N.K. Jemisin

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.

A world in which race matters

I’ve been thinking about this article for the last day or so. I posted a link to it on my Twitter feed yesterday, and saw a few reactions to it that seemed… confused. Part of the problem is that the article gets a little muddled at points, I think because it’s talking about a complicated concept: race as identity, versus race as socioeconomic marker within in the modern (racist) political structure. But part of the problem, IMO, is the misconceptions that readers were bringing to the article themselves. A couple even asked (paraphrase, since I didn’t ask them about posting their comment), does this person actually want racism added to their Dragon Age? Which is when I realized that, to a lot of people, race should only exist, or matter, where there is racism.

Which… yeah, OK, no. I mean, I get where this comes from, especially from folks who, like me, live in racist societies. When I say I’m proud to be a black American, it’s in spite of racism, while a white supremacist would declare themselves proud to be white because of racism. (Paraphrasing many people; not sure who originated this way of framing racial pride.) But I’m also proud to be black because blackness is fucking awesome. I am part of a people, and I revel in our collective uniqueness. Why wouldn’t I?

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How an author feels upon receiving her page proofs

Please excuse my messy kitchen and crap film production skills.

Slightly intimidating. On the other hand, I love this stage of the book production process. I probably shouldn’t, because at this point I’ve read the novel what feels like ninety times… but I do. This is the point where that year of sweat and harsh language starts to feel like a book.

A really, really, really big, book.


Stuff I wrote (and read) in 2014

Since people keep asking, here’s the very short list of stuff I published in 2014. I’ll have you know I’m postponing a perfectly good snow day nap to write this up!!

I did have one more thing published in 2014, but please note that this was a reprint, originally published back in 2012 in the anthology After. No novels — yes, I know some websites kept insisting that The Fifth Season was out in 2014, but as you know, readers, that was just an error. (We have a pub date! TFS will be out on August 4th of this year.)

And in recommendations-from-me news, while I didn’t keep up well with my short fiction reading this year, you can take a lookback at my two NYT roundups for a sense of which novels I’m probably going to be voting for myself:

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle!

What I’ll be doing this weekend

I’ve mentioned a few times here that I’ll be one of the Guests of Honor at this year’s Arisia in Boston, haven’t I? Well, now I’m mentioning it again. Here are the events I’m scheduled for, if you’ll be there too:

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“To anthology editors”, a corollary

Nalo Hopkinson has an awesome and helpful piece up today on her website on how anthology editors can go about creating cohesive, thematically powerful collections that don’t just contain the same old voices all the time. All of her essay is good; go read the whole thing. I’ll wait.

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Launch Day!

Hi folks. Well, it’s official — as of today, the omnibus edition of the Inheritance Trilogy, and “The Awakened Kingdom” novella, both go on sale.

Cover shows a photorealistic, ornate stone door, superimposed with text reading THE INHERITANCE TRILOGY. At bottom, INCLUDES A BRAND NEW NOVELLA SET IN THE SAME WORLD, THE AWAKENED KINGDOM

The omnibus is available at all major retailers, print and ebook, and includes the novella. If you’ve already got the trilogy in separate-book form, however, don’t worry — you can buy just the novella as a standalone ebook for $2.99.

Awakened Kingdom ebook cover - shows stylized brassy stars exploding on a burgundy background, and book title.

It’s available for Nook, Kindle, and as a Google ebook.

As for the omnibus, here’s KING OZZYMANDIAS (or Ozzy, for short) to demonstrate just what a whopper it is:

Orange cat sitting next to a very large book.

In the next photo, he pushes it off the desk.

…Might wanna have it delivered. Just sayin’.

I usually post sample chapters of my novels, but since this is just a novella (about 1/3 the size of most of my books), and it doesn’t have chapters, I’m going to post a shorter segment, below. This is from the pre-copyedited version, note, and from a few pages in.

Happy reading!
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DA: Inquisition Story Review

So, since people keep asking me about this on Twitter, I’ll summarize my thoughts about this game, which I finished this past weekend. Emphasis on story vs other gameplay elements, so thus the post title. Spoilers herein, BTW, so a cut:
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Your groundbreaking is not my groundbreaking

Note: I will be mentioning a few spoilers in this post. Look away now if you’re not ready for that yet!

So, a few nights ago I started Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third game in a franchise I’ve liked a lot over the years. Just for shits and giggles I livetweeted my game for a few hours. Most of the feed is pretty dull — like, me eating dinner while waiting half an hour for the game to finish installing on my XBox’s hard drive. But once I finally got the game going and dug into the character creator, I felt a moment of sharp bitterness at the realization that even though I write fantasy, there are times when this genre is really, really hard to love. My in-the-moment reaction:

I ended up with this when I was done rolling up my character (sorry for the terrible image; it’s just a photo of my TV screen):

image shows a DA: Inquisition character: middle-toned black female elf with white facial markings and nearly bald shaven head

She’s okay. Not what I wanted. But okay. And that’s pretty much how the experience left me feeling, despite the fact that I’ve been stupidly excited over this game for something like three years. That pretty much killed the excitement right out of the gate. I’m still playing, but I’m not raving about this game to anyone, anymore. It’s just something to do, now.

