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Thursday, March 26 • 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Apocalypse Now, or Nearly: Folding Future & Present Together, In Imagining the Climate Crisis

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Ben Lerner, at the latest Brooklyn Festival, claimed onstage that his new novel 10:04 was ‘‘science fiction.’’ The book’s settings are entirely realistic, however, and its two major events are two recent hurricanes, first Irene and then Sandy. Those were, of course, climate events—their damage exacerbated by humanity’s abuse of the environment.   

So too, the novels and stories known loosely as ‘‘cli-fi,’’ addressing the current climate crisis, challenge and destabilize conventional notions of ‘‘sci-fi.’’ On the one hand, such work imagines a changed world. On the other, cli-fi also eschews genre elements, such as the apparatus of time- or space-travel. Instead, such novels and stories tends to exist in an alternative ‘‘now,’’ different in some essential way from our own, but otherwise using machinery and social structures we recognize. That’s the case even in so accessible and celebrated a text as Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. In that novel, the final chapters are set in an America at once our own and yet significantly otherwise. A similar alternative reality can be seen in lesser-known and more challenging fictions, by writers as diverse as George Saunders and Margaret Atwood. 

Our roundtable will address such literary work as both writers and readers. It will consider outstanding examples, such as those named already, and also grapple with difficulties of composition. In complicating our sense of the moment, cli-fi also transgresses boundaries between the artistic modes, and indeed all the arts.

avatar for John Domini

John Domini

reviewer, essayist, etc., Bookforum, Believer, Ploughshares, ABR, etc.
I'm here primarily as a reviewer and essayist, for instance my 2011 defense of the social relevance of postmodern American work, "Against the Impossible to Explain," which ran in a special number of The Quarterly Conversation. Besides that, I have a number of books and awards. Fiction in Paris Review and elsewhere, non-fiction in the New York Times and elsewhere, including Italian journals, poetry in Meridian (Editors’ Prize, '06) and et... Read More →


Matt Bell

Matt Bell is the author of the novel In The House Upon The Dirt Between The Lake And The Woods, a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award and the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two previous books, How They Were Found and Cataclysm Baby, and his next novel, Scrapper, will be published in Fall 2015. His stories have appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Fantasy, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast... Read More →
avatar for Christina Milletti

Christina Milletti

Christina Milletti is an Associate Professor of English at the University at Buffalo where she curates the Exhibit X Fiction Series and helped to found their new MA in English/Innovative Writing program. Her fiction and articles have appeared in Harcourt's Best New American Voices, American Letters & Commentary, The Cincinnati Review, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Studies in the Novel, and Fiction’s Present: Situating Narrative... Read More →

Thursday March 26, 2015 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Coffee House Theater

Attendees (10)