Thursday 15 May 2014

Cli-Fi Authors: Natasha Carthew

Cli-Fi, or Climate Fiction, is on the rise as more and more authors become aware of the impact that climate change is having on our planet and start to explore the possible effects through fiction. We are shown futures beset by rising seas, deforestation, frozen wastes and endless droughts. None of these futures are ones we wish to see – and yet all are frightening possibilities!

But what of the authors of these books? What drew then to climate fiction? What are their fears for our planet? How realistic are the scenarios they describe?

In order to answer these questions I have invited a number of my fellow Cli-Fi authors to answer a few questions on this blog over the coming weeks.

First up is author of the wonderful Winter Damage -Natasha Carthew.

Natasha Carthew is a Country Writer who lives in her native Cornwall with her partner of eighteen years. She writes full-time and runs wild writing workshops for all ages.

She has had three books of poetry published but Winter Damage is her first novel. Her second book The Light That Gets Lost will be published by Bloomsbury in February 2015.

Welcome Natasha to The Scribbling Seaserpent. Please start by telling us a bit about yourself and your book.

WINTER DAMAGE is a story about youth reclaiming their future whilst navigating forever snow and sub-zero temperatures in a never ending winter. A presentation of suffering and despair and the nature of our broken society set against the beautiful, harsh landscape of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.

How has climate change played out in Winter Damage?
The climate has already changed for good in Winter Damage and plays a part in societies collapse. It’s set in what most people would call Dystopian Present but I call Justopia (It’s just happened or just about to happen). The fall in temperature and the snow in a part of the world that only occasionally gets this kind of severe weather gives the reader some indication what the book is about. The weather get worse through the unravelling of the story and the characters (and us as readers) know without much doubt that this is how things are going to be from now on.

Had you heard of the term Cli-Fi when you started writing Winter Damage? What first brought the term to your attention?

I had heard the term before but didn’t think to apply it to Winter Damage until you did.

What compelled you to write about climate change?

The climate, the weather and the changes and temperature of the seasons plays a massive part in my life (I write entirely out of doors and run Wild Writing workshops). It’s very important to me to include issues that affect us all in my work, especially environmental ones. Strange climate patterns feature heavily not just in this book but also my next two books.

How do you feel about Cli-Fi as a means of getting the climate change message across?

It’s a great way to get the message across, especially in Young Adult Fiction. It’s also important to get a few facts in the writing somewhere, push the seriousness that this could happen/is happening. So many young people have concerns about climate change which is great, their awareness means they are the ones who will ultimately take further steps to protect the planet.

Are we already starting to see the effects of climate change and what do you think the future holds for our planet?

I believe we have been seeing the effects of climate change for a long time and most people, especially in this throwaway culture of ours, don’t do enough for the environment because they don’t believe that the changes are happening or will happen. I believe that some kind of climate/doomsday scenario if not too far away (Justopia) and then maybe the planet can get on with the business of healing itself. Until that time, I’ll just keep on writing about it.

Thank you Natasha. I’m looking forward to your next book! 


  1. Rabbi Newman is Rabbi Emeritus at Hinchley Reform Synagogue in the UK and an active Twitter tweeter and when he heard about the new cli fi genre term, he sent me a message in just 140 letters or so that read: “Your coinage of cli fi is a brilliant and important reframing.”
    Reframing, I said to myself, what does he mean by “reframing?” I took if that he meant something like cli fi was reframing the discussion over climate change and global warming, from a literary perspective, but I wasn’t sure because the word as Rabbi Newman used was new to me.
    So I asked him for a clarification and an amplification.
    In Internet time, the good rabbi wrote over the seas and over the wires that carry email messages here and there: “Dan, your research tells it all and I’m no expert. I came across ‘reframing’ in some research I was doing,” he wrote.
    It turns out that Rabbi Newman is a longtime climate activist in Britain and understood right away what the cli fi genre term was set up to be. He calls it a “reframing” — a term I like — and he explains it this way:
    ”As I understand it — and used it when I first came across your term of ‘cli-fi’ – it means thinking about something in a new way. What is clever, to me, in the term cli-fi is the double-take, the fact that it makes you re-think, ie. reframe,” he wrote.
    ”First, it suggests that all this climate talk is a fiction…then I realize sci-fi is not a fiction but an imagining of the present into the future,” he added, noting: ”At another level, your work on cli-fi, of seeing a genre and stimulating cultural interest and awareness in the future we are creating, is also of great importance.”
    ”Dan, I’m delighted to have come across your work. Climate change is real, it is happening now, the implications and speed are far greater than most of us wish or are able to face. But there is also a speed of change in the other direction, though, in one sense, it is already ‘too late’. I am glad that my simple word — ‘reframing’ — caught your imagination.”
    It sure did. And more than that, or in addition to that, I now have a new Twitter pal in London.

    1. Good going Dan, - thanks for sharing :-)


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