N.K. Jemisin

Coming in August 2015

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, from which enough ash spews to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

And it ends with you. You are the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where orogenes wield the power of the earth as a weapon and are feared far more than the long cold night. And you will have no mercy.

Learn more (coming soon).

An update on the update and the progress of the progress

Just occurred to me I’ve been really quiet here, aside from yelling at old men yelling at clouds. Yikes! Sorry ’bout that. I haven’t been quiet anywhere else, of course; it’s just that it’s usually easier for me to microblog on Facebook or Twitter than to macroblog here. Still, some things work better when discussed at length.

So, I’ve been getting lots of questions lately about The Fifth Season, and I have a marketing blurb for you, which my editor and I recently hashed out:


Three terrible things happen in a single day.

Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.

She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

This will appear on jacket copy and in distributor magazines and stuff like that, as I understand it. I’ll publish sample chapters here too, the way I have for all my previous books. That said, these things won’t be appearing for awhile, because the publication date for TFS has recently been pushed back to 2015.

Now, there’s a good reason for this: TFS is the first of a big, complicated trilogy, requiring a ton of research and in many ways taxing my creative abilities to their fullest — it’s the most challenging novel I’ve ever written, craftwise — and these aren’t exactly the kinds of books I can crank out like popcorn. So even though the first book is finished, I don’t think I can spit out the second one in, like, three months, which is what I’d have to do if the second book was to come out a year later! And Orbit (rightly, IMO) tries to arrange for its epic fantasy series to come out on a relatively compact timescale, so they’re pushing back the first book to give me more time to work on the second and third. I don’t think it’s fair to readers to keep them waiting for years and years between segments — except for writers whose last name is Martin and whose readers are obviously cool with that :) — so I’m completely on board with this decision.

And this is complicated by the fact that I’m working on something else in the meantime — a Seekrit Projekt — which is going to keep me off the TFS sequel for a few months. But I think most of you are going to be very happy when you see it.

So, that’s the state of the state. Any questions? (No, I’m not telling you what the Seekrit Projekt is. It’s a secret, good grief.)

Pretty much the only comment I’ll make here on the current SFWA shenanigans

Because dozens more people* are talking about and archiving it already. Nothing but admiration for folks who have the patience and blood pressure left to spend on this, but I can’t headdesk anymore. I need my head, and my desk, to write. Doing this pre-coffee, BTW, and hepped up on cold medicine, so brace yourself.

But here’s the thing: I am all about the First Amendment**. Most writers are. And if this current brave blow in defense of artistic expression had been actually about artistic expression, I might’ve been in their corner. If they’d gone to bat like this, poured out all this sturm und drang and all these Privileged Writer Tears, over the kinds of things the First Amendment was meant to protect — the voices of the minority; the rights of those who need to speak truth to power; subversive art, incisive journalism, political protest — then I would’ve signed the damn petition myself.

But context matters. Ethics matter. The guy initiating this petition has an extensive history of filling some of the most visible parts of the SFFsphere with his misogyny, homophobia, and other choice bigotries. He often wraps these ideas in anti-political-correctness freedom-fighting MURRICA flag-waving, but when it comes down to it, that’s what this petition is pushing for — this guy’s right to be a bigoted asshole, essentially unchallenged, in SFWA publications. Ditto a few other (mostly older, white, straight) guys’ right to do the same; this freedom to spout hate and fear and contempt for whole swaths of people is a privilege they once gleefully embraced, and they’re mad because it’s not the norm of professionalism anymore. They want it re-normalized. And by standing up not for artistic expression, but for the violent, exclusionary rhetoric that has made SFFdom such a hostile environment for many non-male non-straight non-white people, every signatory on that petition has basically laughed at the First Amendment. This has squat to do with freedom of expression. It’s about making sure the old (sorry, “The Old”) white guys get to talk how they want about the “furry pussies” and the “savages” and the “metrosexuals”, while making sure the targets of their vitriol STFU, waste energy defending their right to exist unobjectified, or leave the profession. That’s basically the opposite of what the First Amendment is supposed to do.

And yeah, I get that part of the problem here is that some of the petition’s signatories feel marginalized. Yet somehow Truesdale had a column in F&SF for years, and somehow Malzberg and Resnick had the SFWA Bulletin as a platform for years. And somehow lots of these signatories are bestsellers or former SFWA officers or have earned the highest awards in our genre, as the petition so-helpfully emphasized.

