Friday, August 31, 2018

Cli-fi has arrived. Have you read any lately?

The publishing industry warms up to the cli-fi genre, as sci-fi writers get in on the stories, too

by  Dan Bloom, staff writer, with agencies

Cli-fi is not your grandfather’s sci-fi. It’s a new subgenre of sci-fi, very new, and in this summer of 2018, it’s on more and more people’s minds. Especially publishing people in London, New York and Sydney. Cli-fi novels have arrived.

Hollywood producers are snapping up film options for cli-fi novels now, and directors are lining up for the greenlight, a good cast, and compelling story to tell. Cli-fi movies won’t replace sci-fi movies, because sci-fi has its place in our culture, too. But move over, sci-fi, because here comes cli-fi.

“In popular films about climate disasters, there’s typically a frenzied scenario in which a group of scientific experts with furrowed brows monitor changes in Earth’s activities just before rushing to warn the entire world of impending upheaval by way of an unprecedented cataclysmic weather event,” writes Kenya Foy. “In the background, everyday citizens go on about their daily duties in complete oblivion — that is, until a tsunami of melted ice cap water sweeps through the populated area, engulfing everything in sight and permanently altering life on Earth as we know it.’’

However, she adds: “In real life, scientists, environmental experts and climate change organizations continue doing the tireless work of making sure that these terrifying “cli-fi” apocalyptic movie plots remain onscreen and don’t actually unfold outside of big-budget movie sets, where they stand to obliterate far more than their box office competitors.”

In Manhattan and London and Sydney, publishers like Morgan Entrekin and Jamie Byng and Julianne Brand are thinking cli-fi now. They’ve heard the term and they’re looking for authors and their agents to come in with good stories. Stories to turn into powerful novels and to later adapt as Hollywood movies. 

Literary agents like Nicole Aragi and Elizabeth Sheinkman are actively seeking out cli-fi novels to turn into literary fiction and genre categories, with Hollywood film options always in mind.

What turned the tide? The summer of 2018 worldwide, from the USA to Canada to Europe, with its wildfires and floods and heatwaves, along with constant media coverage of the link between climate change and these deadly and catastrophic events, helped turned the tide. 

The news coverage woke everyone up. Even the climate denialists are waking up. David Wells-Wallace and Nat Rich, writing compelling journalism about climate change impacts events, also helped put the cli-fi genre into play.

The next 100 years will be the Age of Cli-Fi. Books, shorts stories, novels, poems, art projects, operas, musicals, pop songs, university classes and online forums worldwide will focus our attention on the power of cli-fi to move people with emotions. Government statistics and scientific charts are important, but they are often boring. Cli-fi storytelling goes for the heart and the mind, and the results will surprise future generations.
Publishers now understand this and are seeking out content to fill their bookshelves and complete their marketing plans. Literary agents are in on the game, too, as our PR people and, believe it or not, book reviewers and the New York Times Book Review on Sundays, so ably edited by Brown alum Pamela Paul and her staff of literature lovers.

Cli-fi has arrived. Have you read any lately?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YOUR POV? reply in comments below. a friend tells me today -- It's always tough to get your finger on the pulse of the book industry until after the fact, but ultimately they want to publish what sells, so if Kim Stanley Robinson writes more cli-fi novels, or if Neal Stephenson wants to do a cli-fi opus, those books will certainly get published.

Having said that, from the trenches as a writer in the field, it certainly seems to me like there is less pure cli-fi getting written and published. I think the lack of new cli-fi has more to do with our current political climate than any aversion to cli-fi. Please note that in order to combat the prevalence of conservative "populist" ideologies—which are at their root racist, sexist, and homophobic—the sci-fi community at large is moving towards inclusivity and representation of marginalized voices in the genre.
We're still seeing some cli-fi settings in scifi and SF/F work, but for the time being at least, the cli-fi elements are more of a backdrop and less the driving-force of the stories. Another factor could be the fact we're already starting to live the reality of climate change. Personally, I had to scrap my near-future cli-fi novel I was working on because the future caught up with us too quickly!