For many freelance science and environmental reporters, most story pitches to newspaper and magazine editors focus on hard science. They usually include charts and statistics, interviews and quotes from professors and scientists in their offices or labs. While some target more educated readers, most are aimed at the general reader.
But there is another kind of freelance science communication story that targets the general audience and has the power to engage them in new ways. That’s an article that combines science and novel writing for a new literary genre that’s been dubbed climate fiction. And it’s increasingly being pitched to editors in the United States, Canada, Israel, Britain, France and Australia.
Think ”science fiction,” but change the story to novels and movies about climate change issues, such as Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” and Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” and Nathaniel Rich’s cli-fi satire “Odds Against Tomorrow.”
As a reporter and PR consultant, I’ve been pitching freelance climate-related news articles to newspaper and magazine editors for over ten years now. The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic magazine, and dozens of other English-language outlets worldwide are now open to freelance reporters with a science background and a literary bent.
Novels and movies about climate issues can be PR tools for climate communication writers. But they also work as a science communications tool for readers who might otherwise shy away from ”boring” climate change news stories full of government stastistics and scientific charts.
And it’s a way to connect freelance science reporters to a host of publications now willing to consider climate-themed news articles with a literary theme. In addition to the New York Times and the Guardian newspapers, they include the the BBC, Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, CNN, Sierra magazine, The New Republic, The Nation, High Country News, college alumni magazines and dozens of in-flight magazines which are always looking for unique kinds of articles.
Other magazines and websites that have accepted such news articles include Pacific Standard, Earth Island Journal and the Chicago Review of Books, where critic Amy Brady now writes a monthly column devoted to literary trends.
Not every newspaper or internet reader is attuned to hard science or breaking climate change news. Many readers, however, will be sucked into an article that highlights a literary story that explores those issues in an accurate and scientific way.
My goal as a PR consultant is to inspire and motivate more science and environment writers to do stories that explore the intersection of climate change issues with literature and cinema, arts and culture. What I want to do is help science journalists writers pitch their stories around this new literary term.
For example, I assisted J.K. Ullrich pitch a story (“Climate Fiction: Can Books Save the Planet?”) that was published on the Atlantic to global applause. I helped Rodge Glass in London get a climate-themed news story published in The Guardian.
Also, James Sullivan placed an article in Literary Hub, an online literary magazine. Lily Rothman did a big story in Time magazine about summer climate movies. The New York Times did a widely-read “Room for Debate” forum with five literary and science experts about the rise and usefulness of climate-themed novels and movies.
Hannah Fairfield at the Climate Desk at The New York Times is always looking for innovative stories about climate novels and movies and how they intersect with climate science and current politics. Pamela Paul at The New York Times Book Review is also warming up to pitches from freelancers about the rise of this new literary genre.
One story that has yet to be written, or even pitched as far as I know (hint hint), is about how the book industry is taking to the new genre. Interviews and quotes from publishers, literary agents, literary critics, public relations and marketing people at major and even small publishers would make a compelling article for someone to pitch and write and publish.
Finally, you might use your Twitter feed to pitch ideas globally to potential editors. Many publications around the world would love to see some freelance pitches for climate-themed literary news articles in their regions of the world. Think India, Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico, Israel.