was not aware of the term Cli Fi until Colin Payn and I began to write The Future Brokers. It was only when I started to explore other books which had a similar theme, that the term popped up and I became acquainted with the names of other authors and their books. As Colin explained me when he first suggested writing The Future Brokers, “There are plenty of dystopian novels out there which prophesy a war between Mankind and either Artificial Intelligence or robots. I felt that there was another way in which an intelligent organisation could work with humans. And I didn’t want a destroyed world with whizzy spaceships, but something more believable that could happen in the next thirty years. The Future Brokers is based on a possible set of choices that the world is making now, in 2021.”
Well-known authors such as Margaret Atwood with her MaddAddam Trilogy of books, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam; Ian McEwan with his book, Solar and many others are already established writers in this new genre of Climate Fiction. Annihilation, a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the first in a series of the Southern Reach Trilogy has also been made into a movie directed by Alex Garland, so Cli Fi stories are also being interpreted for film.
And yet, strangely, Cli Fi or even Climate Fiction are relatively unknown terms despite the fact that Cornwall played host to the G-7 Summit in Carbis Bay between June 11th and 13th 2021 and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will take place in Glasgow from 1st to 12th November 2021.
If we’re going to address climate change, we need to think and talk about it. Cli Fi books can be the starting point that prompt discussion. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, the term Cli Fi will be as well-known as Sci Fi is now.
The Future Brokers by DN Knox and Colin Payn is available as Kindle and paperback here