Do today's crop of dystopian cli-fi novels have to be so grim? Yes, they do. And here's why!
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: ''Do today's crop of dystopian cli-fi novels have to be so grim? Yes, they do. And here's why!''
An oped from the ideas behind cli-fi dystopiana
by staff writer
Cli-fi is a genre ripe for popularity in the times we live in and here's why. In an era of impending climatic meltdown, the rising new genre is jammed with dark reflections of the age. On film, there have been a handful of recent examples— 2014’s The Rover, last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road—but the phenomenon has been more pronounced in novels. .
We are, as the old saying goes, living through interesting times, and today's cli-fi novelists and screenwriters are clearly as receptive to that as the rest of us. They’ve being influenced by the chaos creatively: If you’re going to make a novel set in the future, a dystopia just makes more sense. Dystopia means disorder and conflict, two things that the storyteller thrives on; a vision of the future where all is well is likely to be less compelling.
Some might say the moment for dystopian climate novels has come at the wrong time. But no, the time is right.
If the function of a fictional dystopian future is to scare us out of complacency, then there must be merit in the many of the current crop of cli-fi novels and upcoming movies being as dark and unforgiving as possible. It may not be wholly pleasurable to be subjected to such grim visions but this kind of cli-fi has an important role. Critics can argue that such novels are too bleak, but what would be the point of offering false hope? What would be the use in pretending otherwise?
The fictional utopia of a future like Star Trek’s is so comforting as to allow us to relax and ignore what troubles we face as a species. But the likes of the current crop of dystopian cli-fi novels offer no such comfort. They force us to sit up, elucidating as they do future fears we aren’t fully able to contemplate. For example, though we’re far from feeling the worst of climate change, many of these cli-fi novels today, present a worst-case-scenario for where we might end up if we don’t swerve from the current path—the equivalent of a smack to the head. Such novels and upcoming cli-fi movies are more useful than those that are cautiously optimistic, and inspiring in their own way, precisely because they’re so cynical.
Sure, messages of positivity and hope are useful right now, but there should also be no illusions about the enormity of the dangers we currently face. The day may come when we get to bask in the warmth of a plentiful Star Trek utopia. To get there, we first have to face reality: that we’ll see no utopia on this present trajectory. Dystopian cli-fi may not always be fun to watch, but at least it helps us come to grips with some sobering, essential truths—and, hopefully, get some way toward figuring things out.