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 (coming soon).

3…2…1… Lift off!!

Am off to Launch Pad, the phenomenal NASA-sponsored astronomy workshop in Laramie, Wyoming. Will be hanging out for a week with phenomenal people, seeing phenomenal stuff in the sky. Phenomenal!! I’ve never been to that part of the country, either, so it should be interesting to see a real “old West” (if that counts as west and not midwest… what the hell do I know, I’m an East Coast city slicker) town.

So, boldly going… to the airport. Yay!

New post at the Magic District

in which I confess a certain uncouth interest in delicate matters; a.k.a., fanfiction.

Honorable Mention in Year’s Best SF!

By way of fellow Fluidian Mercurio Rivera, good news: my short story “Playing Nice With God’s Bowling Ball” (Baen’s Universe, 2008) received an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction!

I write a lot more SF than I ever manage to sell — which tells me that maybe I don’t write it very well. -_- I’m hoping to partially remedy that by attending Launch Pad in a few weeks, and by continuing to plug away at it. But as I joked to Mercurio, I clearly have no objective ability to measure the quality of my own SF stories, because “Playing Nice” was actually a trunk story — for those who don’t speak Writer, a story I’d given up on trying to publish because I no longer felt it was worthwhile. But then I heard about the Baen’s Universe “slush bar” submissions process. With the Slush Bar, you submit a story to an online forum populated by Baen’s readers, and they read it and decide whether it’s worthy of publication in the magazine. On a whim, I decided to submit “Playing Nice”, since I did think it was well-written, and because I wanted to figure out why it hadn’t sold (see aforementioned inability to objectively assess my own SF). Going through the Slush Bar is a humbling, exhilarating process — kind of like going through an online writing group like Critters, but with a more concrete reward at the end, if you’re lucky. I was lucky. The readers suggested a few changes — nothing too major; they were much nicer than any writing group I’ve ever been in — and then a Baen’s editor contacted me; the response had been positive enough that they wanted it. So the story sold.

I have to admit; I kind of thought it was a fluke. Sure, the story — a police procedural about a hardboiled detective who encounters a very weird murder mystery involving a cute little boy, a Yu-Gi-Oh-like card game, and a black hole in a coffee can — was fun. I had fun writing it. But it didn’t have the weight of most SF stories I’ve read; it didn’t Say Anything important or try to blow its readers’ minds with goshwow science or gadgets. Basically I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, watched a few episodes of Law and Order, and did a mashup. I never, ever, would’ve expected it to get an Honorable anything, least of all in such a prestigious Year’s Best.

So, cool. =)

Yes, Virginia, I am procrastinating today.

But I’m making good progress on revisions, so it’s OK.

So, remember back in March, when I got my delivery of seeds and was eagerly planning my balcony garden? Well, just in case you were sitting around anxiously wondering, “How’s that working out for Nora?” — here’s a photo:

Those greens are looking mighty tasty…

Org Shuffle

Have decided to let my membership to the Authors’ Guild lapse, after it ends this year. I joined them hoping for two things: a) inexpensive health insurance, and b) in-person networking opportunities. I ended up going with the Freelancers’ Union instead for a, because theirs was cheaper and more comprehensive, and never saw any sign of b. And I’ve been annoyed by the Guild’s politics. Cory Doctorow nails it better than I ever could. This pissed me off too. It’s not an easy fix; it puts the burden of access on the visually impaired, rather than normalizing/easing access for all. And read-aloud software is nothing like an audiobook, damn it. Anyway.

Have decided to renew my membership to SFWA. Still have many reservations about this org, but they’re making herculean efforts to modernize, so I’ll give them another year. Check out their new website; holy crap it’s better than the old one. I can actually find stuff in it now! Amazing.

So to replace the Authors’ Guild, I’m trying out an org that I already know is pretty dynamic on the networking, etc., front: Romance Writers of America. I should’ve joined them last year, really, but didn’t want to jump into too many orgs and guilds at once. (Hey, I’m an RPGer; it’s never wise to join too many guilds at once.) Their conferences are expensive as all get out, but I’m told they’re worthwhile, so next year I’m going to try and scrape together my pennies and attend their 2010 con, and maybe even Romantic Times, after fellow Magic Districtee Diana Rowland’s ringing endorsement.

But back to RWA. I’m told the local chapter (beware — site’s color scheme is eye-bleedingly intense) is pretty active, so I’ll probably join that too. We’ll see if I qualify, given that their rules stipulate I have to be engaged in the romance genre; not sure how they determine that. I figure if they give me any guff, I’ll send them The Infamous Chapter 24 ™ of 100K. I can sneak in behind their backs while their glasses are fogged up!

…Or I can just become an Associate Member.