So, this little experience has me thinking a lot about the concept of “normal”.
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You can tell a lot about a fantasy novel by its glossary

Was just working on the glossary for The Fifth Season. Glossaries are both fun and frustrating for me — fun because a glossary is worldbuilding at its most stark, and frustrating because it’s part of the story, and can enhance or detract from the reading experience if it’s mishandled. The tension between TELL THEM EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, HA HA HA and tell them nothing, nothing, they don’t need to know gets kind of uncomfortable after awhile. That’s why I’ve asked that all of my glossaries be located at the backs of my books, rather than the fronts — because, like maps, they contain unavoidable spoilers to the reader about where the story’s going to go and what it will involve. I prefer for readers to figure that out the way the characters do, by living in the world’s context and immersing in its strangeness.

Still, the Broken Earth trilogy is the, hmm, biggest thing I’ve ever written, and the scope of it is forcing me to do some things I’ve never done before. The Fifth Season is going to have a map, for example. (Yeah, yeah, I’m breaking my infamous “NO MAPS!” rule, lemmealone.) But I needed one while I was working on TFS, which pretty much means readers are going to need one too, so I’ve spent the past few weeks working with an artist on my first-ever fantasy map. That’s been fascinating as hell — the first draft alone is awesome — and when it’s done I’ll tell you more about it.

And the glossary is bigger. I’m editing it down now, because ya know, the glossary shouldn’t be longer than the novel. In the process I’m trying to put myself into the head of a reader who skips ahead to read the glossary before reading the book, because I know full well some of ya’ll do that. ::mom eyes:: That way I can (hopefully) extract any spoilers before you impatient people hit them. :)

So, an exercise! Here’s a random page of the glossary, from which I think I have extracted any spoilery material. There should be stuff here that makes you scratch your head and want to know more, but not anything that would reveal Important Plot Secrets. Warning in advance that I might have failed in this, so I’m putting it below the cut if you’d rather not risk it. The rest of you, if you’re feeling brave, help me out!

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Why I Talk So Damn Much About Non-Writing Stuff

A reader at NYCC asked me — not in an accusatory way if you’re wondering — why I spend so much time on social media talking about world events, social justice issues, health care, etc. I’m an SFF writer, after all; why don’t I just spend all of my time talking about writing?

What I told her, basically, was this: when I talk about those things, I am talking about writing. How can I manage good characterization if I don’t understand the complexities of human behavior, and their motivations? How plausible will my fantasy worlds be, if they don’t demonstrate the power dynamics and cognitive fallacies which shape our own societies — i.e., what readers will expect to see, given their own likely experiences? Apart from the fact that the stuff I retweet and comment upon affects me personally — e.g. race and gender issues, gaming, Amazon vs Hachette — these things are also story material. In The Kingdom of Gods, Dekarta’s personality is shaped by being a mixed-race person who cannot pass as Amn, in a society that has privileged and applied value to Amn “purity” for generations. That’s not a personal experience for me, but when you read enough stories like this about supposedly-loving parents who nevertheless consider their child’s brownness to be a “loss” for which they should be compensated… well. It’s easy to extrapolate. In The Broken Kingdoms, when Oree knows better than to expect justice of Shadow’s system of law enforcement — that part is personal experience, and also reading a thousand news articles about how police victimize and disproportionately target the poor and people of color and trans people and so on. Many of the scenarios in The Shadowed Sun are drawn from everything I’ve read and lived on how sexual abuse is handled in societies which are in denial about having a problem with sexual abuse, and which simultaneously point fingers at other “more barbaric” societies. And so on. Sure, it’s all fantasy… but I’ve always been firmly of the opinion that the various whoppers of fantasy (e.g. dream-stalking ninja priests) go down easier if they’re coated in realistic human structures and interactions.

That’s the whole point of speculative fiction for me, really — playing the “what-if” game. What if, all other things being equal and people being people, the apocalypse happened every few hundred years? What if, all other things being equal and people being people, gods lived among us, and were sometimes real assholes? Those what-ifs don’t work without the people being people part. Which means I need to understand people, in the real world, in all their glory and grotesquerie.

So, for those of you who get frustrated by how often I post about Ferguson, or bigotry in video games, or whatever, and who wish I would just stick to writing… well. I get that you might not be interested in the stuff that interests me. But you might want to expand your definition of what’s relevant to writing, is all I’m saying. For the worldbuilder, all the world is necessary fuel.