Climate change fiction is the hottest thing in the book world!

Sorry about that, but posts and articles about climate change fiction seem especially prone to bad puns...

In any case, climate change fiction (or "cli-fi" to use the rather ugly short form) is fiction -- either speculative or realistic -- that takes as it's basis the fact that the earth's climate is changing and jumps off from there.

It's actually been around for quite a long time in various guises, even before it became obvious that anthropogenic global warming was an issue, with JG Ballard's The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World being perhaps the earliest modern examples. Not surprisingly, the last 20 or 30 years has seen a bunch of climate change novels being published with a number of particularly notable ones in the last 5 years or so.

Mostly, I think, with the hope that by dramatizing the effects of climate change that it will seem more real and that the general public will therefore be more likely to for one, believe that it's real and for another, actually want to do something about it, individually and collectively. Similarly by making scientists seem more human somehow the ideas that they are trying to communicate will seem more real and more urgent. On the other hand, the whole movement may mostly be preaching to the converted.

Recently there's been a number of articles, websites and blog posts analyzing climate change fiction. See so many of them is what's inspired me to gather those articles as well as many of the books they mention

Below I'll list a bunch of the most interesting looking ones chronologically and leave it up to my readers to figure out which ones to pursue in more depth. After the list I'm also going to list the posts, articles and sites that I used in my research. Danny Bloom has done a lot of work in this area and his material has been invaluable.

I've read a few of the books on the list but not many. So in a sense, this is very much a list for my own use over the next year or so.


The Books


The Resources


These list obviously only scratch the surface. If anyone has any particular recommendations that I don't mention here, please feel free to include them in comments.

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Excellent. The more popular this becomes, the more likely we'll see film or television pick up these ideas and do something with them.

Humans learn from stories, and the lessons learned are held as true even where the story is fiction.

A couple of obvious ones to add:

_Make Room! Make Room!_, Harry Harrison, 1966, and its well-known film adaptation _Soylent Green, 1973_. The depictions of the settings in the film are evocative of what we can expect in an overheated world.

_Stand on Zanzibar_, John Brunner, 1968. One of the central premises of the book is overpopulation and its effects: arguably the root cause of climate change. Hugo Award winner, 1969.

And one that isn't as well known but darn well should be:

_The Sheep Look Up_, John Brunner, 1972. The effects of ecological catastrophe in the US. About which, William Gibson said, "No one except possibly the late John Brunner, in his brilliant novel The Sheep Look Up, has ever described anything in science fiction that is remotely like the reality of 2007 as we know it."

The above two by Brunner, along with two others of his, are sometimes referred to as "The Club of Rome Quartet," when taken together as emblematic of the future that the Club of Rome warned about if we failed to heed the limits to growth.

Fast-forward to 2014, and we are now living in the world we warned ourselves about.

I like to point out that I've been writing cli-fi short fiction for over twenty years. The earliest (in English) appeared in the anthology _Tesseracts 4_ (1992), "Remember, the Dead Say", and the latest (for now) just came out in the anthology _Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse_ (2014). Along the way, I've written quite a few more stories in French. At some point, I'll gather them in a short story collection, if only for historical interest.

Before that, I'll probably finalize my inventory of Canadian cli-fi, from the 19th century to today, in English and French...

By Jean-Louis Trudel (not verified) on 13 Aug 2014 #permalink

Considered on their novelistic merits, the three by Kim Stanley Robinson should be cast aside with the proverbial great force. Much of KSR's other work borders on greatness, and the science in the trilogy seems reasonably solid, but the characters and plot never reach the levels of believable or interesting.

I second G's recommendations of Brunner's Big Four, and add John Barnes's quirky Mother of All Storms and Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 13 Aug 2014 #permalink

The wonderful 'The Song of Phaid the Gambler' by Mick Farren is set on a future Earth split up into isolated regions by zones of extreme weather, and is looking more like predictive fiction as time goes by.

By John Haigh (not verified) on 13 Aug 2014 #permalink

John, very good post indeed! You might be interested to know that on Saturday in London.....well...

Kim Stanley Robinson will be there with 5 sci fi historians with interest in cli fi as well. Stay tuned.

SF Convention To Feature 'Sci Fi Meets Cli Fi' Panel At 12 noon
August 16

Since the IPCC reports have been coming out, more and more SF writers
have been focusing on climate change and global warming in their
science fiction stories and novels. Now a major SF convention has
enlisted a stellar panel of authors and professors to talk about "When
SF meets cli fi" this Saturday in London. Sparks should fly!

By Danny Bloom (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

And John, LOL, re ''.....In any case, climate change fiction (or “cli-fi” to use the rather ugly short form) is fiction...... the more you SEE the term in print and the more you say the term out loud, the prettier and prettier it becomes. Trust me. Many people reacted the way you did there -- "the rather ugly short form" -- LOL. and even worse, making jokes about clit lit and worse. Alison Flood the book critic at the Guardian in the UK wrote a very positive blog about the rise of cli fi last year but she also started off saying "I can't stand the sound of it,...."'' but i like what it stands for. "' But one thing John, the actual term that i coined isi in fact CLI FI, not "climate ficiton" -- ''climate change fiction'' is not a genre at all. the name of this new genre i created is called just CLI FI, ugly as it sounds at first. SMILE. you will get used to it. If you don't I will eat my hat! How's that for a wager? TO REPEAT: the term here is cli fi not ''climate change fiction''. See Wikipedia page for "cli fi" to understand why.

