Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why Hollywood Has Embraced The Emerging ''Cli Fi'' Genre - An Oped by Danny Bloom

With films like "Noah" and "Into the Storm" -- and "Interstellar" coming in the late fall -- Hollywood has seen the handwriting on the wall and embraced the emerging new genre of "cli fi." And there's more to come, writes DANNY BLOOM

But while Hollywood and studio marketing people (and online social meda reporters covering new film releases) have welcomed cli fi into the fold, the entrenched powers in the literary world controlled by book editors in New York and London seem to be aloof to all this and show little interest in the rise of the cli fi genre term.

I am not sure why, but maybe it has to do with literary critics and book section editors feeling that literature is a ''sacred calling'' and only the all-powerful editors -- as ''gatekeepers'' -- can decide what's real and what's not in the literary world. So be it.

The more I thought about the disconnect between the literary world of the book industry compared with the open arms in Hollywood, the more I began to realize that the print novel is basically dead -- in the rising waters of global warming -- and has little power anymore to influence people or impact society. It's just a bunch of gatekeepers and the gatekeepers don't seem to care about climate change. They have their own agendas. Like a long liquid lunch at the Four Seasons. Like being cool and trendy and avantgarde and the like. Climate change is apparently not on the menu at the hip restaurants where they dine in Manhattan and London.

So I feel that the real power of cli fi to change the world, to wake people up lies in Hollywood and world cinema, indie cinema as well. And Hollywood and the media covering Hollywood, much more than the literary gatekeepers in New York and London and Washington and Los Angeles, are getting the cli fi message much better and much more directly than the print media gatekeepers.

A sea change is happening: Hollywood and the media covering Hollywood have really embraced cli fi and that is where the real wake-up call power of public awareness now lies.

Novels about climate change still will have a place in our culture but a very limited one, and one getting smaller day by day in this digital world of 500 channels and multiple YouTube distractions. Speculative fiction and eco-fiction novels still find readers. Look at Margaret Atwood; look at Barbara Kingsolver

I've noticed this sea change as Hollywood directors and PR mavens have recently become much more with it, in terms of "getting" the cli fi message. When TIME magazine did a three-page cli fi spread on summer cli fi movies in its May 19, 2014 issue what went worldwide, I began to notice the way the print and online media were handling the new, mushrooming cli fi genre.

After the TIME article by Lily Rothman came out, the New York Times ''Room for Debate'' forum picked up the Hollywood angle for cli fi movies, assigning academics and experts to talk about films such as "Snowpiercer" and "Into the Storm" and the upcoming "Interstellar."

So I came to realize that Hollywood is where cli fi can have its biggest impact, since print novels are dead in the water (see above) and the few that do get published by the major publishers are reviewed only by the gatekeepers at the New York Times and the Guardian in London.

I see a big future of cli fi movies in Hollywood. Big.

Look around in the social media world: From TIME to the New York Times, from Mashable's Andrew Freedman to the New York Post's Page Six gossip column, there has been more ink about Hollywood and cli fi than anywhere else.

The Big Six book industry is blind to cli fi. Books are dying. Few people read anymore, on a large scale. Novels have little impact anymore. Movies reign supreme, and this is where I see cli fi blooming now: in Hollywood. Hollywood players get it, the Hollywood media gets it, and books are dead and movies rule the day now. Publishers Row is dithering. London, too.

So I am following my gut instinct and my media radar and hoping to see cli fi genre turn into a real bonanza in the realm of Hollywood film directors and producers and writers. There is a future for cli fi in Hollywood.

Movie directors get it and they want to wake up the world. And make a little spare change along the way, sure. It's a business. So cli fi has found its true home not on Publishers Row in Manhattan but in Hollywood, and just in time. And it's good, this is a good development.

Cinema has the power to impact the world over important issues of climate change and global warming. Novels have no such power anymore. Print is dying, cinema is alive!

Of course, speculative fiction novels and eco-fiction novels still have a place in our culture, and many of these novels will be adapted as screenplays and see the light of day as popular movies, so writers still have a role to play in all this.

As a climate activist and PR guy, I take the cli fi genre very seriously, and I now see that Hollywood is where cli fi belongs, front and center.

Do the math: movies reach millions. Novels reach 3000 people, if that many.

Therefore: cli fi has come to Hollywood and its about time.


Anonymous said...

You will also find a list with short summary annotations on Wikipedia. For younger ages, I suggest The Land Before Time, also available in many print formats, and perhaps a discussion of how the life of the townspeople in Frozen was (and was not) changed by the freeze. Thinking forward, it would be a good idea to also ask students, What caused the freeze? What undid the freeze?

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962)
Waterworld (1995)
Twister (1996) - I am throwing this in because it appears that increasingly violent, large and frequent twisters are a result of climate change (stay tuned to late summer news) - don't bother with current remake
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
This is the End (2013)
Snowpiercer (review) (2014)

Anonymous said...

Monday, August 4, 2014
Cii-fi and (some) other Earth-Collapse Fiction

Pixabay image 7214: Dandelion seeds, from Hans
Cli-fi is trending. A subset of the general category earth-collapse fiction within the realm of speculative fiction, cli-fi concerns itself with the collapse of earth-based systems due to climate change. While generally this change is man-made, especially in more recent fictions, it is not always. Climate change in fiction may be caused by random or unexplained catastrophe, intelligent extraterrestrial forces, or even by the natural evolution of the Earth or the universe.

