Margaret Atwood and Hieroglyph Authors Explore Climate Fiction

July 30, 2015 in Hieroglyph


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.

Bob Beard is a fan of fandom. From Browncoats to Bronies, SCA members, Trekkers, Steampunks and more, Bob is passionate about understanding the performance and identity practices within various fandoms as well as creation of experiences for members of these groups to publicly advocate for themselves and their ideas. Bob is a Marine Corps veteran and double alumnus of Arizona State University, with a master's degree in Communication Studies and a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a humanities emphasis.