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Dan Bloom is a journalist with an optimistic outlook and dreams of hope and happiness for the great green planet we live on. With his need to do something for the welfare of an endangered Earth, he came up with the term ‘cli-fi’, a new genre of fiction.

In an earlier interview last year, he said after reading the 2006 report released by The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and an interview with British scientist, environmentalist, futurist James Lovelock in The Independent, he was moved to act. James Lovelock wrote of population decimation due to global warming. Dan Bloom claimed: “That bit sent shivers down my spine.  It was a ‘eureka’ moment, a wake-up call.”

In 2011, he came up with the term ‘cli-fi’ while doing a marketing campaign for a near future novel he commissioned from a sci-fi writer in Oklahoma, James Laughter, that was titled Polar City Red. Well-known novelist Margaret Atwood tweeted about the novel, calling it a “cli-fi thriller”. Two years later in 2013, NPR (National Public Radio, USA) did a 5-minute radio segment about the new genre that was headlined ” So Hot Right Now: Has Climate Change Created A New Literary Genre?”

Dan Bloom, received his MA in speech and communications from Oregon University and  worked as a newspaper editor in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan. He is now retired and devoting himself fulltime to promoting cli-fi worldwide. In this exclusive to Team Kitaab, Dan Bloom  discusses the present and future of cli-fi and climate change.

 

 

Team Kitaab: What is cli-fi?

Dan Bloom: Cli-Fi is a standalone, independent literary genre that came to life in the early part of the 21st century, a popular term used by journalists, newspaper editors, headline writers, literary critics, book reviewers, academics and novelists in the Anglophone world. It became a buzzword and a nickname for novels that explored various issues of climate change, either directly or indirectly in theme or story. There is no cli-fi canon and there is no cli-fi agenda. Novelists go where their imaginations and storytelling skills take them. It’s a catchy linguistic portmanteau for “climate change fiction”.

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by Dan Bloom( Dan Bloom coined the term cli-fi )

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Foyles bookshop in London has jumped on the cli-fi trend, creating a climate fact and fiction display table.

 

Based as a newspaper reporter and climate blogger in Taiwan, since 2011 I’ve been promoting the rising ‘cli-fi’ movement to boost the literary fortunes of  ‘climate change fiction’, a new genre of literature now accompanying ‘sci-fi’ within modern literature’s classification system. I’m not a novelist or a short story writer myself, just a reader and what I described as ‘a climate activist of the literary kind’. I use my PR skills learned over a lifetime of newspaper and magazine work in North America, Europe, Japan and Taiwan to communicate my cli-fi passion with editors, novelists, literary critics and fellow readers.

I’m not the only one doing this now. There’s a veritable army of PR people and literary critics shepherding cli-fi novels and short story anthologies into publication in over a dozen languages. What started out as a small movement in the anglophone world in 2011, has now become a global phenomenon among literary people in India, Singapore, Sweden, France and Australia. among other nations.

So what is cli-fi? As a subgenre of science fiction, it crosses the boundary between literary fiction and sci-fi to imagine the past, present, and future effects of man-made climate change, allowing readers to see what life might be like on a burning, drowning, dying planet. But the genre also encompasses writers who pen utopian novels and short stories full of hope and optimism. Cli-fi is not all dystopian and nightmarish visions of the future. There’s a lot of room for hope and better days, too.

By Rajat Chaudhuri

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What did the Celt tell Alexander when Alexander asked him what it was that his people feared the most? The Celt had replied that they feared nothing, so long as the sky did not fall or the sea burst its limits. I remembered this anecdote from a book on druidry while reading The Great Derangement, a path-breaking work on climate change that sweeps across a vast landscape of scholarship, finally reaching out to chart new maps for understanding the greatest crisis that humanity faces today.

But we will return to our druid later. To structure this review, we will attempt to discuss the book in the same way that the author has organised his material in three sections: Stories, History and Politics.

The thrust of the first section is on the interface between culture (with a focus on literature) and climate change and how the former is ill-prepared to imaginatively engage with the improbabilities inherent in the latter. The scaffolding of the section on history is erected around the paradoxical relationship between colonialism and climate. Finally, the section on politics is essentially about presumptions in the philosophical concept of freedom and the rise of the “deep state”, which between them have impoverished the political and imaginative spheres, leading to their failure to grapple with the climate crisis.

