What is a Cli-fi and how do you write one

Cli-fi is an abbreviation of climate fiction, one that hearkens to its science fiction roots. But as we have reached a climate crisis in the real world, it’s become an equally relevant genre.

Climate fiction is literature that deals with the changes in climate and global warming. It’s almost as old as science fiction, though as more light is shed on the real world climate crisis, the stories have grown to be more apocalyptic or dystopian in theme.

While some authors attribute natural or chance occurrences as the reason for climate change, most stories reflect reality and show that all climate problems are man-made. Even some of the oldest ones like ‘The Purchase of the North Pole’ by Jules Verne which came out in 1889 show that it’s man’s meddling with nature that leads to catastrophe.

Some popular books of the genre are the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood and ‘Odds Against Tomorrow’ by Nathaniel Rich. One is set in India ‘Decoding the Feronia Files’ by Tanushree Podder & Ajay Podder which deals with how humans can control climate and how it can be used in warfare.

For this month’s Write India prompt, Author of the Month Jeet Thayil has set an apocalyptic theme, in which one could incorporate a climate fiction theme. In his prompt a spaceship leaves a dying planet with, seemingly, a single lonely passenger looking out of the porthole. In the rules, he specifies the prompt must be set in 2030, during ” a climactic day in the life of our endangered planet”.

To be clear, the word climactic doesn’t indicate that it has to be a climate fiction. Climactic means “forming or relating to the most important or exciting point in a story or situation, especially when this happens near the end,” (taken from the Cambridge English Dictionary) and we can safely assume the author refers to the planets destruction being the culmination of a series of events that took place before the prompt. However, the planet must be Earth for the author specified it was “our endangered planet”. Currently, only nuclear weapons and unchecked pollution leading to global warming pose an immediate threat to our planet so no doubt, many participants will choose to write climate fiction.

Here are some tips on how to write a good climate fiction:

1. Research climate change scientifically: There are many great sources online that show how humans have affected climate and how climate change has affected the planet. Many scientists explain how it will adversely affect the future as well and these are the credible sources one has to explore. The best stories are realistic and only good research can achieve that.

2. Try to find an emotional connection: Climate change might sound like numbers on a thermometer, hard to feel emotional about, but it affects us all. From the terrifying fires in Australia earlier this year to the cherry blossoms blooming out of season in Japan one year due to the unseasonable weather, there are examples worldwide. Making a connection that readers can empathise with so as to make the story feel more meaningful and relevant. For an example closer to home think of the very cold winter North India just went through or predict how early rains will affect crop yield and thus the lives of farmers.

3. Look up climate control: Many technologies have been proposed on controlling the weather. This can add all sorts of governmental and military angles to the plot of the story.

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