''New York 2140'' Hardcover March 2017
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 saying goes. In publishing parlance, we could say ''as random house goes, so goes Penguin and Harpercollins.
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 Issac 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 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.
"Vver my dead body," she told this blogger in 2013. "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 editor of PW 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 Rafe Sagalyn or Jim Rutman or John Silberstack or Al Zucerkman or Peter Berens, you'll likle hear the cli-fi term being whispered in the hallways. 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.