Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Book industry is picking up on ''cli-fi'' with Kim Stanley Robinson's upcoming release of "New York 2140"

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''New York 2140'' Hardcover March 2017

The book industry is picking up on cli-fi

Publishers, editors, agents, marketing departments getting behind the rising new genre

by Dan Bloom with staff reporters

''As Maine goes, so goes the Union,'' an old American political saying goes. In publishing parlance, we could say ''as Orbit goes, so goes Penguin and HarperCollins.'' It's a new world out there.

Despite a slow and cautious start beginning in 2013, the publishing industry is now embracing cli-fi as it once embraced sci-fi. It's only logical, since cli-fi is seen more and more as a literary subgenre of science fiction.

"If Isaac Asimov was alive today, he'd be writing cli-fi," says a top literary agent in New York. "He was already speaking out about global warming in filmed remarks at a science forum in 1988."
Kim Stanley Robinson has a new novel coming out with a big splash, pardon the pun, next March, on March 21, 2017, which is symbolic as its Spring Equinox day.

The title of KSR's cli-fi?

"New York 2140" ...and yes, it's set in the near future in the 22nd century in the year 2140, to be exact. It marks KSR's full embrace of the cli-fi subgenre and the publishing industry will never be the same, according to top editors, agents and CEOs in the business.

"His PR team will be promoting the new KSR novel as a climate change story, and not as a sci-fi novel per se," a publishing industry insider told me earlier this year. "It's about dozens of Manhatttan island skyscraper residence towers half-submerged from rising sea levels up and down the East Coast. Armegeddon Central is no longer Los Angeles with its earthquake disaster stories. Robinson, the ultimate Californian, has taken back manhattan for himself."

Given that the floodgates are now open vis-a-vis ''cli-fi,'' agents and acquiring editors are getting behind the new subgenre and pushing the literary gatekeepers at the New York Times book review and the Washington Post to loosen up a bit and embrace the new publishing attitude, with a new attitude.

Previously, the usually astute and savvy editor of the NYTBR, Pamela Paul, said she would never review ''cli-fi'' novels using the word ''cli-fi'' in any review published under her watch. Never.

"Over my dead body," she told this blogger in 2013, politely of course, the way Brown alums are polite to Tufts alums. "The cli-fi term will never appear in print in my secton of the newspaper as long as I am the editor here."

Three years later, she's changing her mind, and allowing, even encouraging her stable of freelance book reviewers  to use the once verboten term.

Publishers Weekly, PW as it is known in the book world, is following suit. While the usually astute and savvy editor of PW, longtime veteran of the publishing industry Jim Milliott,  said publicly in 2013 that he was "not interested" in cli-fi, in a terse tw-word email to this blogger, he now is, having let his hair down and loosened up a bit.

So if you talk book talk today with the likes of publishing tastemakers such as Peter Gethers, Nan Talese, Morgan Entrekin or superagents like Russell Galen or Rafe Sagalyn or Jim Rutman or John Silberstack or Al Zucerkman or Peter Berens, you'll likely hear the cli-fi term being whispered about in the hallways of Publishers Row. It's a brave new world out there amongst publishing hands now, and cli-fi is here to stay, rising subgenre that it is.

Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel will usher in a flood of new cli-fi starting in 2017 and 2018. There's no holding back the waters now. KSR, the science-fiction legend has spoken. And the publishing world is listening.

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