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.

My voice acting debut; first person angst at the Magic District

Busy little bee, me:

  • Over at PodCastle, I’m reading Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Shard of Glass”. I had a cold while I was reading most of it, and kept having to pause/edit the recording to cough, so I hope it sounds OK. -_-
  • Also, posted something over at the Magic District on first person. Why do people hate it so much? Some thoughts.

In other news, have reached 3000 words on the newest version of Book 3. Go go go!

New Magic District Post

…on forthcoming fantasy films, and what I think of them. Not very substantive, but fun, and mentioned here late because I was traveling yesterday — am down in Alabama visiting Mom for the weekend.

Shoo!! Shoo!!

I’m plagued by short story ideas lately.

Have written two of them, actually — a short one set in Brooklyn called “Non-Zero Probabilities”, in which the laws of probability go haywire; and a novelette currently called “Pirate Jessie”, though I’m not sure I want to keep that name. The latter one, a steampunk espionage historical lesbian romantic adventure, was for an anthology invitation. (No, really.) Have other ideas, though, circling ’round my head like gnats. It’s as if, after six months of doing only novel work, my shorts-producing brain cells have revolted, demanding quick hooks and triple pay for overtime.

Here’s the problem, though:

  • On Thursday I’m going out of town, to visit my mom; she’s not likely to leave me much free time to get writing done.
  • By Monday, I need to turn in the first-pass manuscript of 100K (kind of a pre-ARC), which really means I need to finish it by Wednesday and drop it in the mail before I leave.
  • By August I need to finish the revision of Book 2, now that I’ve received my editor’s notes on what works and what doesn’t.
  • By the end of the year — seven months, roughly — I need to finish Book 3. I’d hoped to finish it much earlier, but… well… see below.

In this context, I know what’s going on with the short story attack — procrastination. My work ethic is solid enough that I rarely just futz around pointlessly; I’m really good at procrastinating in “productive” ways. So instead of vacuuming the cat — which I actually kind of should do, NukuNuku is shedding — or the usual writerly avoidance mechanisms, I write new shorts. Or I revise unsold shorts. Or I update my submissions spreadsheet and prepare new subs to go out. Or I work on my job search, since I’m looking for another part-time position right now. Or I write blog posts (self-promotion) or reviews (cross-promotion) or I do research. Or I go to the gym to work out. All very useful and necessary for my career… so that I feel less guilty about not hitting my wordcount for the day on Book 3.

So I think I’m going to have to womanfully resist the latest short story ideas. I gave in twice already; can’t let the damn things take over.

That said, it usually means something when I start procrastinating like this. I’m a little past 30,000 words on The Single Shining Star (Book 3). Generally by the 30K mark on a book, I’m eager to keep going, generally because the ideas have grabbed hold of me and I want to hurry to get to the Good Parts. The fact that I’m struggling so much at this point reflects my growing dissatisfaction with Book 3. It’s too slow-paced, covers too many parts of the world that we’ve seen before, and ultimately just doesn’t capture the feeling I want the book to have. They’re good words, but they’re not the right words. And I think I’m going to have to scrap them and start over.

It happens. Discarded 30,000 words on one of my older novels once (Dreambile, for the handful of you who’ve read it). But once I’d done it, I felt free — and that sense of freedom encouraged me to make a radical change in the plot and tone of the story, which IMO resulted in one of my best novels yet. (Sadly, unsold thus far. But one day…!) I don’t view those discarded words as months of lost effort, though that’s what they are in a practical sense. I view them as practice, so that the end product could be that much better.

After all, I wrote The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms twice, literally scrapping the whole completed first version of the book and reworking it from scratch. What’s 30,000 words lost compared to 120,000?

So I’m declaring a moratorium on short stories for myself, at least until the end of the summer. If the ideas are sound, they’ll keep. And in the meantime, I’m going to re-prioritize the things I absolutely have to do (like job searching) so that they’re not competing with my writing time… and I’m going to confine my procrastination to looking at Star Trek macros, like a normal writer. (Um, profanity warning on that last link, ya’ll. But soooo worth it.)

Sybil’s Garage #6 is out!

A reminder to all who enjoy good, brain-twisting fiction: Sybil’s Garage, produced by Senses Five Press, run by Matthew Kressel of the (my) Altered Fluid Writing group, has just produced its phenomenal sixth issue. I had the honor of being a slush reader for this, so I feel a bit of proprietary pride here. I mean, seriously — check out this ToC:

Liz Bourke — “The Girl”
Donna Burgess — “Ashes”
Lyn C. A. Gardner — “God’s Cat”
Alex Dally MacFarlane — “The Wat”
Susannah Mandel — “Metamorphic Megafauna”
Tracie McBride — “An Ill Wind”
Kristen McHenry — “Museum”
Jaime Lee Moyer — “One by Moonlight”
Daniel A. Rabuzzi — “Backsight”
Michel Sauret — “Brick Wall Giants”
Michel Sauret — “Son of Man”
J.E. Stanley — “City of Bridges”
Sonya Taaffe — “Skiadas”
Marcie Lynn Tentchoff — “Sun-Kissed”

Rumjhum Biswas — “Mother’s Garden”
K. Tempest Bradford — “Élan Vital”
Autumn Canter — “Day of the Mayfly”
Becca De La Rosa — “Not the West Wind”
Eric Del Carlo — “Come the Cold”
Jason Heller — “The Raincaller”
Paul Jessup — “Heaven’s Fire ”
Vylar Kaftan — “Fulgurite”
Keffy R. M. Kehrli — “Machine Washable”
Sean Markey — “Waiting for the Green Woman”
James B. Pepe — “I am Enkidu, his Wild Brother”
Simon Petrie — “Downdraft”
Genevieve Valentine — “The Drink of Fine Gentlemen Everywhere”
Stephanie Campisi — “Drinking Black Coffee at the Jasper Grey Café”
Toiya Kristen Finley — “Eating Ritual”
Donald Norum — “An Old Man Went Fishing on the Sea of Red”

Interview with Paul Tremblay by Devin Poore

You want it, don’t you? You know you want it.


