NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES - September 1, 2014
With films like "Noah" and "Into the Storm" and "Snowpiercer" -- and
"Interstellar" coming in the late fall -- Hollywood has seen the
handwriting on the wall and embraced climate themes in full
technicolor. Call the movies ''cli fi'' or disaster thrillers,
whatever. There's more to come in the film world.
But while Hollywood and studio marketing people (and online social
media reporters covering new film releases) have welcomed ''cli fi'' into
the fold, the entrenched powers in the literary world controlled by
book editors in New York and London seem to be aloof to all this and
show little interest in the rise of the cli fi genre term.
I am not sure why, but maybe it has to do with literary critics and
book section editors feeling that literature is a ''sacred calling''
and only the all-powerful editors -- as ''gatekeepers'' -- can decide
what's real and what's not in the literary world. So be it.
The more I thought about the disconnect between the literary world of
the book industry compared with the open arms in Hollywood, the more I
began to realize that the print novel is basically dead -- in the
rising waters of global warming -- and has little power anymore to
influence people or impact society.
The New York and London book review section editors are for the most
part just a bunch of gatekeepers
and the gatekeepers don't seem to care about climate change. They have
their own agendas. Like
being cool and trendy and avantgarde and the like. Climate change is
apparently not on the menu at the hip restaurants where they dine in
Manhattan and London.
So I now feel that the real power of cli fi to change the world, to wake
people up lies in Hollywood and world cinema, indie cinema as well.
Print book are basically dead in the water, dinosaurs. And Hollywood
and the media covering Hollywood, much more than the
literary gatekeepers in New York and London and Washington and Los
Angeles, are getting the cli fi message much better and much more
directly than the print media gatekeepers.
A sea change is happening: Hollywood and the media covering Hollywood
have really embraced cli fi and that is where the real wake-up call
power of public awareness now lies.
Novels about climate change still will have a place in our culture but
a very limited one, and one getting smaller day by day in this digital
world of 500 channels and multiple YouTube distractions. Speculative
fiction and eco-fiction novels still find readers. Look at Margaret
Atwood; look at Barbara Kingsolver; look at Kim Stanley Robinson; look
at James Vandermeer; look at David Brin.
I've noticed this sea change as Hollywood directors and PR mavens have
recently become much more with it, in terms of "getting" the cli fi
message. When Time magazine did a three-page cli fi spread on summer
cli fi movies in its May 19, 2014 issue what went worldwide, I began
to notice the way the print and online media were handling the new,
mushrooming cli fi genre.
After the Time article by Lily Rothman came out, the New York Times
''Room for Debate'' forum picked up the Hollywood angle for cli fi
movies, assigning academics and experts to talk about films such as
"Snowpiercer" and "Into the Storm" and the upcoming "Interstellar."
So I came to realize that Hollywood is where cli fi can have its
biggest impact, since print novels are dead in the water (see above)
and the few that do get published by the major publishers are reviewed
only by the gatekeepers at the New York Times and the Guardian in
I see a big future of cli fi movies in Hollywood. Big.
Look around in the social media world: From Time to the New York
Times, from Mashable's Andrew Freedman to the New York Post's Page Six
gossip column, there has been more ink about Hollywood and cli fi than
The Big Six book industry is blind to cli fi. Books are dying. Few
people read anymore, on a large scale. Novels have little impact
anymore. Movies reign supreme, and this is where I see cli fi blooming
now: in Hollywood. Hollywood players get it, the Hollywood media gets
it, and books are dead and movies rule the day now. Publishers Row is
dithering. London, too.
So I am following my gut instinct and my media radar and hoping to see
cli fi genre turn into a real bonanza in the realm of Hollywood film
directors and producers and writers. There is a big future for cli fi in
Movie directors get it and they want to wake up the world. And make a
little spare change along the way, sure. It's a business. So cli fi
has found its true home not on Publishers Row in Manhattan but in
Hollywood, and just in time. And this is a good
Cinema has the power to impact the world over important issues of
climate change and global warming. Novels have no such power anymore.
Print is dying, cinema is alive!
Of course, speculative fiction novels and eco-fiction novels still
have a place in our culture, and many of these novels will be adapted
as screenplays and see the light of day as popular movies, so writers
still have a role to play in all this.
As a climate activist and PR guy, I take the cli fi genre very
seriously, and I now see that Hollywood is where cli fi belongs, front
Do the math: movies reach millions. Most midlist novels reach 3,000
people, if that many.