But you don’t get to claim marginalization when you’re at the center of a thing. You can’t endorse the efforts of bigots to establish a safe space for their bigotry, and then plausibly claim you’re not one of them. You don’t get to pretend that you’re in the demographic minority when you’re… not. And like I Tweeted yesterday before I had to go offline for some therapeutic Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer, you don’t get to pretend you’re being mistreated when really, you’re just being treated like your voice isn’t the only important one in the room anymore.

Oh, and — people who signed that petition: you want to know the real reason why you’re getting so much disrespect from the rest of the genre right now? It’s because you and your friends keep pulling shit like this while the rest of us are just trying to keep the lights on and put food on the table. It’s like Republicans passing bill after bill to fuck up reproductive health rights while the economy’s in the toilet; what the hell does this have to do with anything that matters? You got yours. You’re still getting it. You had every advantage in your favor, and you used the hell out of it. Good on you. But stop pitching shitfits just because the rest of us want a piece of the pie — the pie all of us helped to create — too.

Freedom of artistic expression does not trump good common sense, and at least a perceived modicum of morality (whether divinely inspired or by human agreement and consensus), or an innate sense of fundamental ethical awareness.Dave Truesdale***

Yeah. Right.

* And that’s just one week.

** Despite the fact that the First Amendment has nothing to do with this situation, because SFWA’s not the government. The “spirit of the First Amendment”, right. Funny how they focus on the Amendment’s spirit of free expression but not its spirit of inclusivity, etc.

*** Hat-tip to Nick Mamatas, for reading through Truesdale’s stuff so I didn’t have to.

Fave Reads of 2013

Yikes! This went up days ago and I forgot to link it here. Bad author! No biscuit. In my defense, though, I’m up to my neck in trying to finish a revision of The Fifth Season, so all the little things are kind of falling by the wayside. Like — oh. Happy new year. :)

Anyhow, my favorite stuff of 2013 is up over at The Book Smugglers, if you’re still looking for a way to burn those holiday gift cards and whatnot. Enjoy!

Concern trolling and “gratuitous diversity”

I really wasn’t planning to engage with this semicoherent muddle by Felicity Savage over at Amazing Stories. Half my Twitter feed has been laughing at this article for days — it’s usually amusing when people who don’t understand a thing attempt to critique it — but I don’t find it funny, just sadly exemplary of the kind of cluelessness that abounds within this genre, and Anglophone society as a whole.

But it got pointed out to me that Steve Davidson, the AS editor, has jumped into the discussion to try and clarify the muddle. It hasn’t helped much, but I think the gist of what he, and ostensibly Ms. Savage, are trying to say is right here:

I think that calling into question gratuitous examples of diversity advances a valid argument: stating that a character belongs to a particular minority while not backing that character up with background and characteristics that make them genuine representatives of that minority is, in many respects, gratuitous. The point of featuring non-majority characters is to expand our experience and knowledge, not to make a work more marketable. (And other things, like creating more opportunity, providing good role models, etc)

I, for instance, am bothered by television commercials where it is obvious that some corporate hack somewhere demanded that “one of every kind” be visualized in the commercial. They’re not genuine portrayals, they’re contrived and as such distort.

Really, Steve? That’s what bothers you?

Let me tell you what bothers me.

Concern trolling. Y’know, when someone “participates in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has some concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause. In reality they are a critic.” (From here.) It’s not lost on me that neither Mr. Davidson nor Ms. Savage have done or said much to advance the cause of “genuine diversity” in SFF — whatever they think that means — unless they’re doing it in so esoteric a way that I simply can’t recognize it. Quite the contrary: Ms. Savage seems to have advocated against full inclusion for women in adventure fantasy*, and judging by her ridicule of Expanded Horizons in the article, it’s clear she’s not all that interested in racial inclusiveness in SFF either. Not fictionally, and not in real life:

Fandom has tried to develop this literal-minded concept of diversity in real life with the establishment of “safe spaces” for female and non-white fans at conventions. It hasn’t always worked too well, owing to a problem with gawkers. The Angry Black Woman, a blogger, had an unfortunately typical experience at WisCon in 2010: her squee was harshed by “people who just stared into the POC safe space room like it was a particularly interesting zoo exhibit complete with pointing.” Pity the poor black fan who can’t attend a convention without people touching her hair or asking her to teach them about negritude. But also spare a wee drop of compassion for the straight, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered male! He’s lectured on his lack of diversity, told to read more stories about and by people with diverse perspectives–and yet when he tries to approach them in real life, it all too often … doesn’t end well.

Yes, pity the poor straight white guy, endless recipient of profane anger whenever he drops a bit of earnest, well-meaning bigotry. (Warning for Shetterly, linked and in the comments.) So pathos. Much meanies. WOW.

