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.

Yeah, it’s Monday

Got sent this by fellow Altered Fluidian Mercurio D. Rivera, who snapped this photo of me being silly at my signing at Worldcon. As per apparent SF writer tradition, I put up the “Wall O’ Books” (my Advanced Reader Copies) to make myself seem more Important. Actually signed a few things, too, even though I don’t actually have a book out; was most delighted by a person who brought a printout of my blog to get signed.

But then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.


(Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you haven’t been playing with the Squirrelizer too.)

Strange Horizons Saved Me a Bunch of Money on Car Insurance and Cured My Astigmatism!

Okay, no, it didn’t. I don’t even have a car. I just wanted to get your attention.

It might seem odd that in the wake of the Clarkesworld sale, I’m talking about Strange Horizons. Both magazines need donations, actually. But SH is nearer and dearer to my heart in many ways, because a) my first pro-level sales were to SH, and b) I made two of them. (When I sell two stories to Clarkesworld, I’ll like them more too.)

Although this is SH’s fundraising drive season, they’ve asked people not to simply beg for money, but to talk about what SH means to them. So here goes:

To me, simply, SH means change.

I love the speculative fiction genre, but it’s sick. Not dying — that’s crap — but not healthy either. The problem is societal, but because SF is the genre of society’s idealism, the symptoms of the sickness tend to be more visible here than in mainstream fiction. The cure for this sickness is, IMO, for the genre to take some collective purgative and restorative measures, like jettisoning old business models that don’t work and old attitudes that are actively harmful, and try something new.

SH represents this newness. They’re a new-paradigm speculative fiction market in every sense of the word: online not print; nonprofit not commercial; collaborative and not One Single Editor’s vision; weekly not monthly/quarterly/whenever the people involved get around to it. They actively seek out voices within the SF community that don’t get heard enough, whether those voices be newbies or PoC or writers from non-Western countries or literary writers or socialists or whatever. The fact that they’ve managed to stick around this long, in an era when SF magazines are dropping like flies, speaks volumes to me about the sustainability of their model. They offer a desired service to the community, ergo they’re still in business. And the fact that their authors (and the magazine itself) keep winning awards speaks to the quality of their work.

This, to me, is what an SF magazine should be and do.

This is also quite apart from the fact that I enjoy their stories. I can’t keep up with them — too busy to read every week — but every time I go there, there’s fresh content and it’s usually content I like. If I don’t like the stories, I like the reviews. If I don’t like the reviews, I like the articles. Or the art. Or whatever.

So even though it’s free, and even though I don’t read it all the time, I’ve been donating to SH for the past few years. I want it to stick around. I want the change they represent to succeed.

So send them money, dammit!

ETA: And if you donate today, John Scalzi will match your donation!


(OK, New Orleanians, cool points to anyone who gets the subject line. And yeah, I had seriously questionable music tastes when I was a college freshman. Shuddup.)

I just sold a story!! “Non-Zero Probabilities”, the story I read at the Diaspora of the Fantastic event a couple of weeks ago, has sold to Clarkesworld!! No word yet on when it’ll be published.

::does seriously questionable dancing around living room::

Maps, Comedy, and Politics

Or, why I should update my blog more often. (Sorry!)

Maps: I’ve got a new post over at the Magic District, talking about the map thing in epic fantasy. Triggered by something dumb on Fox News (is there ever anything else?), and an odd interaction I had at Worldcon last weekend, wherein I handed a copy of my ARC to someone and they protested (good-naturedly, but still protested) it wasn’t epic fantasy because it didn’t have a map.

Comedy: The other creative, activist black sheep in my mother’s side of the family, cousin W. Kamau Bell, is coming to NYC this week to do a series of comedy shows as part of NYC’s Fringe Festival. He’s really, really effing funny, and I’m planning to go see him next weekend. Here’s a sample of his routine — not worksafe, note, and contains copious racial slurs, used to make a point against racism. See the sidebar for other examples, then if you’re in NYC, go here to order tickets.

Politics: I generally try to keep politics off this blog, but I’m so angry that I need to vent.

I’m 36 years old. A little overweight, mostly because I love to exercise but also love to cook and eat really good food. No bad habits other than that; no real health problems; no history of same. I have a recent minor health issue, fibroids. (Like 40% of women.) My doctor sent me to get an ultrasound to see if I had them; I did; they’re tiny and require no treatment; no big deal; end of story.

Or so it should have been. Instead I’ve been getting letters from my insurance company saying that the fibroids are a preexisting condition, and therefore I have to pay for the ultrasound myself. They’re not preexisting, note; I get an exam every year like clockwork, and they weren’t there at last year’s exam. I wrote back to the insurer explaining this, and referring them to last year’s doctor for followup. But because I was on different health insurance at the time, and went through a brief period sans insurance while I was transitioning from being a 9-to-5-er to a full time writer, what my doctors say is irrelevant. I have no way to “prove” that I haven’t been walking around with giant benign tumors just waiting for my chance to spring them on some undeserving insurer. Ergo I must pay.

