Australian Cli-Fi: Fiction or Reality? With Dr Jessica White

On Wednesday 9 June 2021, we were joined by Dr Jessica White, who gave a fabulous presentation on Australian Cli-Fi. Jessica White is the author of the novels A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012) and a hybrid memoir about deafness, Hearing Maud (2019), which won the Micahel Crouch award for debut biography and was shortlisted for four major literary awards. Her short stories, essays and poems have appeared widely in Australian and international literary journals and she has won awards, funding and residencies. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and English Literature at UniSA, where she is writing an ecobiography of Western Australia’s first non-Indigenous female scientist, 19th-century botanist Georgiana Molloy.

An abstract and recording of her presentation are available below. 

Australian Cli-Fi: Fiction or Reality?

‘We need new ways of speaking about uncertain futures’ writes Muninjali author Ellen van Neerven in ‘The Country is Like a Body’, her essay on climate change and Aboriginal knowledge. She continues, ‘The term “climate change” is often too vague and removed for the here and now of rising seas, changing temperatures and species devastation to sink in. Australians’ habitats – our homes and our cultures – are at risk’. Drawing on the ‘Climate Change in Australian Narratives’ dataset in the Australian Literature database, this paper provides a survey of climate fiction in Australia, which emerged with the publication of George Turner’s 1987 novel The Sea and Summer. It attends to some of the structural consistencies of climate fiction (for example, the mosaic novel), themes (grief, loss, and parents and children) and subgenres such as the near-future novel (for example, Anchor Point by Alice Robinson, 2015) and includes analysis of climate fiction by Aboriginal writers, such as Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013) and Ellen van Neerven’s story ‘Water’ from their collection Heat and Light (2014). The paper aims to arrive at a sense of the ways in which Australia’s writers are responding to threats to the continent’s unique landforms, ecosystems and human and other-than human species.