Indeed, the only kind of diversity Ms. Savage expresses a positive interest in is this kind:

Twitter post by Felicity Savage dated 11-29 stating: Valid disagreement. This is my kind of diversity - diversity of opinion! Personally I like...

Twitter post from Felicity Savage dated 11-29, stating: ...SFF that doesn't get bogged down in contemporary identities, but builds worlds I couldn't have imagined.

She concludes: “I want characters to be themselves, not reflections of us.” To which I can honestly say good luck, if she intends to write nothing but characters who are unimaginably non-reflective of human identities. I’m thinking the only way to write a character who reflects no human identity is to write a non-human — since after all, all humans have gender, and all humans have race, even if these are only things which have been ascribed to them by the reader. But y’know, I kinda don’t think what she’s doing here is some revolutionary call for more non-humans in SFF. I get the impression that what she’s calling for is unmarked default characters — i.e., characters whose identities aren’t mentioned, or who at least don’t force her to pause and think about whether and how they belong. But presumably she understands the point of all this gratuitous diversity that so irks her — which is the fact that in English-language literature, only straight white men are granted the privilege of unquestioned ubiquity. If we want to change that, we need to see more non-straight non-white non-men popping up in SFF, as gratuitously as straight white men do.

So what we have here in Ms. Savage’s post is an expression of concern about the rise of “gratuitous” diversity… framed by a call for more straight white men. And what we have in Mr. Davidson’s call for “minority”** characters who genuinely represent their own background is… the very gratuitous superficiality that he claims he doesn’t espouse. Because, well, he only demands that “minority” characters justify their existence in a given narrative. Only women and people of color (etc.) risk being less-than-genuine for appearing alongside dragons and spaceships without reason. There has to be a point, see, whenever people like me pop up in fiction. We’re there only to “expand our experience and knowledge”, to educate; we can’t just be kicking around for the same reasons white men would be. I mean, really: if we’re not doing something black (or gay or Jewish or whatever), why are we even there? Because, amirite, God knows we’re not marketable.

And we never will be, with friends like these.

* Yeah, OK, we live in a world where 95-lb child soldiers have been used to conquer nations, with and without modern weapons; women soldiers really shouldn’t be that hard a stretch of the imagination.

** Scare quotes are because it’s a bit silly to refer to 3.5 billion women or 1 billion Muslims (or whatever) with a term that suggests they’re only a small portion of humanity.

Contemplation, at the end of a season

It’s the end of awards season in SFFdom. The Killing Moon was published in May of 2012, and I meant to address this in May of 2013, after it had been on the market for a year — but when the book got nominated for a Nebula, a Locus, and the World Fantasy Award, I decided to wait and see if it won any of them. Alas, it did not. (The Shadowed Sun won a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice, tho’!) That said, the old aphorism that it’s an honor just to be nominated is very much truth for me, and here’s why.

I consider The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun to be my first novels.
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Reading along with Mark

I’ve been enjoying the hell out of my own books lately, thanks to Mark of Mark Reads/Watches/Does Stuff. I mentioned before that he’s been doing a read of the Inheritance Trilogy lately, and I’ve been following along. He’s at the penultimate chapter of the first book now, and… well, hell, just watch him:

For bonus points, count the number of times he says, “FUCK!” or “THIS BOOK!”

Let me tell you guys: it’s an unbelievable thrill for me as an author to watch someone react to my work like this. A good chunk of writing is trying to manipulate your reader’s emotions — yeah, I said it — and seeing if it worked is better feedback than even the best writing group or critique can offer. It’s also so gratifying to know that someone noticed a turn of phrase or line I was especially pleased with, and it’s awe-inspiring to know that someone finds my words, my little words, profound. Even though I wrote The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms years ago, watching this is doing wonders for my writing now, because it’s helping me refine and better-understand just how hard to hit something, or whether a delicate glancing blow would be more effective. Mark, if you’re reading this, thank you. And fellow authors, if Mark decides to do a reading of your work, brace yourself, because you’re in for an amazing ride.

To that end, I have just commissioned 10 videos for the last few chapters and end-material for The Kingdom of Gods. I feel a little weird commissioning readings of my own work, though, so to make myself feel better I’m going to throw down a challenge gauntlet and rope you into the fun too. :) Most of The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods have not been claimed thus far. So if you’re enjoying these videos too, then please commission a chapter yourself — it’s only $25, though please note the rules on length — and I will match your commission, up to $250. So if just 10 of you commission a video, I’ll do 10 more, and between us we could get most of the trilogy covered!

But even if you can’t commission anything right now, please spread the word about Mark’s awesome Reads. Seriously, these deserve to be seen far and wide.