I’m fighting this, of course. I can afford to pay for the ultrasound, but I shouldn’t have to; it’s an ordinary preventative test given my medical history and demographics, and besides that, I didn’t have the damn things last year. But this little brush with the utter stupidity of our health care system brings home to me just how lucky I really am. I can afford to pay for the test; I have the means and the test doesn’t cost that much. And the fibroids are just fibroids — I don’t have cancer or something serious. I’m only 36, not 63 or at some other age where my insurer might not even consider covering me. I actually have insurance, which 43 million other Americans don’t. I have options.

But I’m not as lucky as I could be. I live in the United States, not an actual industrialized, modern, sane country, where the state would pay for my preventative care and consider it a good investment in its population. And while I can handle the insurance stupidity this time, what happens if I do get cancer? What happens when I am 63?

This is stupid. I can’t speak any more strongly without getting extremely profane, but this is stupid.

So I’m writing to my congresspeople. I’m pissed that the single-payer option is apparently off the table; I’m going to tell them that. I think everybody in this country needs to tell them this. So please do the same, and pass it on.

OK, back to writing.

Back from Worldcon

…and exhausted. I don’t quite have full-fledged con crud, but I think I’m skirting it. My own fault for wearing myself out. Worldcon, for those who’ve never attended, is a marathon endurance contest: panels and events and schmoozing by day, parties and events and schmoozing by night. Did I mention the schmoozing? Oh, yeah, there was schmoozing.

The good: Montreal! Holy moly, that’s a beautiful city. Wish I’d had time to see more of it. I think I’ll go there on vacation sometime, when I can just relax and enjoy myself. Bixi, Montreal’s ingenious system of public bikes. The lovely B&B where I stayed with Alaya, though it was far away from the convention center and necessitated the use of the Bixi bikes. Meeting folks I’d never met before but knew of and admired from afar, like Nalo Hopkinson (at last! after years of being mistaken for her!) and John Scalzi and Steven Boyett, at whom I totally fangirled because he’s the author of one of my favorite books (omg which is coming back into print and has a SEQUEL coming out soon at last and the protag is black wtf yay omg omg omg squee okay). Also, was thrilled that some folks I know won Hugos, including David Anthony Durham who got the Campbell, and who rocks the tiara if I may say so myself. On his noble brow it became a man-crown. Congrats to him and all the other winners!

Oh, and my green dress for the Hugos looked awesome, thankyouverymuch. Had matching toenail polish, but nobody noticed. Alas.

The bad: Some extremely ill-considered panel staffing with regard to matters of race. Seriously, wtf? Whoever thought those panels up must not have actually wanted productive conversation to take place (and it didn’t, since in several cases anti-racist fans and pros decided to boycott the panels, or in a few cases did a guerilla takeover). That was when the panels even made sense — many had titles/descriptions that nobody could figure out, including the panelists. And that was when the panels actually took place when and where they were supposed to, because there was much shuffling and cancellation/decancellation/recancellation funnybusiness. (I found out I was on one panel about 2 hours before it ran, for example.) Also not fun: the utter lack of wifi in my B&B for the first three days, which forced me to sit in the Dealers’ Room to use their very shaky wifi just to get my email fix. The smell on the party floors.

I’m leaving out lots here; it was a very packed 5 days. All that said, the good outweighed the bad, so I’ll put this con in the “win” column.

And now I’m going to take a long, well-deserved rest, and thank all available gods that World Fantasy isn’t until October.


OK, so here’s the thing: I’ve got a reading (11:00 a.m.) and a signing (5:00 p.m.) on Saturday at Anticipation. I’m sharing the reading with 2 other writers who are better-known than me, and the signing is fairly pointless since I have, y’know, no book out yet. So I was feeling fairly mopey about both events, until I decided to have some fun.


I have Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)! They are beautiful and shiny and I love them. Now, most of these I’m reserving to send out to reviewers, bloggers of various renown, and bigmouths of assorted stripes, because, y’know, that’s what us n00bs gotta do. Sorry. But I will have one (1!) ARC copy available at the signing to give away to a — dare I say it? — fan.


a) You must have attended the reading earlier that day, where you will hear me read an excerpt from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Note for those who heard me read at Wiscon — it will be a different section of the book!! So no cheating.

b) You must be the first person to visit me at the signing table, AND to ask me a good question about the section of the book I read! Judgment of “goodness” is up to me. ‘Cause. Y’know. I wrote the book. So I would know.

c) If you are the lucky winner of this very rare ARC of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I ask that you either 1) blog about it, 2) post an Amazon or other prominent book-site review of it, or 3) pass it on to someone who will do 1 or 2, if you are incapable. And do this sometime before the book launches in February. I don’t require that you post a positive review, of course — I want an honest response. But I want a response.

Yes, I’ll sign it, if you want. Also note: the book won’t be out for 6 months, note, so you’ve got some time on part c.

Also, please note for all, I will be extremely sporadic on internet stuff while I’m away at Anticipation, because my laptop is heavy and I can’t afford to buy a netbook yet. -_-

Looking forward to seeing folks there!