By Danny Bloom (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

And a note to G above, re ''Excellent. The more popular this becomes, the more likely we’ll see film or television pick up these ideas and do something with them. Humans learn from stories, and the lessons learned are held as true even where the story is fiction. ''

YES! That was my intention with this genre. Already Hollywood is turning out cli fi movies, NOAH, INTO THE STORM and the upcoming INTERSTELLAR, and many news reporters covering the INTO THE STORM movie referred to the movie as a CLI FI the term is making headway in Hollywood already and MORE TO COME. I can tell you this too: there will be the world's first CLI FI MOVIE AWARDS event next March 2015, which I am setting up now at a small liberal arts college in the MidWest of the USA, on the sidelines of its annual film festival, and the annual awards to be hosted and presented by this college, with studnts running awards ceremony in conjunction with professors running the film festival, it will be called...THE CLIFFIES. Prepare! and nominations are already being accepted for the 2015 event for movies released in 2014. Send nominations to -- I just word today from the colege officials, it's official!

By Danny Bloom (not verified) on 14 Aug 2014 #permalink

Star's Reach, by John Michael Greer, is a hero quest set four centuries from now, where non-submerged parts of the US are called Meriga and Nuwinga, and have been greatly changed by climate change and energy depletion.

A good resource is (formerly, which has archived over 200 novels in the genre and just recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. No cake though!

We also have a public discussion group at The focus is more than just climate-themed literature, however--dealing with eco fiction/art overall, but these resources are great. The site includes also a large database.

Nearly 200 journalists, authors, photographers, scientists, artists, academics have joined in, and the debates and discussions can be pretty lively! Feel free to join in.

By Mary Woodbury (not verified) on 15 Aug 2014 #permalink

Just to head this one off: If the theme of _Interstellar_ is escape from a dying Earth, that's a bad meme and we need to counteract it.

Interstellar migration, even more so than interplanetary migration (Mars) absolutely depends upon having a sustainable Earth civilization. These projects represent the largest and most long-term scientific & engineering works that will ever be undertaken by humanity. In order to succeed, they depend absolutely on maintaining a scientifically and technologically capable civilization with enough surplus resources to commit for spans of thousands of years.

Going to Mars and the stars, is not The Rapture. Going to Mars and the stars, is not the escape hatch. Going to Mars and the stars is the _reward_ for passing the Darwin test on planet Earth. And it's the _necessity_ for passing the Darwin test on the cosmic scale.


Re. John Michael Greer: He is very interesting and very smart, and also a Druid. Druidism is a form of pre-Christian paganism based on the premise of the inherent sacredness of nature: one can take this purely naturalistically, or one can include a supernatural aspect such as "soul" if one is so inclined. I've been reading his stuff for some time now and found it consistently impressive, even where I disagree with him (such as re. his anti-technology positions e.g. anti-nuclear and anti-space).

Greer's take on a number of subjects is down-to-earth and rational. For example he does not believe that technological civilization will suddenly collapse, but instead will gradually decline as a function of its ecological impacts. Some of his prescriptions for sustainability are inherently sensible, and touch on areas such as the valuation of labor and the reconfiguration of the economy to achieve a steady state that provides economic security and wellbeing for all, though at a lower level of material wealth.

It would be useful and productive to open up a dialogue between Greer and the science community, to bridge certain cultural gaps that presently exist in areas of strategy related to sustainability.

Let's not forget "The Big Wheel" by William Rollo - a greenhouse gas tipping point is reached and the remnants of humanity are left in space, and Cold War enmities are still in play. Published 1984, New English Library, UK.

Trevor Hoyle's "The Last Gasp", 1983, is similar - but the megadoom comes from the death of Phytoplankton in the Earth's oceans from polution.

"It would be useful and productive to open up a dialogue between Greer and the science community ..."

Earlier this year Greer spoke at a conference with Dr Dennis Meadows, Dr Mark Cochrane and others. If anything the scientists were more pessimistic than Greer. I wrote about it here:

I'll second Mr. Butler's recommendation of Heavy Weather (1994), by Bruce Sterling.

By Brian Rich (not verified) on 22 Aug 2014 #permalink

Would there be a literary magazine that publishes climate change short stories set in the (mostly) real present?

By Tyger Wright (not verified) on 04 Dec 2014 #permalink

Another one to add to the list is Steven Gould's "Blind Waves". That was the first bit of after-the-event climate-change fiction that made me really aware of the possibility of sea-level rise.

By Mark DeVries (not verified) on 14 Dec 2014 #permalink

Another one to add is The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. 2012. A novel about how families are affected by the slowing of the Earth's rotation and days becoming 36 hours long.
I could not put the book down!

By M. K. Whetzel (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink