Ten Years After: Cli-Fi

A decade ago, I helped give birth to a movement. It doesn’t matter if anyone knows.

All that matters is the movement. And cli-fi has indeed become a cultural, sociopolitical and scientific standout, despite its terminological confusion and opportunism. But more about that later.

I was the first to inject cli-fi into the mainstream at Morphizm, Wired, AlterNet and more —- but not nearly enough as I wanted. Back in 2009, describing the climate crisis docu-film, The Age of Stupid, I employed cli-fi as a portmanteau with deeper possibility, especially given the accelerating exhaustion of sci-fi.

Despite my continual efforts, I couldn’t interest editors and publications in greater explainers and analyses. The argument that sci-fi was unstable and unsustainable, to say nothing of less interesting than cli-fi, was a pitch did not extend beyond the listicle.

That inevitably changed, as the climate crisis predictably worsened. Sci-fi epically failed; cli–fi quickly infiltrated the market.

Despite its increasing popularity and entrenchment in academia and entertainment, cli-fi remains an underwhelming signifier creatively restrained by marketing, marooned from more influential meaning. Today, cli-fi’s Wikipedia page is narrowly restricted to a safe space of mostly literary climate fiction. An ironic judgment for a medium anchored to the souls of dead trees, lost in an Anthropocene of exponentially replicating transmedia.

That is the argument I made in the 2013 explainer, Cli-Fi Is Real —- written during its inevitable rise, as opportunists began to claim its coining. My work charting cli-fi’s wider ambitions continued, in spaces as varied as Cartoon Brew and Civil Eats, Twitter and The Center For Biological Diversity.

There and elsewhere, including social media, I determined not to simply report but —- most importantly — advocate for more expansive ambition and sustainable futures.

Having helped bring cli-fi into being, and influenced its development for over a decade, I still understand its persistent strengths and weaknesses. My work is firmly anchored in both productive and meaningful climate science and cultural production.

I have open lines of inquiry and communication to some of the most influential figures of our globally warmed epoch. Names you recognize and underrepresented voices you should hear, all hard at work salvaging our uncertain future from our apathetic present.

From mainstream journalism to social media, and even to various transmedia projects in progress (more on those later too), I’ve written quite a bit about cli-fi. Because I have found that is what our writing has always been about, and certainly what will always be about: Mother Earth, Our Mothership.

And I am still writing more. Catch up with some of my greatest hits below, and my ongoing contributions here: CLI-FI.

Cli-Fi: The Age Of Stupid Gets Smart

Cli-Fi Is Real

Ultimate Expression Of Hope: An Interview With The Breadwinner Director, Nora Twomey

Cli-Fi: The Legend of Korra

Hydrogen Sulfide Is A Nasty Way For Life On Earth to Die