My Worldcon Schedule

OK, so going to Worldcon again for the first time since Boston of a few years ago. I’m really looking forward to it, not the least because it’ll be in Montreal!!!!!1! I must have poutine! And beaver tails, despite their kinky name!

…Anyway, in between bouts of raising my cholesterol, I’ll be doing this:

When: Sat 11:00
Title: Author Reading
All Participants: Gregory A. Wilson, Nora K. Jemisin, P. C. Hodgell

When: Sat 17:00
Title: Nora K. Jemisin Signing

When: Sun 11:00
Title: Michael Jackson‚s THRILLER: SF Culture Landmark
All Participants: Nora K. Jemisin, Stephen H. Segal, John Scalzi
Moderator: Stephen H. Segal
Description: In 1983, Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video gave us
lycanthropic romance, zombie dancers, and state-of-the-art special
effects — not to mention Vincent Price reciting graveyard poetry. How
did this watershed television moment set the stage for the next 25
years worth of SF/pop music/pop culture crossovers, from Jackson’s own
subsequent oeuvre through Rob Zombie and beyond?

When: Sun 17:00
Title: Avatar Fan Club for Kids
All Participants: Cynthia Huckle, Madeline Ashby, Nora K. Jemisin,
Sharon Lee
Moderator: Cynthia Huckle
Description: This American-made anime from Nickelodeon was a big hit.
Why? What’s in store for the future? And what kind of bender would you
like to be?

I asked to be taken off the signing after the preliminary scheduling, since I uh have nothing to sign, but there it still is. I guess I’ll just go hang out and fangirl at people with Actual Books, like I did at World Fantasy last year. (Carol Berg!! Marjorie Liu!! Kay Kenyon!!) I guess if people want to meet me, that’ll be a good place to do it.

Looking forward to the reading, but as with the Diaspora of the Fantastic reading (which went smashingly, sorry for not reporting back here), I still haven’t decided what to read. It’ll be from 100K, but I don’t know if I want to read the beginning again after doing that at Wiscon. I think I will quickly get very tired of reading from the beginning of this book if I keep doing it. There’s a section near the middle of the book that I’m thinking about, if I can manage to explain things succinctly before I read it. Gotta practice it and the timing.

Very much looking forward to the Thriller panel, although I fully expect to be overshadowed by the bigger-name, better-at-talking people on it. Kinda glad there’s no longer a rock star slated to be on it, though I had no idea who she was anyway. (She seems like an interesting person to get to know, though…)

So see some of you there!

Describing Characters of Color, pt. 2

Did this over at the Magic District, so go see!

Reminder: reading tonight!

Diaspora of the Fantastic made TimeOut New York! Except I’m “others”. Alas.

Anyway, I’m going to be reading from “Non-Zero Probabilities”, a new (unpublished) short story that I just finished revising at 3 a.m. this morning when, in a fit of angst, I decided I could not could not COULD NOT read the piece I’d initially decided to read because I would’ve only been able to do a portion of it and I can’t tell you how annoying I find it when I go to a reading and I actually like the work being read and it isn’t finished and there’s no way to buy it for months and months. (This would’ve been either an excerpt of 100K, or of “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints…” which isn’t being published until summer 2010 in a UK magazine. Not really something the crowd at Bluestockings would want to hear, I’m thinking.) I don’t find those “teasing”, I find them irritating. Anyway, my personal neuroses aside, here’s an excerpt of the story, which is set in modern-day Brooklyn, where for some reason “luck” has become real and the laws of probability have gone haywire.

In the mornings, Adele girds herself for the trip to work as a warrior for battle. First she prays, both to the Christian god of her Irish ancestors and to the orishas of her African ancestors — the latter she is less familiar with, but getting to know. Then she takes a bath with herbs, including dried chickory and allspice, from a mixture given to her by the woman at the local botanica. (She doesn’t know Spanish well, but she’s getting to know that too. Today’s word is suerte.) Then, smelling vaguely of coffee and pumpkin pie, she layers on armor: the Saint Christopher medal her mother sent her, for protection on journeys. The hair-clasp she was wearing when she broke up with Larry, which she regards as the best decision of her life. On especially dangerous days, she wears the panties in which she experienced her first self-induced orgasm post-Larry. They’re a bit ragged after too many commercial laundromat washings, but still more or less sound. (She washes them by hand now, with Woollite, and lays them flat to dry.)

So if you’re in NYC, come out and see us!

Diaspora of the Fantastic this Thursday!

Just a reminder — this coming Thursday I’m going to be doing a reading with some other phenomenal black women writers at BlueStockings Books in NYC. Details and RSVP here, though the RSVP isn’t absolutely necessary. The readers will be li’l ol’ me, Bram Stoker award-winner Linda Addison; Alaya Dawn Johnson, who’s already got one novel out and two more on the way; and K. Tempest Bradford, who’s got several shorts out in current collections, including John Joseph Adams’ Federations. We’ll be reading for about an hour, followed by a discussion about race in sf/f/h. Should be fun, so come out!