I’m pleased and honored that Dan Bloom agreed to do an interview for gzeiglerbooks.com.
Dan is the man—with the passion and the plan—who planted the seed that is blossoming into the Cli Fi meme. Dan was recently quoted in a Time magazine article (May 19 issue, both online and print editions) as the person who coined and popularized the phrase CLI FI. He also suggested to me that my thriller, ”The Straw That Broke” be included on the website clifibooks.com as a new entry in the emerging CLI FI sub-genre.
Dan is an independent climate activist, a longtime journalist and student of the media, and a veritable PR machine for the issues for which he feels great passion. He works out of a cyber cafe in Taiwan. I call Dan the “networking cyclone in the Taiwan cafe.”
Gregory: Dan, you are appearing on my blog at the same time you are being quoted in Time magazine. What does being in Time magazine feel like?
Dan: To be honest, I really feel that this is not about me. I dropped my ego in 1983 after a near fatal plane crash in Alaska…living on borrowed time since then…lucky to be alive! I’m not selling anything so the TIME quote means only one thing to me: it is good for the Cli Fi movement. I want nothing from it, but to see CLI FI take off and touch people via books and movies—my little gift to the future.
Gregory: Dan, you don’t own a computer or have an office. You work in a noisy smoke-filled cyber cafe in a small town in south Taiwan—how on Earth did you manage to pitch your CLI FI story to the world’s major media such as the recent article in Time magazine?
Dan: I first coined the term, Cli Fi in 2008 in a blog post about a screenplay I was informally ”pitching” to some film producers in Los Angeles. Nothing came of our exchange. But once I got the Cli Fi term into my PR head, I started thinking about how it might be useful as a new genre of literature and movies.
I used the term Cli Fi in a few op ed pieces I wrote for newspapers and websites in Asia and Hollywood in 2011. In 2012, I used Cli Fi for a novel I was promoting titled Polar City Red and that was the first time the term appeared in print in newspapers and on real websites. And then in late 2012, a climate scientist in the USA named Judith Curry who runs a climate blog called ”CLIMATE ETC” ran a long blog post titled simply “Cli Fi” in which she enthused about 20 or so Cli Fi novels she had made a list of, one of which was the book I had been promoting, Polar City Red.
And then, out of the blue, NPR in Washington did a big radio story interviewing Dr Curry and cli-fi novelists Barbara Kingsolver and Nathaniel Rich and the NPR story was headlined on the show’s print website as something like “A hot new literary genre takes off — cli fi.”
Like I said, Greg, I had no idea NPR was doing the story and I was surprised and delighted they used my term in their headline and in the story. That radio program went viral in April 2014 and led to all the future coverage later in the Guardian in London, the New Yorker magazine, The New York Times, Dissent magazine, the Huffington Post and three op ed pieces by Margaret Atwood in which she used the Cli Fi term. So NPR really made all this happen.
About a week after the NPR story aired, I went into full speed PR operation and immediately started the 24/7 PR machine that I have been running since May 1, 2013, without missing a day.
I have using my informal, amateur, PR skill to try to popularize Cli Fi as a deep-green climate activist and literary provocateur, to serve as an alarm about the dangers humankind faces in regard to climate change and global warming. So I didn’t create the Cli Fi term as a marketing tool but more as a way to wake up people who are still sleepwalking towards the Climapocalypse.
How did I manage to attract the attention of many of the world’s media outlets—mostly, Lady Luck and a lot of help from friends in the newspaper business in the USA and the UK.
Gregory: Is your PR style traditional press release, or do you use some kind of Guerilla Theater approach?
Dan: My style is email press releases with lots of typos and unformatted line breaks and sent every day for a month until the recipient either replies to me ”yes” or ”no”, or blocks me completely from their accounts. It happens. But I need to get this story out. So I do what I have to do. It works.
Gregory: Considering your success, students of PR could learn much from your methods. What can you share from the past 12 months as you steered your CLI FI project into the global media?
Dan: Just a few words of encouragement: never give up, don’t take no for an answer, be polite, and when you do something wrong always apologize. Don’t think of it as “work.” Think of it as a mission, a battle, a dream that you want to see come true.
Gregory: You are obviously a guy with vision (even through the cafe smoke). What future interviews or initiatives are you anticipating?
Dan: I am seeking more media coverage in the BBC, CNN, AFP, and Associated Press wire service and Reuters, too. My goal is to make Cli Fi such a popular term that everyone on Earth knows it. And this will take at least ten more years of constant PR work.
As for new projects, I am planning to set up an international literary award called the Nevil Shute Climate Novel Award with the first award going to the best current Cli Fi novel in 2020 and then every year thereafter. The prize for “The Nevils” will be one million dollars (US).
Gregory: Wow. That’s ambitious but as I get to know you better, not in the least bit surprising. I’ll start working on my entry today. Anything else you want to add, Dan?
Dan: Yes, Greg, I have a question for you now. The title of your Cli Fi thriller is “The Straw That Broke”. Is the title taken from the old saying that something is “the straw the broke the camel’s back” and can you explain how that title fits the theme of your novel?
Gregory: Ah-ha, it’s the old interview the interviewer technique. The Straw That Broke refers to two things. A straw is a tunnel into a body of water. The straws sucking water out of the Colorado River are a central focus of my thriller. Also, The Straw That Broke refers to the “last straw” environmentally speaking. As in, we either get some of these issues right, soon—such as management of the Colorado River (named America’s most endangered river by the American Rivers Organization)—or it will be too late. The Camel’s back will be broken.
Gregory: Thanks Dan for your time and trouble. You are an inspiration.