Monday, October 09, 2017

Bill McKibben pens a darkly comic cli-fi novel titled "Radio Free Vermont"

And already cli-fi has transitioned from a sub-cultural colloquialism circulating informally around the blogosphere into both a cultural buzzword and a staple academic term as well.
Just to name a few examples from a long list: cli-fi was recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries, it has started to appear as a term in numerous academic conferences and publications, and there has been emergence of the first how-to manual such as Ellen Szabo’s Saving the World One Word at a Time: Writing Cli-Fi, and Amy Brady's monthly cli-fi lit column in the Chiago Review of Books on current cli-fi trends, and the increasing inclusion of cli-fi as a label in award classifications and marketing endeavors.

As you can see, cli-fi is in the air, and there's no stopping it.

There's no stepping on it, either.

However, despite the wealth of cli-fi primary texts across all media, there has not yet been a comprehensive compilation of secondary sources facilitating the engagement with cli-fi in the environmental humanities. Now there is.


The list of over 100 references is a stepping stone into cli-fi's diverse, at times hotly debated, conceptual trajectories, disciplinary appropriations, and ideological underpinnings.
The next 25 years will likely provide scholars and students in literary studies and related disciplines with rich ground for new research and classroom debate, calling for an even more rigorous scrutiny of the multiple contact points and interlockings between cli-fi and American literature -- and world literature as well.


And now American climate activist Bill McKibben has entered the cli-fi world, with a debut novel titled "Radio Free Vermont."

Way back in 2005, McKibben was calling for novels and movies about cli-fi, but it took him another 12 years to write his own entry in the cli-fi sweepstakes.

When he wrote the Grist essay titled ''What the warming world needs now is art, sweet art" in 2005, the cli-fi term had not yet been coined. But fast foward to 2017 and McKibben is aboard the train now, using a semi-comic novel to reach readers worldwide, as the book will be translated into 25 languages over the next several years.

Starting November 7, which is the novel's official publication date, McKibben will embark on a nationwide book tour to promote the novel, and you can expect both glowing book reviews from climate activists and progressive literary critics as well as darkly negative reviews from climate denialists and rightwingers with their heads in the climate sands.

McKibben, a religious Christian who has been a Methodist all his life, is the founder of the environmental organizations ''Step It Up'' and, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. In 2010 The Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist."

The novel, which is also likely to be the beginning of a movement, is McKibben's debut and it follows a band of Vermont patriots who decide that their state might be better off as its own republic in the Age of Trump.

As the host of Radio Free Vermont -- a pirate radio station that is "underground, underpowered, and underfoot" -- an elderly man in his 70s named Vern Barclay is currently broadcasting from an "undisclosed and double-secret location." With the help of a young computer prodigy named Perry Alterson, Vern uses his radio show to advocate for a simple yet radical idea: an independent Vermont, one where the state secedes from the United States and operates under a free local economy. But for now, he and his radio show must remain untraceable, because in addition to being a lifelong Vermonter and concerned citizen, Vern Barclay is also a fugitive from the law.

In this entertaining cli-fi, McKibben, no spring chicken himself, expands upon an idea that's become more popular than ever: seceding from the United States of America. Along with Vern and Perry, McKibben imagines an eccentric group of activists who carry out their own version of guerilla warfare, which includes dismissing local middle school children early in honor of 'Ethan Allen Day' and hijacking a Coors Light truck and replacing the stock with local brew.

Witty, biting, and terrifyingly timely, ''Radio Free Vermont'' is Bill McKibben's fictional response to the burgeoning resistance movement created by the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016.

It's cli-fi with a comic twist, as only Mckibben can twist it.

No comments: