Reader question : Is High & Hard intended to be “cli-fi”?

… I read this [High & Hard : The War for the Cornerstone] during its first run here and just started getting into the second run at the new website. I was thinking about the dwarf chimneys destroying the elven forests, and the rising sea levels. Is this intended to be cli-fi?

– AH (a reader)

I had to look up the word “cli-fi” when I got this reader feedback. Essentially, cli-fi is climate-oriented science fiction. Here are a few of the pieces I found on it:

Cli-Fi: Birth of a Genre” by Rebecca Tuhos-Dubrow at Dissent
Behold the Rise of Dystopian Cli-Fi” by Brian Merchant at
Cli-Fi: One Answer to a Climate Problem?” by Bernie Bulkin at the Huffington Post
Global warning: the rise of cli-fi” by Rodge Glass at the Guardian
So Hot Right Now: Has Climate Change Created a New Literary Genre?” by Angela Evancie at NPR

First of all, I don’t think new topical matter necessarily justifies declaring a whole new genre, but I’ll take the word as people are using it: science fiction with climate change as a core element.

FourCharactersAs its name hints, the serialized novel High & Hard was already intended as a mash-up of high fantasy (also often called epic fantasy) and hard fantasy. The title also (I hope) conveys a Western fiction sense of grittiness, to undercut the romance and glory too often associated with fantasy fiction. The main character is a frontier marshal, barrel-loaded fire-arms are common, humans and dwarves are at war with elves and giants, and the three human nations are modeled loosely on Scandinavia, East Africa, and Iberia/Latin America. I was trying to have fun with a story without respecting any genre boundaries.

And, yes, climate change elements are core to the story. The seas are indeed rising (due to the loss of the “Cornerstone” in the subtitle) and the dwarves and elves are at odds over what could be seen as industrial pollution. But, the term cli-fi seems oriented more toward science fiction than fantasy.

So, would I consider High & Hard also a mash-up of fantasy and cli-fi, even though I didn’t even know there was such a thing as cli-fi when I started writing? Maybe. I was certainly aware of the allegorical possibilities, even though I’m not writing it as a strict allegory.

If readers feel that the cli-fi moniker qualifies, I would even consider updating the splash page to reflect that.

Thanks for the question!

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  1. Very cool. Hadn’t heard of cli-fi, either. That aspect of this story is one of the most impactful things about the story, aside from the central characters.

    I suspect we’ll be seeing an increasing amount of this genre in the future. Can’t imagine another story as intricately woven as High & Hard, though.

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