By and large, however, contemporary interpretations of the genre focus upon the man-made environmental changes resulting from global warming or war. Husna Haq writes in the Christian Science Monitor of "a dystopian present, as opposed to a dystopian future," and it is, in fact, the immediacy and urgency of the social, personal, governmental, and cultural predicaments found in cli-fi, compounded by the cautionary nature of the stories, that drive the genre's popularity. Survival at its most basic is on the line in cli-fi.

Luckily for educators, this fascinating genre is not solely in the domain of literary fiction. In fact, even little children are not unexposed to cli-fi and earth-collapse fiction, often sugar-coated by anthropomorphic metaphor. Consider, for example, the children's films Frozen, Ice Age, Once Upon a Forest and The Land Before Time. Even the picture books Two Bad Ants (Chris Van Allsburg) and Lost and Found (Shaun Tan), and the YA classics Watership Down and The Time Machine embed an environmental message in the text. By thinking a little differently about many of the texts already in the curriculum, you are able to engage students of any age in cli-fi discussions.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

middle school - Not all of these are directly cli-fi. Most are concerned with survival in post-collapse Earth rather than with its causation, which is more appropriate for many middle schoolers. Some upper middle school titles appear in the next lists.
Ship Breaker (Paolo Bacigalupi) and its sequel The Drowned Cities
Green Boy (Susan Cooper)
Empty (Suzanne Weyn)
The Boy at the End of the World (Greg van Eekhout)
The City of Ember (Jeanne DuPrau) - 1st in series
Pod (Stephen Wallenfels) - a quirky short novel about earth-collapse caused not by man directly, but by an alien life form that can not abide the actions of Man
Life as We Knew It (Susan Beth Pfeffer) - Earth-collapse caused by a relocation of the moon
An interesting take on the genre is found in Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, particularly the last two stories: "There Will Come Soft Rains" and "The Million-Year Picnic" - we learn of the collapse of Mars, of human-made Mars, and of Earth.
high school & adult - The Dying Earth subgenre is well covered by both Wikipedia and
The Drowned World (J.G. Ballard) - SF classic that may have started it all, although in this case the disaster is not man-made
Stand on Zanzibar (John Brunner) - 1968 classic Earth-collapse fiction
The Windup Girl (Paolo Bacigalupi)
Arctic Rising (Tobia Buckell)
Forty Signs of Rain (Kim Stanley Robinson) - 1st in the Science in the Capital trilogy
The Admiral (James Gilbert) - 1st in a series
The Carbon Diaries 2015 (Saci Lloyd) - suitable for upper middle school
The Other Side of the Island (Allegra Goodman)
Odds Against Tomorrow (Nathaniel Rich)
The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future (Naomi Oreskes, Eric Conway)
Out of the Depths (Noel Hodson) - The Future series - Kindle only
California (Edan Lepucki) - review
Finitude (Hamish MacDonald)
Flight Behavior (Barbara Kingsolver)
Waiting for the Flood (Margaret Atwood) - prequel/simultaneous/sequel story to Oryx and Crake and part of the Maddaddam trilogy - although man-made plague is the key SF element, this middle book has a strong environmental message
Hot Mess: Speculative Fiction About Climate Change (Brody et all) - stories
Inferno (Dan Brown) - included here not because of its pandemic theme, but for its discussions of Why a pandemic is necessary; the answer makes the novel cli-fi
mythical/fantasy elements in YA/Adult fiction
Love in the Time of Global Warming (Francesca Lia Block) - not for MS
Solstice (P.J. Hoover) - suitable for upper middle school
Caretaker Trilogy (David Klass) - suitable for upper middle school

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan,

Great spirit behind this work.

I suggest pushing the ownership over to the University and professor, and you can act as a board member.
They would be responsible for raising sponsorships.
Similarly, this can't really be run from Taiwan.

To really scale this, you need to get someone to lead it with Film Festival experience. And it needs to be in a center of movie productions.

Anonymous said...

I love your passion, Dan, but I tend to think — and perhaps you do, too, deep dow — that this is somewhat hyperbolic. It’s not either/or. Popular culture is extremely important and influential—hey, it’s “popular.” It reaches everyone, cuts across all strata of income and education and age and cultural background. But even the producers of pop culture need to go somewhere to refill the wells of their imagination, as a poet once said to me.

I have had this conversation many times with friends and colleagues. I have friends in L.A. who tell me I should stop writing academic works and try to go on TV with my ideas about environmental literature. I recall a conversation with a colleague, a prominent ethnobiologist and literary essayist who is proudly a mid-list writer, but whose extraordinarily thoughtful work often reaches key thinkers in more mass-audience genres, such as Barbara Kingsolver (central ideas in Kingsolver’s best-selling novel ''Prodigal Summer'', for instance). Again, we’re not talking either/or. I prefer to believe in a ripple effect. We need ways of reaching the broader public. We also need people who are trying to push the limits of science and art in ways that may not be of immediate interest to general audiences.

I enjoy reading on an e-reader, I prefer to teach mostly paperless classes (to the extent that that’s possible), and I like listening to popular culture and watching movies. But I also persist in finding print culture, even physical books, to be meaningful, useful veins of communication. It’s not all about sheer numbers of readers, viewers, or listeners.