Radios down, readings a-comin’

For those who follow my Twitter feed or Facebook updates, you already knew about this: this past Saturday morning, I and my writing group went on “Hour of the Wolf” on WBAI (99.5 FM, for those in the NYC area), Jim Freund’s phenomenal crackadawn science fictional radio show. It’s been running for as long as I’ve been alive! (Since 1972.) I wasn’t reading — my esteemed colleague Rajan Khanna was — and my comments are pretty much limited to a sleepy sort of “bwuh?” and vague suggestions for his manuscript. But if you want to hear the whole thing, which is a great example of how a writing group works (on the air, at 5 in the morning), listen here.

Other upcoming events in Noraland:

  • Not going to Readercon. =( But I am going to Worldcon in Montreal, and World Fantasy Con in San Jose. Have received confirmation I’ll be on the program — somehow — for Worldcon (I’d asked to do a reading, dunno if I got it), and have applied for same at WFC. Shall keep you posted.
  • Am doing a group reading hereabouts in NYC: Diaspora of the Fantastic: Black Women Writers of SF/F/H (RSVP here if you’re interested), on Thursday, July 30 at Bluestockings, 7-9 p.m.. Not sure what I’ll read yet; only got 15 minutes or so, which none of my short stories will fit. -_- I don’t want to read from 100K, since it’s still more than 7 months off at that point, and since I’ve got more readings coming up and will quickly get tired of reading from the book, I think. Might do an excerpt from the Postscripts story, or something unpublished.
  • Waaaaaaay advance notice, but I’ll be reading at KGB’s Fantastic Fiction event in March 2010. Which gives me only 9 months to freak out about it!! The KGB events are my favorite reading series in the city, so it’s a real honor to be able to read there… but by the same token, I’m already anxious about it. (Strangely, the thought of reading at Worldcon and WFC doesn’t bother me at all. WTF?)

And in micro news, am now revising chapter 8 (of 21) of Book 2. Hopefully won’t have to rewrite it, the way I did chapters 3-7… -_-

Random thought.

In The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, human beings exploit their gods as literal slaves, using their magical abilities as weapons.

In Book 2 (name undecided), human beings exploit their gods’ very flesh and blood in various ways. For example, a drug called “godsblood” has become popular in the mortal world, and it’s exactly what it sounds like — small vials of blood drawn from (willing) gods. When humans ingest this, they gain magic power.

Book 3 is still in flux, but the core story is solid in my head, and it occurs to me that the gods are exploited in this one too — the protagonist uses one godling’s magic and knowledge to advance herself politically, and later she plays one god against another in an attempt to gain power over them all.

Maybe “Inheritance” isn’t the right name for this trilogy; maybe I should call it the Godsploitation Saga!


New post at the Magic District…

…on How Much Fantasy is Too Much/Not Enough? In which I get meta-val on Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Shard of Glass”.

And in RevisionQuest 2009, have rewritten another chapter of Book 2, bringing me up to chapter 6 of 21. Go go go!

Verb Noire’s First Book!

Hi folks. Those of you who followed RaceFail 2009 may also be aware of one of its many positive results: Verb Noire, a new small press started up for the purpose of showcasing authors and characters of color in science fiction and fantasy. Well, I’m happy to report that their first novel, The River’s Daughter, is now out! I haven’t read it yet — ordered, but I’ve got a long list of Stuff To Read at the moment — but I wanted to spread the word. Check it out!

Compliments Graciously Welcomed and Accepted

Like many writers, I worry — constantly — about the quality of my work. I don’t go fishing for compliments, but it means a lot to me when people say nice things about stuff I’ve written. Reviews from professional-type review people are gratifying, even if they don’t always like my stories; I’m of the school of thought that says apathy is worse than active dislike, because at least with active dislike you get a reaction.

But it’s compliments from readers, of the just-looking-for-entertainment type, that tend to have the greatest impact on me, because that tells me I’m really doing my job as a professional writer. So this one warmed my heart, when editor Rachel Swirsky of PodCastle forwarded it to me:

I recently discovered PodCastle and very much enjoy the series and
your choices.  Tonight I started digging through the archives because
I just can’t get enough, found Red Riding Hood’s Child.  LOVED it –
and left a comment.

I wanted to thank you personally for including it – not enough stories
out there in which main characters are gay and/or find personal
power…  and while I’m at it, to tell you that PodCastle is my new
favorite driving companion.

Am not including identifying info, since the complimenter may not have wanted to be plastered all over teh internets. And I’m not sure which of the comments on the story he’s referring to, though I think I know which one it is. But he has my thanks.

Now, to put this in context, the story in question, “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, got a very strong reaction from listeners when it went up on PodCastle. A lot of the responses, I have to say, struck me as — hmm. Homophobically-derived? It’s one thing to dislike the story, but another thing entirely to declaim it as “gross” and “criminal” and… well, just read the reactions for yourself. (Don’t forget the ones in the discussion forum.) Overall, I’d say the reaction was mostly positive, but the negatives were really negative.

But some of the positive responses, like the one above, were enough to make all the negatives fade into nothing in my head.

This is what I do it for. This is why I take risks, as I did in writing RRHC; this is why I need to take more risks, IMO. (And this is why I’m glad for markets that are willing to take risks, like PodCastle.) This makes me very, very happy.