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The “Cli-Fi” Genre and the Luftmentsh Lab

Dan Bloom
February 10, 2015

by Dan Bloom

foyles_bookstore_cli-fiI ALWAYS HAVE LIVED by the Hebrew saying from Scripture (Proverbs 29:18) that goes, "Without a vision, the people perish." The full translation in English is sometimes rendered as: "Where there is no vision, the people perish," and goes on to add: "But he that keepeth the law, happy is he."

In terms of climate change and global warming, I feel that we need a vision on how to stop it, and we also need some laws with teeth in them to stop the CO2 emissions that threaten humankind worldwide.

So in my luftmentsh way, a few years ago, working as an independent climate activist armed with a few PR tools in my home office ''lab,'' I created a new genre term for novels and movies that I dubbed "cli-fi" — riffing on ''sci fi'' but standing for ''climate fiction,'' and intended as a wake up call for writers and movie directors to make more climate-themed creations. I went to the media and lobbied for some news articles about the rise of the cli-fi genre. Lo and behold, my small and unheralded "vision" began to catch on: articles appeared on NPR, the New York Times, The Guardian in London, Time magazine, and the Associated Press wire service. Google "cli-fi" and you will see how my quiet PR work has panned out. The cli-fi term is all over the Internet now, and one semi-goofy yet very serious Jewish guy in Taiwan made this happen.

How? I just followed Proverbs 29:18. And I networked with a long list of Jewish media friends via email and they suggested contacts and platforms to work with. And many non-Jewish friends and editors, of course, also helped push this meme forward. But it began in a small Jewish luftmentsh lab in Taiwan, without a PhD to my name or any street cred. And no science or literary cred, either, Just a deep compassionate interest in future generations.

About a year ago, in keeping with this personal interest in climate change issues and the arts, I began lobbying a book industry group in New York to create a new genre category for "Cli-Fi" novels listed on Amazon and other book sites. One woman in the book industry was kind enough to write back to me last summer, noting: "Thanks for this good suggestion. Coincidentally, this 'cli-fi' heading was recently suggested by someone else and was discussed at the last subject codes committee meeting. I'll send your email along to the chair of that committee, to be discussed again at the upcoming meeting. If the code gets added, it will be available with the next edition."

Any new lobbying effort takes time, patience, and polite persistence. It could take some time, but one day, we will see a "Cli-Fi" category for Amazon-listed books. It's in the cards. With a large lobbying army of cli-fi novelists and movie scriptwriters, in addition to lobbying efforts by literary critics and book publishers themselves, it will happen.

Meanwhile, man-made global warming is not going away anytime soon.

Dan Bloom lives in Chiayi City, Taiwan and is a regular correspondent for the San Diego Jewish World.