Paul Collins Sets Up Cli Fi Central Facebook Group (Guest Post)

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Dan Bloom

As the cli fi genre of literature continues to worldbuild a global community, several online sites now are bringing together people interested in the emerging genre, either as readers or writers, as the Washington Post recently reported in an oped by this reporter in the
Post’s “PostEverything” section.

Among the online sites focusing on the cli fi genre is one set up by aconcerned citizen in London, who feels that the issues facing humankind in the future will be important to solve. One way is to publish cli fi novels.

Meet Paul Collins.

Collins set up his Facebook cli-fi group (”Cli-fi Central”) to encourage a dialogue between anyone with an interest in the emerging genre. Paul is an environmental lawyer who has worked at the heart of the UK government advising on climate change issues and drafting
legislation. He strongly believes cli-fi has enormous potential for engaging a wide and diverse global audience on the many issues around climate change and could help shape the debate.

His FB group now has over 100 members, and while it is a private grow and all posts and comments remain private, anyone is welcome to apply to join the group, Collins says.

His background fits. Paul is an oceanography graduate and has a Masters in environmental
law from University College, London. He currently works for the UK’s main environmental regulators, the Environment Agency, as a legal advisor on climate change issues. Previously, Paul worked as an environmental lawyer in a law firm, advising banks, retailers and manufacturers on environmental matters.

In addition, Paul is in the process of writing a short cli-fi story, tentatively titled
”The Testament of Gaia.”

“It’s a story about the triumph of love, courage and the human spirit when faced with the desolating effects of the fight against climate change,” Collins says from his office in London. “A fight led by a conspiracy of global politics and business.”

Asked to explain the rise of the cli-fi genre term, Collins said: “The term ‘cli-fi’ (short for climate fiction) describes a loose collection of novels, films, plays, works of art and even video games which all touch on, or are concerned with, climate change.”

“I am really interested in the potential of cli-fi to engage a wide and diverse audience on the issues around climate change and influence the debate,” he says. “With this in mind, I set up the Facebook cli-fi group for anyone with an interest in cli-fi to share and discuss their work, ideas and find out more about this exciting genre.”

How Paul became interested in the cli-fi genre is an interesting story.

“I thought I was a newcomer to the cli-fi genre. But in reality, I’ve been unwittingly reading books that fall within that category for a while,” he says. “I’m an environmental lawyer and believe that writers of fiction are missing a trick in fully engaging with people on environmental concerns and influencing the debate on those issues on a global scale . It’s heartening that there are a number of excellent books out there that could be making a difference to the thinking of a wide audience of different age groups. Despite this, I still think there are a number of hurdles that would need to be overcome if we are
to invigorate the genre and make the most of its potential.”

Writers of the genre should share thoughts and ideas of what falls within the scope of the new genre, he believes, and asks: “Should we go beyond the consequences of weather events? Is there too much talk of science which could alienate readers? Where are the political characters in plots? Is there too much pessimism, should we focus our
optimistic eye?”

Collins says he think there’s a huge potential audience for cli-fi out there. And he no longer feels alone.

“Google ‘cli-fi’ and you’ll come across some fantastic articles and interviews on the subject and there is also a great resource at the ‘Nature Fiction’ website in Canada,” Paul says, posing even more questions. “So what do the literary agents and publishers think? Are they prepared to take a risk with new writers from a varied pool of talent that may exist beyond the usual boundaries, for example scientists?”

“Self-publishing isn’t an option for every wannabe author and without the backing of an agent and publisher, what could be a wonderful idea for a book that could really connect with an audience on a global scale, is simply lost,” he adds. “That would be a real shame.”

“Yes, the ideal would be for an author to prepare the usual pitch and draft chapters for an agent but what about those who have the ideas for a game-changing book but need a nod of hope from an agent or publisher before being able to commit a huge amount of time to such a project?” Paul adds. “Yes, there is always the risk that what emerges at the end of the writing is not marketable or indeed any good, but a more willing approach could make all the difference to invigorating the cli-fi genre and making a real difference to how we engage on the environment.

Paul invites people worldwide to come and join the Facebook cli-fi group.

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