It’s not every day that Time magazine recognizes what a lone word
coiner in Taiwan has done by coming up with a new literary genre term
dubbed “cli fi” by yours truly. Yes, the May 19 issue of the weekly
gave a quiet shout out and reporter Lily Rothman went even a
step further in her summer movie preview
“Godzilla, ‘Into the Storm’ and More Summer ‘Cli-Fi’ Thrillers,”
gently pushing the emerging genre directly to the titans of
Maybe you are wondering how an independent Jewish dreamer with his
head in the clouds most of the time came to be
devoted to ”cli fi”, the various steps of trying to popularize it
along the way, and why reaching Time’s
national — and international audience — just might be important. Let
me tell you how this all came to be.
To make a long story short, I did it my way. I have no office, no
secretary, no funding and no sponsors. But since 2006 I’ve taken a
very strong interest — some might call it an obsession — in climate
change issues and global warming. My wake up call was in 2007 when I
read that years’s IPCC climate report from the United Nations, and
when I learned that the future of the human species on this dear Earth
could very well be in dire jeopardy unless we stop our wanton ways and
burning fossil fuels like there was no tomorrow, well, I suddenly
realized maybe there won’t be too many tomorrows for humankind.
But rather than sit around and kvetch, I decided to try my hand at
using the Internet and the blogosphere to become a kind of PR climate
activist and try to find ways to raise awareness of these issues.
First stop was an idea I called “polar cities” as safe refuges for
climate refugees in the distant future, and in blogging about the
polar cities concept, I found a novelist in Tulsa who was willing to
try his hand at writing a novel about them. Jim Laughter — his real
name, not a pen name — sat down and wrote “Polar City Red” for me,
and all the credit and royalties go to him and not a cent to me. It’s
his book. And to help promote it, I sent out a series of press
releases and oped columns calling his novel “a cli fi thriller.” The
word caught on, don’t ask me how, but here we are three years later
and Time magazine has recognized the term.
As you know, Hollywood has long shown an interest in climate-themed movies, from
“Solyent Green” to Darren Aronofsky’s recent “Noah” about a flood,
yes, our flood. But as the world continues to warm up
miniscule degree by miniscule degree and puts the very existence of
the human species at a very grave risk. I began to feel that by
setting up a literary and movie platform centered around the cli fi
meme, novels and movies about climate issues, both entertaining and
with serious messages just might help wake up the world. And our
Time wrote: “Some say films like
these [such as ‘Godzilla’] are helping define a new subgenre:’cli-fi,’
or climate fiction.
It’s a timely subject for the summer [of 2014], given that the National Climate
Assessment released May 6 found that the U.S. is already seeing the
effects of climate change. Though the havoc in each film is wreaked in
its own way, all of them use environmental destruction to raise the
such current and future cli fi movies will succeed in helping
audiences to confront
environmental issues, much the way Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel ”On the
Beach” — and the subsequent movie directed by Stanley Kramer —
dramatized the horrors of nuclear war and nuclear winter and helped
raise global awareness of the issues involved.
For me, it’s a Jewish thing. “Without a vision, a people perish,” I
recall reading in my youth in western Massachusetts where I attended
Temple Beth El Hebrew School three days a week and battled with the
rabbis about all sorts of existential and religious issues that
captivated. I was always a bit of thinker, not a deep thinker, not a
PhD thinker, not an academic thinker, but an often-obsessed Jewish kid
with ideas. That was how I grew up.
So in my own informal and unsponsored crystal ball, as I told Time in
a phone interview, I dream of a new
Nevil Shute who is going to arise somewhere in the world and with his
or her cli fi novel is going to wake people up with a
powerful story which will later be turned into an even more
So I believe that It’s now time for Hollywood to go
cli-fi, and I think some studio heads aleady know it’s happening.
David Brin, a frequent columnist for the San Diego Jewish World and a
well-known sci fi novelist, has been following my work with the cli fi
genre, offering me advice and suggestions along the way to Time’s
story this issue, and although he told me he considers cli fi to be a
subgenre of sci fi, he also said he likes what cli fi might be able to
do to help wake up the world in its own small way.
I’ve been doing this cli fi work for free, ever since 2008 when I
first blogged about the term and began contacting media around the
world to see if any reporters wanted to promote the term. Very few did
at first. I got many rejections but I never took them personally. I
soldiered on, undeterred, because I knew I was doing the right thing.
Not as a novelist or a movie director, since I am neither, but as PR
maverick who works under the radar and never gives up. To have Time
magazine recognize my work makes long wait worthwhile.
I’m dong this work for free. I don’t draw a salary, and I don’t mind.
I’m not a trust fund kid, but I did have a father who left me an
inheritance more important than money: mentshlekhkeyt. And in pushing
the cli fi meme forward, as a way of paying it forward in gratitude
for a wonderful 65 years on this planet, this is also my way of saying
thanks to my dad, the late Bernie Bloom of Avenue J in Brookly, born
in 1915 and gone in 2005.
My dad was a plumber, and in his own kind of way, a scientist, too,
and he passed on his compassion for the world to his five children. I
have his vision and his soul behind me, pushing me forward every day,
egging me on, telling me to “never give up, whatever the odds.”
Because who ever would have thought that my cockamamie idea of cli fi
would catch on and end up in the New York Times and now Time? Not in a
million years. But it happened.
And all I can say is “thank you Bernie Bloom, plumber extraordinaire,
who fixed pipes — and more. He taught me that it was important to
also “repair the world.”
That is what my small contribution to the climate fight is all about:
link to TIME
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