Saturday, July 28, 2018

In a Post-Apocalypse World, How Will Publishers Treat 'Cli-Fi'?

In a Post-Apocalypse World, How Will Publishers Treat  'Cli-Fi'?

by staff writer and agencies

[ Dan Bloom edits ''The Cli-Fi Report'' at ]

As the world warms, and things get hot and hotter, publishers in several nations will be looking more and more at the rising genre of cli-fi and trying to figure out how to publish such novels and short stories. Sci-fi they understand already. It's easy to publish. But this new subgenre of sci-fi, how to publish it? And will the public take to it?

To find out, I asked a few people in the publishing industry in London, New York and Sydney for their take of how to publish and promote ''cli-fi'' in a Post-Apocalypse world. Here is some of what I've heard:

''As an acquiring editor at a major firm, I feel that if cli fi takes off the way that sci-fi  did years ago, this could
be a very good publishing event for all of us. And good news, too."

"I am not sure if cli-fi will work, but the term makes sense in this
age of climate fear and loathing. Maybe there's something here."

"I would love to see people submitting cli-fi genre novels. I see a
big market there and with a lot of territory to explore."

"If we want to save the world, maybe this cockamamie cli-fi term might
help. I would love to see some major authors tackle the theme."

''As a publisher and with a concern not only for our bottom line but
also for the fate of the Earth, and believe me, i am sincere about
this, I think cli-fi novels have a future with us."

''As a director of book marketing, I think our PR and marketing people will go
for cli-fi in a big way. It's in the air. Everyone is talking about it now. Come 2025 and beyond,
it will much more popular with the public."

So cli-fi? Really? Let me explain.

In 2005, British nature writer Robert Macfarlane wrote an essay titled “The Burning Question” in the Guardian in which he asked: in this time of climate change, where is all the climate change literature?

The same year, American writer Bill McKibben posed the same question in an essay in Grist magazine.

I hope one of them, or both of them, will revisit their 2005 pieces and update their ideas to 2018 and 2019, since now there is an answer that they might find useful: the emergence of a new literary genre that’s been dubbed “cli-fi” (for “climate change fiction" novels and stories and movies).

I know a little about cli-fi because I coined the term just for this purpose, and I think it is resonating with writers and readers around the world now. Will publishers come aboard? Time will tell.

One teenage girl in Norway sent me a class paper she wrote (in Norwegian) about climate change novels in her country and about her own understanding of how cli-fi could serve as a useful wake-up call about climate issues. She’s not the only one. In school classrooms around the world, young students are learning about and discussing cli-fi themes in novels and movies.

You might say that cli-fi has arrived.

While more and more authors are penning cli-fi novels  —  with movie scriptwriters creating cli-fi screenplays to try to sell to Hollywood as well  —  classrooms worldwide are now focusing attention of this rising genre of literature and cinema.

“Literary fiction has dreamed up many versions of the end of the world, but how is contemporary fiction dealing with the threat of climate change?” asks professor Jenny Bavidge at the University of Cambridge, who has taught a class on cli-fi  at the Institute of Continuing Education there.

Cli-fi is a catchy abbreviation for the genre of “climate fiction,” much in the same way that “sci-fi” is a nickname for “science fiction.” With news articles about the rise of cli-fi appearing in the Guardian and the New York Times, teachers now see an opportune time to introduce “cli-fi” classes into the curriculum. And book publishers can't be too far behind either.

Bavidge tells her students in the introduction to her classes: “This course will focus on works by contemporary authors, including Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan, and will ask whether “cli-fi” imagines solutions as well as ends.”

“As people living through this particular historical moment, we may want to ask how far [cli-fi] novels contribute to efforts to better understand our relationship with the planet and its ecosystems,” she said.

One of my mentors in the world of literature is the American sci-fi novelist David Brin. I once asked him about how climate change themes have been influencing sci-fi novels and movies, and he told me by email: “Global warming and flooding were important in my 1989 novel ‘Earth,’ but they were earlier featured in the film ‘Soylent Green’ based on Harry Harrison’s novel ‘Make Room, Make Room!’”

Several non-English speaking countries are also looking at ‘’cli-fi’’ and how it impacts their own literary cultures, including Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

Now “cli-fi” is finding a room of its own as well.

Look at just two of the many course titles that I have seen so far archived online: “Cli Fi: Stories and Science from the Coming Climate Apocalypse,” and “Cli-fi: Science Fiction, Climate Change, and Apocalypse.”

Novels discussed in one college class last year included Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl,” Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behaviour,” and Ian McEwan’s “Solar.” There was at least one “zombie apocalypse” in the curriculum, too!

So there you have it. “Cli-fi” has reached into the minds of readers and writers and publishers today. It answers the important question posed by Bill McKibben and Robert Macfarlane in 2005.

It’s a worldwide trend now because global warming impacts us all, and literature and cinema always respond to the things that matter. In a post-Apocalypse world. cli-fi has arrived if not on a silver platter then on a hot and heavy metal one!

No comments: