Margaret Atwood and Hieroglyph Authors Explore Climate Fiction

Global Day of Action Climate March in South Africa, 2011

Science fiction often heralds a change in our collective understanding of the world. From H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine to Toho’s Godzilla, the genre has provided us guideposts as well as enormous flashing yield, slow, or stop signs to help us navigate the path forward. Today, the rapidly expanding subgenre of “cli-fi” is beginning to fulfill this dual role of helpful guide and warning signal.

Cli-fi (following the naming convention of “sci-fi”) is climate fiction, and like the Victorian and Atomic Age analogs mentioned above, it asks its audiences to imagine and react to a future shaped by forces on a global scale – in this case, the disruption of ecological and social systems through climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. (To learn more about climate change, and the role of storytelling and art to shape our responses to it, visit the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University.)

The growing popularity of this genre might also serve as a teaching moment. In a new think-piece, Margaret Atwood wonders if cli-fi might “be a way of educating young people about the dangers that face them, and helping them to think through the problems and divine solutions?” It’s a noble goal, and many of Atwood’s fellow authors are rising to the challenge.’s digital magazine Matter is publishing a series of cli-fi short stories and essays by authors, scientists, reporters, and others, responding to Atwood’s challenge of grappling with a world shaped by climate change. You’ll see some familiar faces too, including Hieroglyph contributors Bruce Sterling and Charlie Jane Anders and Hieroglyph editor Ed Finn (seriously, that guy is everywhere).

We’re super excited about these ideas, and we look forward to exploring them with you. To that end, we’ve set up a new cli-fi conversation on the forums as a space for all of us to discuss, unpack, interpret, and share our big ideas around the intersection of climate change, human civilization, and speculative storytelling. See you on the boards!


Image courtesy of Oxfam International, used under a Creative Commons license.


2 responses to “Margaret Atwood and Hieroglyph Authors Explore Climate Fiction”

  1. daniel halevi bloom Avatar
    daniel halevi bloom

    Here’s a cli fi short story set in 2499 AD, anno destructo, and titled, well, read it here: – it’s dark but with a purpose, to prod readers out of their comfort zone on climate fiction. It’s not all happy endings, and it’s not going to BE all happy endings. We need to get used to that and yet at the same time, keep up our optimism and determination to be a DETERMINED NATION and fight back against the oil lobby and those who say EFF YOU to the future generaetions who might not even exist if the Oil Barons keep this up. So read this and note: NSFW: – Bob Beard at ASU tweets: ”If you like yr fiction reads w/dose of AGW, you will enjoy new literary genre of #clifi”

  2. Adam Cherson Avatar
    Adam Cherson

    Cli-fi is a catchy term, but climate change is but one aspect of a larger problem: ecocide. Ecocide is itself a consequence of humanity’s current and predominant metaphysics. If all we do as creators is focus on the climate change without considering the metaphysics then we are aiming too low. So yes I agree with Ms. Atwood’s statement to the extent that she recognizes that the climate change demon is deep inside of us— not out there in the atmosphere.