From the Tokyo Fantasy Show as reported at Pink Tentacle, images of a post-apocalyptic, empty Tokyo. My favorite is Shinjuku — an area of Tokyo that I visited when I went there several years ago, which is amazingly sleazy and yet also surreal. Later I learned that Shinjuku is considered the “spiritual” center of Tokyo, i.e., the most likely part of the city to suffer some kind of supernatural/magical apocalypse. And this is what it might look like:

Shinjuku after the apocalypse

Just a thought — how come the apocalypse is considered science fiction? I mean, what, people think magic can’t blow stuff up too? ::resolves to blow some stuff up with magic::


Riffing on Strings, an anthology of fiction and essays inspired by String Theory, has won a Silver Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY)! My short story, “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows,” is in this, along with some other phenomenal contributors (including Michio Kaku!). Yay!

Announcing 2009 IPPY Awards National and Regional Results
Recognizing Excellence in Independent Publishing – 13th Annual Awards

Jenkins Group is proud to announce the results in the 65 National categories and 20 Regional categories of this year’s Independent Publisher Book Awards. 3,380 books were entered in the national contest (an average of 50 contenders per category) and 710 books were entered in the regional contest (an average of 35 per category).
26. Essay/Creative Non-Fiction
Silver: Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory, edited by Sean Miller and Shveta Verma (Scriblerus Press)

The Million Writers Award

No, I’m not up for it. But a friend and colleague of mine is — Kris Dikeman, whose phenomenal story “Nine Sundays in a Row” got quite justifiably nominated. This contest is a “reader’s choice” award, so you can vote for the story you like best. You don’t have to vote for Kris, of course…

(…OK I lied you totally do.)

Anyway, go look, and if you like, vote.

Spock and Biraciality

Went to see Star Trek last week. Quite liked it, despite problems like the women of the series still getting short shrift in the agency department, and much of the frenetic action having no real purpose. (Why did Young Kirk trash that beautiful car? I cannot condone random destruction of works of art, not even as characterization shorthand.)

But have seen several convos on the ‘net that triggered some thoughts. Namely — whoops, spoiler-cut —
Continue reading ›

Networking Confessions at The Magic District

In which I reveal my greatest fear!

My Wiscon Schedule, part deux

OK, finally seems to be solidified, though some of the events on this keep skeeting about like greased pigs. Thus far we have:

Writers’ Workshop, Fri 9:00AM – 12:00PM.
I’ll be running a group of four aspiring novelists. Yay!

Forces Beyond Our Control: power, identity, and magic in fantasy, Fri 4:00 – 5:15PM.
This is a reading I’ll be doing with fellow writers Alaya Dawn Johnson, Margaret Ronald, and Doselle Young. What will I read? Uh… still deciding on that.

I’m the moderator for this one; the panelists will be K. Tempest Bradford, Moondancer Drake, Nnedi Nkemdili Okorafor, and Naamen Gobert Tilahun. Should be fun — it’s a panel full of writers of color, talking about anything but race for a change.

Was It Good for You? Sat 10:30 – 11:45PM.
Again moderating for K. Tempest Bradford, Sumana Harihareswara, Rachel Kronick, and Betsy Lundsten. Here’s an abbreviated description:
A common response to requests for increased representation of women/PoC in science fiction seems to be—we are just looking for good stories. Writers are concerned that, even absent overt discrimination, the themes they want to write about and the stories they want to tell will be dismissed as irrelevant to the white male audience. This doesn’t really have anything to do with quality.

Getting it Wrong Gracefully, Mon 10:00 – 11:15AM.
Moderating again, yay. Panelists are Alan Bostick, Moondancer Drake, Vylar Kaftan, and Mary Robinette Kowal. In brief:
The purpose of this discussion is to not only talk about the logistics of writing about folks unlike yourself, but to talk about how a writer handles the inevitable moment when what you’ve written offends someone.

If you’re wondering, Wiscon usually has a desperate shortage of moderators, so when people are willing, they definitely get used. And while I know many of these panels will require moderator heavy lifting — controversial panels can get ugly, if one isn’t careful — I think it’s worth a little sacrifice of comfort on my part to try and keep the discussion on-track. Wiscon is my favorite SF con because it’s willing to have these kinds of panels, and it staffs them with ordinary people — anyone who feels like it can volunteer to be on a panel at Wiscon, and there’s a strong likelihood they’ll get picked. I’ve learned more about being a writer from panels like this than from any panel of knowitall blowhards.

Actually, I’m most nervous about the reading. Haven’t done one of those since the last Wiscon, maybe 2 years ago? And now that I’ve got less than a month to go, I really need to decide what I’m going to read. ::ulp:: I’m torn between two forthcoming things: the first chapter of 100K, and the first half of my short story “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters”, which will be coming out in Postscripts in 2010. It’s got to fit into about 15 minutes, so can’t be much, whatever it is. Argh, I’m so indecisive.

So anyway, hope to see some of you there. =)