Humankind was a disease. The earth was the body. Climate change was the fever.”
― Chuck Wendig, Wanderers

Yes, cli-fi is the genre that snuck up on us. A bit like global warming, it has always been there in the background, making appearances every now and then in the material that we read, but we never really paid enough attention to it. Until now. Not until 2013 of course, when Dan Bloom coined the term on an American radio show, at a time when we were beginning to see physical, tangible changes in the world and it began to directly impact on our day-to-day lives.

Some may view Cli-Fi as a new genre, but authors like J.G. Ballard, Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver have been making it a very prominent issue in their writing for years. It has masqueraded under the broader term of science-fiction for a long time, and I suppose dystopian fiction, if we look at novels like Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and even David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. How can you spot a cli-fi novel? The thing to watch out for is SETTING. Is there a specific critique on how humans are to blame on the natural world collapsing in on itself? Does this destruction have its roots in current fears about climate control? Does it feature mass extinction of a species due to wildly fluctuating weather conditions? Or is it simply an extreme version of our world, for example, one which has been left underwater due to the polar ice caps melting? (Waterworld, the Kevin Costner film, comes to mind for this one).

My current read is Wanderers by Chuck Wendig, and at almost 400 pages in to this 800+ tome, it is a gloriously up-to-date critique on what has been the main evil of climate change. This post could easily have been called ‘what I learned from Chuck Wendig about climate change’, but I want to talk about how Wanderers for me pretty much sums up everything wrong with the world (and more importantly, America). At first glance it comes across as a horror novel. There is a distinct Stephen King The Stand vibe about it, especially with the infected zombie-like wanderers who for no apparent reason begin walking blindly towards an unknown destination. The unexplainable phenomena goes from being perceived as a new strain of illness or mass sonambulism to that of a sort of ‘terrorist’ attack. The wanderers seemingly cannot be restrained or stopped in their tracks. To simply put it, and force to stop them and they explode. Like bombs. And there is your horror element. People condemned to walk in a trance-like state from one end of the country to another without stopping, and all the while Wendig feeds us tidbits about zoonotic diseases, schools us on Ebola outbreaks, paints the embarrassing lengths politicians will go to in order to gain votes (playing on the fears of the predominantly republican mid-western people by using the exploding bodies as just another 9/11 attack), and highlights the sad-but-true habit of selling out mother nature for the sake of capitalism.

It has never been anything else. All these things are cogs that drive forth global warming itself. Big pharma companies feature heavily in the novel, and not in a favourable light, either. Going too far, playing with people’s lives and playing with people’s lives by holding the power of medicine over the masses is a terrible thing we have seen time and again.

Wendig weaves all these things together and says we are the only ones in charge of our fate. We have caused this and it is up to us to fix it. Mary Shelley in her Frankenstein aired the first fears around what people might do with this new-fangled knowledge of science. That we cannot be trusted. That we always take things too far and perhaps we are doomed to take things to the limit because it is within our nature to destroy. We destroy only to understand the worth of what we have ruined, but by then it is too late. I can’t help but think that it is not for nothing that the bible is full of hell and brimstone, of fires that burn, of plagues and an apocalpyse, and of four horseman most excellently envisaged by Neil Gaiman as DEATH, WAR, POLLUTION and GREED. I mean, if that isn’t killing the world, then what is? We start wars over oil, pollute the oceans, skies and mountains for gain, burn entire rainforests for a few trillion jars of Nutella.

Cli-fi has always been around, but as the death-knell of the world rings louder, only then do we begin to panic and take notice. Because it is only when it’s on our doorstep that it becomes important.

Interested in Cli-Fi? Here are a few links to start you on your journey. Happy reading!