New York Comic Con

After taking last year off, I’m heading back to NYCC this year — though only for a day (Saturday), since I generally find comic cons overwhelming and exhausting. But I’m making a nice packed day of it!

First off, I’ll be doing a signing at 1 pm at the Orbit/Hachette booth. I’m told there will be copies of The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun available! Second off, at 2:45 I’ll be on a panel sponsored by The Mary Sue on underrepresented groups in geek media. Lastly at 6:30, I’ll be on Geeks of Color ASSEMBLE!, on specifically PoC in fandom and media.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

How Long ’til Black Future Month?

In celebration of Janelle Monae’s new album, which I’ve bought but haven’t listened to yet since I’m holding it as a carrot/reward for meeting certain writing goals over the next few weeks… here’s an essay that I wrote for Jonathan Wright’s ADVENTURE ROCKETSHIP! Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco anthology. If you haven’t done so yet, check out both!

Note: this is the not-fully-proofed not-final draft of the essay.

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? The Toxins of Speculative Fiction, and the Antidote that is Janelle Monae

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Wah! I’ve been so busy at work I didn’t have time to post this here. But fortunately The Mary Sue is on the case. Here (and there) is the cover for the previously-Untitled Magic Seismology Project:

Book cover featuring a stone embossing flecked with gold inlay. Text reads "THE FIFTH SEASON. Every age must come to an end. N. K. Jemisin"

I haven’t talked much about this book because busy. But I absolutely love this cover. The Fifth Season is set in a world which has suffered frequent, repeated Extinction Level Events for millions of years, and all life (and magic) in this world has adapted to it. Hundreds of years might pass between these events — easy, plentiful years in which great cities rise, and people have the leisure for art and science and rapid advancement — but then, again and again, the cities fall. The world is littered with the detritus of these times of plenty, and this cover hints at them: past ages of decadence, now decaying; stone that endures beneath flaking gilt. Lauren Panepinto (Orbit’s Art Director) has nailed it again.


Stuff! Going! On!

Hokay! Belatedly realized I’ve been quieter than usual here, aside from occasional long philosophical screeds about SFF politics and global domination stuff. That’s because I’ve been phenomenally busy, and frankly when I’m busy it’s much easier to Tweet about stuff than take the time to do a blog post. But since it’s been so long since I’ve talked about Just Stuff here, I figured it was time to do an update.

First, I’ve finished the UMSP! My writing group, editor, and agent are now chewing on it, and I’m in Deep Thoughts mode, letting the heat of writing the first draft waft away so I can start the revision with a cool head.

Second, some upcoming appearances: Brooklyn Book Festival on September 22nd, New York Comic Con in October, Arisia in early 2014, Wiscon later the same year. And there’s one more thing I’ll be doing after that, but I can’t tell you about it. ::looks Terribly Mysterious::

Third, I’ve adopted a new cat! Yeah, that’s news, if you’ve been following my feline roommate saga here. This new fellow was adopted from a family I know which couldn’t keep him, and he and I seem to be getting along well thus far. His given name is Ozzy, but given that he’s huge and rambunctious and kind of larger-than-life, I have embellished his name as KING OZYMANDIAS (yes, it’s supposed to be in all caps).

Orange tabby cat sitting on a couch.


Fourth, book recs (sorta)! Been reading two in particular that I’m enjoying thus far (not quite done yet with either):

  • While I was down in Oz, I met a lovely author by the name of Amie Kaufman, who along with co-author Megan Spooner is about to release YA novel These Broken Stars. It’s not at all my usual fare, but I’m actually enjoying the heck out of it so far, so I’m pre-recommending it! (That’s when I recommend something before I finish it.)
  • Also, I’ve been reading Annalee Newitz’ Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. Which, since I’m working on a post-apocalyptic fantasy right now, counts as research. But it’s fun research; the book is written in an easily accessible and engaging way. Another pre-rec!

Fifth, I’ve been following along with the Mark Does Stuff reading of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I don’t usually get to see someone reacting to my work in realtime, so this has been a treat — and Mark gets the most hilarious facial expressions. You can actually SEE HIM GO ALL CAPS. It’s delightful. And it turns out someone has commissioned him to make videos of his readings of the whole book! If something’s on his Confirmed list that you want to see videos of, you can commission him, too! Plus there’s two more books of the Inheritance Trilogy to go, and I’d love to see him capslock over them too. I think it would be a bit squinchy, ethically speaking, for me to commission those, but [blatant hint]maybe if someone here is interested…?[/blatant hint]

So that’s all the news that is news in Noraville. So, how ya been?

May 2015
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