Exploring cli-fi


I haven't posted anything related to my story recently, but that doesn't mean I'm not doing anything. Morgan's arc of A State of Equilibrium is being edited, though I took a short break. You see, there is this cli-fi story I want to write for a contest. 'Cli-fi' stands for climate fiction, and honestly, I had never heard of the term before. Pretty weird, actually, since it sounds like the perfect genre for an earth scientist like me, as the focus of the genre is climate change and all the nasty problems that come with it. It's a growing genre, and I can clearly see why.

I'm afraid I can't share the short story with you at this moment, but I'm basically drowning parts of the Netherlands in it (sorry, Rotterdam, but you are an ugly city anyway). Cli-fi stories, or at least this one, are quite realistic and take place on Earth, and I'm struggling with that.

When any other story of mine runs into a plot hole, I can change the lore or setting to solve it. For example, there was a moment in a State of Equilibrium where I needed to have a very specific travel time. I pretty much redesigned half a continent to get what I wanted by moving coastlines, cities, and mountains around. With my short story however, such a solution is out of the question. The rules of the word are fixed, and you have to look for possibilities that fit those rules.

People sometimes say that writing fantasy or sci-fi is harder than 'normal' fiction because you basically have to design a complete new world (unless it takes place on Earth, of course). That is a lot of work, but it brings so much flexibility as well. You can design every aspect of it (as long as you are being consistent), so basically, you are the god of your own creation.

With the short story, I had to do lots of research to figure out what the 'rules' are - and most often these were literal rules, as I needed to know laws and protocols about floods. I'm supposed to know a lot when it comes to coasts, so the fact I had to Google so many things just made me feel stupid. I normally find doing research fun, though, but now, I ran into a point where I just couldn't answer my questions anymore because the internet couldn't give them to me.

'But that's the point where you just make stuff up, like with fantasy,' you might think. Well, I'm afraid my brain doesn't work like that. 'Making stuff up' sounds like you are designing the rules, at least to me. The rules are already there though, but I could no longer see what they were. That makes me very insecure; will the reader know the rules, and notice I might have broken them here? That's a bad thing; if people notice that the story breaks its own rules, you'll end their suspension of disbelief, and pull them out of a story.

I eventually settled for something plausible for the problem, telling myself that if I can't find answers, the reader will not be able to either - unless she works at the flood calamity department of Rijkswaterstaat (a federal agency responsible for water safety, amongst other things).

This little journey out of my default genre told me that writing something completely different also forces me to think in a different way - a way I don't like a lot, but I learnt from it. I therefore challenge you to try the same; if you are a fantasy or sci-fi author, try to write something that doesn't have 'your rules' in it. That doesn't have to be a cli-fi story, of course, but our Earth, even in a different time period, is a good setting for it. Fan-fiction can be an option as well, since those worlds and characters are already set as well. Write yourself into a corner on purpose, and try to find a way out of it without breaking the rules. Good luck!

#advice #struggle #clifi #shortstory #personal

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