Earth Week: Can cli-fi novels help save us from ourselves?

Annihilation by Vandermeer
Oryx and Crake
The Drowned Cities by Bacigalupi

What can literature do to help solve the world's problems? This question surrounds a new genre of fiction that's been "heating up" the literary scene. Viewed by some as a subgenre of sci-fi and by others as a new genre in its own right, "cli-fi" is the term being used to describe the slate of recently emerged novels that highlight climate change.

"Day after day, human activity fills the atmosphere with carbon, transforming Earth’s climate, melting the polar ice caps, already destroying the homes and habitats of the planet’s many creatures — including ourselves. Yet we lack the ability to visualize these problems, to locate their source in our own actions and lives, to tell and transform the stories of the interactions between our behaviour and our biome." - Nick Admussen

Nick Admussen, a professor of Chinese literature at Cornell University, has challenged authors to think about how their work can influence change in society. Literature, Admussen argues, can reflect reality in such a way that draws attention to a problem's relevance in daily life. It can also help us imagine how problems that go unaddressed can result in catastrophic consequences. Cli-fi novels often take this approach, portraying a world where ice caps have melted causing disastrous floods, or where pollution has blackened the sky. Cli-fi novels are both a reflection and a warning.

Do you think books can galvanize change? Check out the titles below, and share your thoughts and ideas about cli-fi in the comments.

Explore cli-fi with Anythink:

Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson

Green Earth is a wonderful example of cli-fi. Packaged together for the first time in this edition, Green Earth compiles the Science in the Capital series into one, updated volume. Green Earth is a chillingly realistic novel that plunges readers into great floods, a modern Ice Age, and the political fight for all our lives.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Snowman is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful, elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey – with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake – through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. 

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

A group of intrepid women scientists accept a mission that will take them into the dangerous and forbidden Area X, even as they try to ignore the high mortality rates of those on the previous missions. This thrilling novel is currently being adapted into a film starring Natalie Portman that is slated to come out later this year.

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

In a dark future America that has devolved into unending civil wars, orphans Mahlia and Mouse barely escape the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities, but their fragile safety is soon threatened and Mahlia will have to risk everything if she is to save Mouse, as he once saved her.

View Anythink's full curated list of cli-fi here: Cli-Fi: Stories About Climate Change

Ready for action? Check out Anythink's Earth Week events.

Happy Earth Week!


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