Are you a clifihead?

By Dan Bloom
Dan Bloom

Dan Bloom

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan —  If you grew up in the 1970s (or later) and were a die-hard ”Grateful Dead” rock band fan, you probably remember how fans often called themselves “Deadheads” in the ensuing decades, and still do today.

The nickname arose when a large number of fans began travelling to see the band perform at as many shows as they could. In time, and assisted by savvy newspaper headline writers, a nationwide community of “deadheads” developed, using their own idioms and slang.
According to my research, the “deadhead” term first appeared in print at the suggestion of a writer named Hank Harrison (no relation to the editor of this newspaper).
Fast-forward to 2016: A new term has recently surfaced for fans and writers of ”cli-fi” novels, coined by a doctoral student in London, and it’s “clifiheads.” He tweeted the nickname the other day on his Twitter feed and it caught my eye. And you know, it  just might catch on.
“Clifiheads” could be fans of the genre, novelists determined to make a name for themselves in the genre or academics deeply immersed in the arcane details of the rising genre. Are you a ”clifihead?”
Jewish visionaries and intellectuals have had a long fascination with both sci-fi and cli-fi, and as the 21st Century powers on, Jewish pundits and newspaper columnists like Naomi Klein in Canada and George Monbiot in Britain and Andrew Revkin in New York, along with novelists such as Nathaniel Rich and Edward Rubin, are probing the challenging issues of man-made global warming in the Anthrocene Age.
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C.,  headlined ”The Subfield That Is Changing the Landscape of Literary Studies,” put it this way in the very first sentence:  “The burgeoning subfield of literary studies that focuses on human beings’ impact on the environment is changing the curricula of English departments across the country.””Climate fiction — ‘cli-fi,’ for short — often depicts a grim future of a changed world, portraying how humanity must deal with years of environmental neglect,” the article went on. “The genre, which has seen a fourfold increase in published books in the past six years, according to data collected by, is giving professors and students a bevy of books outside of environmental studies to anchor discussions of climate change and its consequences.”

Are they all “clifiheads?” Something is happened, that’s or sure.

Another news article by Sarah Stankorp in ”Good” magazine noted that Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood ”adopted the cli-fi term in a 2012 tweet, popularizing the genre designation more broadly, and since then, cli-fi has continued its rise, becoming the subject of a growing number of literary curricula and conferences.”

”Clifiheads” are not dreaded zombies, but wide-awake pathfinders searching for answers to the vexing climate issues that face humankind today.

I’m delighted to see this new term get coined, and as a member of the growing global cli-fi community, from France to China, I welcome this slang word to the English language. Long may it nurture and inspire other fans and writers and academics.

As Edward Rubin, author of a recent cli-fi novel titled ‘The Heatstroke Line’ and professor at Vanderbilt University, told Good magazine: “Now quite a number of the [sci-fi or cli-fi] books that portray a disastrous future, either explicitly deal with climate change or incorporate climate change as background.”

“Clifiheads” are here to stay.

Bloom, based in Taiwan, is a freelance writer and an inveterate web surfer who has been credited with coining the term “cli-fi.”  He may be contacted via [email protected].  Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)

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