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.

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.

Good reads of many kinds

Over on LJ, author Cat Valente is going through some hard times, and is offering a novel literary experiment to make ends meet. Basically, she’ll post her latest chapters of her latest work for people to read and pay for as she goes along. I can’t donate at the moment because I’m kind of struggling myself, but I’m spreading the word. I loved Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales stuff, so I suspect anyone who can participate will get something beautiful for their money.

Speaking of something beautiful, have recently discovered Goodreads. Where have you been all my life?? I like it, though it feels a bit redundant with Library Thing. Anyway, I’m on both, so feel free to friend me at either.

ETA, because I am a moron — also, the Clarion West Write-a-Thon is happening right now. My buddy K. Tempest Bradford has met her goal of $1500, which is le cool, but other participating writers could use the encouragement, and CW could use the cash. So sign up!

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)