The rise of "cli-fi" - author Kate Kelly discusses science fiction's take on the environment
Kate Kelly is a marine scientist who's penned her first novel, Red Rock , based around climate change... with an extraterrestrial angle. The book is out on Thursday 12 September and here she writes for SFX on the rise of "cli-fi", climate fiction, as an important genre...
The Rise Of Cli-Fi
The climate is changing.
This isn’t really news – the climate has always been in a state of flux. The world is by no means static. But in recent years people have been paying more attention to the changing world around us. Climate change has become news, and the subject of fierce debate.
As scientists investigate the impact we are having on our planet it is only natural for writers to start to explore the possible implications in their fiction. Writers look at the world around them and ask – What If? What if the worst predictions come true? Will it be flood or drought or endless winter?
Everywhere I look more and more books are appearing with a climate change theme to them. Literature is a reflection of the times it is written in and echoes the prominent concerns of its age. Just look at the dominant science news stories – items about climate change crop up on a regular basis – be is observations of the melting ice, or merely a comment on the unseasonable weather. Surrounded by all this it is hardly surprising that climate change themes in fiction are on the increase.
But even before people began to talk about climate change writers had thought about what might happen if the ice caps should melt. In John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes the ice is deliberately melted as part of an attack on mankind. The cause may be different but the outcome is just as devastating. Who would have expected that it would turn out to be our own hand that is melting the ice!
More recently authors have been looking at the ramifications of such changes – even the seemingly small changes around us that might reflect a greater problem beyond the limits of our own experience, as is so wonderfully depicted in Barbara Kingslover’s Flight Behaviour . And take our dependence on fossil fuels - what would happen our supplies were severed? – see Last Light by Alex Scarrow for a frightening vision of the world that could result. It is also the force behind many of the teen dystopias so popular at the moment – Exodus by Julie Bertagna, After The Snow by SD Crockett, and many many more.
Coming from a geological background I am used to looking at the changes affecting our planet across millions of years. Sea levels have risen and fallen before; vast tracts of what was once dry land are now underwater, the ice advances and retreats. Changes that take place over millions of years don’t make very exciting fiction. Speed things up and it starts to get interesting.
This is a guest blog by scientist Kate Kelly , whose book Red Rock is out on Thursday 12 September.