Yes, it’s true, The New York Times buries its editorial head in the sand and refuses to review ‘cli-fi’ novels, preferring to hire a sci-fi writer to review sci-fi books on a monthly basis in a special column by Amal El-Mohtar titled “Otherworldly.”
Strange and uncanny and part of what literary critic Amitav Ghosh has called ”The Great Derangement” that the New York Times book review section editor Pamela Paul and its Climate Desk editor Hannah Fairfield refuse to review cli-fi novels ”as” cli-fi novels or profile cli-fi novelists ”as” cli-fi novelists.
Who is sci-fi expert Amal El-Mohtar? She won the Nebula, Locus and Hugo awards for her short story “Seasons of Glass and Iron.” Her novella “This Is How You Lose the Time War,” written with Max Gladstone, will be published in 2019. She’s a very good writer and an excellent book reviewer. She deserves some company on the New York Times book pages, however, and that would be a qualified cli-fi book reviewer as well. Sci-fi isn’t the only game in town, boys and girls.
But instead, the Times buries its head in the sand in this Age of the Anthropocene when everyone from James Hansen to Michael Mann to Naomi Oreskes to Naomi Klein to Margaret Atwood are trying to warn the public that unchecked runaway global warming will lead to global disasters in the distant future and might even lead to the end of the human race. But what does the New York Times do when it comes to reviewing cli-fi novels and even to reply to my emails and tweets about its irrational editorial behavior? It buries its head in the sands of Manhattan, goes gung-ho over SFF and sci-fi and fantasy escapist novels and does not publish one word about cli-fi novels or cli-fi novelists. It seems the Times is hooked on the cult of sci-fi and refuses to hire a book review to write a monthly cli-fi review column titled perhaps “This Wordly.”
If the Times can afford an editorial budget that allows for the hiring of an Amal El-Mohtar to review SFF novels, surely it has the resources to hire a reviewer for a monthly cli-fi book review column.
It’s not 1953 anymore, Pamela Paul. It’s not 1993 anymore, Hannah Fairfield. It’s not 2005 anymore, dear New York Times. It’s 2018 and soon it will be 2019 and then the 2020s and the 2030s and the 2040s, and will the Times still be refusing to hire a literary critic to review the many cli-fi novels being published then? It’s time now for the Times to wake up and do what must be done: hire someone like Amal El-Mohtar (but with a background in cli-fi novels as either a literary critic or a novelist herself) to start a monthly cli-fi book review column. And yes, I like that titled for the column: “This Worldly.”
What do you say, New York Times? It’s time to face reality and stop your escapist and cultish sci-fi fandom in your book reviews, The world is at the brink of something unspeakable and beyond tragic, and yet all the Times does is twiddle its posh Manhattan fingers and go gaga over sci-fi while ignoring the most important new literary genre of the 21st century: cli-fi.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The New York Times newsroom could wake up. It’s not to late to serve your readers better, Dean Baquet. Sure, keep the monthly SFF review column for your readers who prefer escapism and entertainment. But please do add a monthly cli-fi review column. James Hansen, for one, will applaud you.