Each section surveys existing scholarship and employs material and tools from various disciplines in advancing its theses, sharpening its insights, or lighting up facets of the problem, presenting us with a book which, because of this interdisciplinary approach, the clean, jargon-free language and the unwavering gaze of a master of the art of non-fiction (as much as he is of the novel), stands out in an ever-growing library of works on climate change.

“Stories”, the longest, and arguably the most fecund among the three sections, narrates the author’s experience of being caught in a freak storm in Delhi which sets him thinking about the improbability of the encounter and then about the difficulties that the imagination faces in engaging with unusual weather events and unthinkable occurrences that would become increasingly common with growing carbon emissions, global warming and climate change. From there he directs his attention to this failure of the artistic and literary imagination, this evasion which characterises the Great Derangement that he is talking about throughout this book. In his words:

What is it about climate change that the mention of it should lead to banishment from the preserves of serious fiction? And what does this tell us about culture writ large and its patterns of evasion?

In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities such as Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what can they do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognising the realities of their plight? Quite possibly, then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement.”

By Aminah Sheikh

jayanthi.jpgLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

As is the case with most of us, constant inner exploration with strings and strings of questions ushers me towards the world of fiction, I suppose. And that subsequently widens my imagination more and more.

Fiction always fascinates me, both to read and to write. For me, it is like living one life in reality but tens of thousands in the fictional space.

I write for the creative experience itself more than the politics in, out of and behind the issues although I do appreciate and enjoy them all while reading others’ works. I’ve found myself narrating mostly with an anthropological approach but the characterization and dialogues in my fiction certainly don’t shy away from the political side of the issue. I let them be as political as required. So, naturally I’ve never believed in creating an ideal world through fiction nor have I ever tried to give any solutions to the issue. The characters take my stories forward. This could be one of the reasons for readers and critics’ ‘author is absent in the narration’ experience and comments.

Like I always say it is the creative experience that I always long for that has been helping me evolve spiritually, the person that I am and will be. It’s one of the important byproducts of my reading and writing fiction for twenty two years.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

With only two or three stories left to be written, ‘Dangling Gandhi and other short stories’ in English, is forming decently well. Although few of them talk of the contemporary issues in Singapore, some of the important stories transcend beyond eras and geographies. Thus the weaves, I hope, would subtly raise many intricate questions on several social issues of not just the modern multicultural societies and human migrations in this shrunken world, but also of the colonial India, Malaya and Singapore.

Zafar Anjum, the publisher cum writer with such a beautiful theme of ‘empowering and connecting Asian readers and writers, everywhere’, has been gracious to have launched ‘Horizon Afar and other Tamil short stories’ of mine, the second of its kind, at SILF16 at Kishanganj. How well he knows about the role of translation in filling the gaps and also in cultural sharing. I owe it very much also to the earnest and enthusiastic translator and writer P.Muralidharan of Chennai, and the editor of the book for her help in improving the text.

It may sound too ambitious or a little pre mature to say I wish to write a novel based on my transit experience at Delhi amidst the first week of demonetization woes, the SILF16 (Seemanchal International Literary Festival 2016), the town of Kishanganj, Bagdogra, Darjeeling but I hope some creative magic really happens.

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To do otherwise would be to deny an integral part of myself. I write because I must, because of my addiction to the feel of an ink pen between my fingers scribbling word-code onto one blank page after another. To me, writing is an aesthetic pleasure that sets every fibre of my being into vibration, when I’m actually doing it. The other reason I write is to be able to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings, and creatively express them onto the page or screen. Sometimes, just the writing process is a form of catharsis for me, even though my scribbles make no sense.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My last book, Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa, published by Rupa (2012) is a novel that follows the lives of X generations within a Goan family. At a get-together to celebrate the patriarch’s 75th birthday, there is a powercut that leads organically to the family swapping ghost-stories. Through the process or sharing oral histories, the family history and some secrets are revealed. The structure became an important part of telling the story of the family; I used a frame narrative device to interlink the individual stories. It’s more of a commentary about the social mores of South Goan society, diasporic culture and religious aspects among other things. My intention was to create a story that wasn’t just about ‘ghosts’ but about the things that haunt us emotionally and psychologically.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Excavating words to reveal complex layers of emotion. At least, that’s the aspiration!