When I tell people I’m working on a cli-fi novel, I’d say about 80% (alert: made-up statistic based on anecdotal and half-remembered evidence) ask, what’s cli-fi?

I used to get excited about this lack of awareness around cli-fi as a genre, because I thought I’d invented something. But ever since sci-fi (and the more recent Psi-Fi, which we’ll get to in a bit) and probably even before that concept was phrase-captured, there was an apocalyptic climate element involved. Why? Because that’s the worst thing that could happen to us, and humans are great at imagining the worst. Creating the high-tech, fantastic part? That’s more work.

As usual, I had not invented anything (yet…I’m not done trying, there’s still time!). I had Columbused a thing that already existed.

Also as usual, Jules Verne appears to have started it, with the first science fiction novel about climate change due to axis tilt.

Side note: I’ve never read any Jules Verne, but the book I’m referencing here has an amazing plot and it sounds like something I already wrote, I swear I did not plagiarize him, we just think alike. It also has a fantastic calculation error plot twist reminiscent of the Mars Climate Orbiter debacle of 1999.

Anyway, let me get back to my original point, that the catastrophe part, the cli-fi, is really, really easy to imagine, but the fantastic, inventive part, e.g., is tough. Or, it was tough for 24-years-ago me. Since then, life moved on, and actual inventors created the technology I was straining to imagine when I started this novel in 1996.

Which brings me to Psi-Fi. Later renamed Iris, it’s a program (now an app) that enhances music based on an algorithm to recreate the sounds and effects of live music. It may also improve mental health? We’ll see!

Unlike Psi-Fi/Iris, all the tech in my book, including the ubiquitous headset, is harmful to humans and their brains. What a bummer! I’ll never be a tech innovator (or get shot into space, my real goal) if I don’t step up my game like the ‘hippie inventor‘ and ‘royal-adjacent entrepreneur‘ who made Psi-Fi.*

Even though I didn’t invent cli-fi or psi-fi, still pretty excited to follow up on both. Next time I’ll work on tech positivity. Just kidding! My next novel is an international biomedical espionage thriller. But maybe the one after.


*Phrases quoted from the article by Jonathan Margolis in 17 Feb 2020 print ed. Financial Times [+online link]

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