It is not science fiction, but it is close. And a professor in Taipei is looking into it.
Richard Chen (陳榮彬), who teaches urban fiction at National Taiwan University, wrote an article in July last year about what he called the rise of a new genre of literature in the West — climate fiction — and he is now preparing a paper on the subject that is to be presented at an international conference at Fu Jen Catholic University this month.
In last year’s article, titled “Not Just Science Fiction” (不只是科幻小說), Chen said that a new literary genre called “cli-fi” was gaining media attention, with reports in London’s Guardian and Financial Times newspapers as well as in the New Yorker magazine and National Public Radio in the US, but he had not heard of it until he read a Guardian article by British writer Rodge Glass in May last year.
Climate fiction is inspired by climate change and global warming.
“Cli-fi, for me, is indeed too important to be ignored by readers in Taiwan,” Chen said in an e-mail last month. “It has already been boosted by such international writers as Margaret Atwood in Canada and Nathaniel Rich in America.”
The paper Chen is writing will be the first academic paper in the world to focus on cli-fi as an emerging literary genre and will review its history and literary background.
Chen said he plans to demarcate the line between cli-fi and traditional sci-fi works.
“While cli-fi is usually filled with apocalyptic and moral implications of climate catastrophes, sci-fi is usually filled with the intention of exploring the possibilities of science and its relationship with humankind. Climate fiction is not only about global warming, but it appears to be also intended as a ‘global warning’ which can send messages to as many people as possible,” he said.
While there have not been any cli-fi novels published in Taiwan or other Asian countries, Chen said he believes the genre still has to grow more in the West to become popular in this country.
“Movies such as The Day After Tomorrow and the upcoming Noah by Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky, about the bibilical flood 5,000 years ago, resonate with Taiwanese audiences, so cli-fi novels will likely be written and published as the genre gains steam worldwide,” he said.
With climate change and global warming popular topics on Taiwanese TV shows and in newspaper editorials, Chen said he believes the cli-fi genre is sure to find a home in Taiwan as well.