Good Energy at Hay 2017: What is climate fiction?

Posted in: Eco-friendly

Posted on: 19.05.2017

We’re proud supporters of the Hay Festival here at Good Energy, so it’s time to start talking books. Let’s start with a question - have you heard of ‘cli-fi’?

It’s short for climate fiction, and rhymes with that rather more familiar genre, sci-fi. The term ‘cli-fi’ was coined by an American journalist looking to raise the profile of the growing sub-set of fiction concerned with environmental change and the impact it could have on individuals and the world if not addressed.

It’s an exciting new area of literature to get familiar with if you’re interested in these issues, so here are a few recommendations for your reading list!


Our Climate Fiction Top Picks


Man reading a book

Margaret Atwood - MaddAddam trilogy

Margaret Atwood has been writing within the ‘speculative fiction’ spectrum for decades. She has always worked to ensure her writing is within the realms of possibility, so her MaddAddam trilogy is sown from the seeds of science.

Made up of Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAdam, this dystopian series explores the criss-crossing lives of several individuals living in a post-apocalyptic world. This world is recognisably our own planet feeling the effects of global warming, and the story evolves from this base to explore other modern dilemmas such as cloning and corporate greed. 

It’s an insightful series told through the stories of people doing their best to make a life in this new version of earth – and not always succeeding.

Ian McEwan - Solar

It’s the technical side of climate change that comes into focus in Ian McEwan’s Solar.

This short novel journeys through the later life of belligerent Nobel-Prize winning physicist Michael Beard as he – somewhat accidentally – makes great strides in the development of solar technology. As you’d expect from McEwan, the tumultuous passions and bleak musings of the protagonist are what drive the plot in Solar.

Beard is something of a climate change sceptic, and comes to be working in the field of clean energy due to other circumstances in his life. He is drawn up to be a comic figure, and his views present the climate debate in a different light to what you might previously have considered yourself, which makes for an interesting read.

Annie Proulx - Barkskins

Some books within the cli-fi clique really zoom in on a particular area of ecology, such as Annie Proulx’s Barkskins.

At over 700 pages, this novel isn’t exactly light reading! It begins with the colonisation of Canada (or, New France, as it was then) in the 1600s and takes the reader along a winding track to 2013, whilst peering through the looking glass at the nature of trees and forests.

The story is split between two families, one of which builds a timber and logging empire upon the capitalist foundation that forests are limitless and can never run out, and will always be there to provide more money. The other family, being largely indigenous, experiences the forest in a much more harmonious way, but discord strikes as the wheels of the industrial revolution turn and drive them from their natural home.

Proulx bounces between countries and continents showing the way different cultures live with their wooded surroundings, and how others attempt to bend them to their will with little foresight. If you have an interest in this area of ecology and you’ll be at Hay on May 31st, then head on over to the Good Energy stage to see Germaine Greer, Rob Penn and Beccy Speight on ‘Towards a new Charter for Trees, Woods, and People’.

credit Elisabeth Broekaert

Photo: Elisabeth Broekaert

Saci Lloyd – The Carbon Diaries

The Carbon Diaries series by Saci Lloyd is especially popular with teenage readers in recent years, as they show how climate change could start to have an incremental effect on the lives of everyday adolescents.

Teenage protagonist Laura wants all the same things your average teenager wants, but must also deal with living in a United Kingdom where carbon rationing has been introduced, and extreme weather rears its intemperate head.

Lloyd, who has been praised for her approach to the topic of climate change for a younger audience, will be on the Oxfam Moot stage at Hay on May 29, joining Good Energy CEO Juliet Davenport and Marcus Brigstocke for a game of ‘I’m an expert, get me out of here!’

If cli-fi has got your attention, and you want to take some action of your own, you can cut your personal carbon footprint by up to 50% by switching to Good Energy and signing-up for 100% renewable electricity and Green Gas. Quote Hay17 when you switch now and get a £50 Waterstones voucher ready to fund your new cli-fi reading list.

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