N.K. Jemisin

Coming in August 2015

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).

You are likely to be eaten by your unfinished wordcount.

This. Is too funny. Go read it. My only regret is that now I get to follow this awesome post with my own tomorrow. -_-

Since I never got to play games like this as a kid (no computer, though the family did have a Pong unit, go figure), I figured there had to be a way I could experience the awe and majesty of Zork online, now. And lo and behold, there is! But now I’ve been playing for an hour and haven’t gotten any writing done. And f#@$ing grues keep eating me…

Mon livre sera disponible en français!

Ooo-wee!! French rights to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms have just sold to Calmann-Levy! Laissez le bon temps roulet!

(…Suddenly I’m craving a po-boy and some beignets. Ah, I do know what it means to miss New Orleans…)

Copyediting and Agents and Gardens, oh my!

Been awhile since I posted here, so now I’ve got “diarrhea of the mouth”, as my grandmother used to say. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Received the copyedited version of Book 1 last week and have been steadily working my way through it, checking to make sure all my i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. I’ve never seen something professionally copyedited before, so it’s fascinating to see how someone who really knows their English has interpreted my sometimes loosey-goosey language. I’ve learned two things from this: a) that I overuse commas and hyphenated compounds like no tomorrow, and b) I’m not too shabby at self-editing. I really expected this copyedit to be covered in red marks and notes from the copyeditor that said stuff like “DEAR GODS, WHAT DID THIS WOMAN DO TO OUR LANGUAGE?!” Instead, there are relatively few marks, and I’m actually learning a lot from this about my own bad habits.

I was always told (by published writer-mentors) that a good copyeditor is a valuable resource in the publication process, and I can see why they say that now. I really like this guy.

Going to have to hustle, though. For long-story reasons involving FedEx’s stupidity and some cluelessness on my part, the copyedit got to me late, and it’s due very soon, so I’ve put Book 3 writing on hold in order to concentrate on it. That’s cool, though — I’m a classic procrastinator who tends to shift into high gear at the last minute. ::starts humming Bowie’s “Under Pressure”::

On another note — I’ve raved here and elsewhere about my phenomenal agent, Lucienne Diver. I saw her again this weekend past at Lunacon, where we had lunch and she talked me down from a minor panic re The Future Of My Career, etc. Now, I don’t know if all authors want an agent who can do things like that for them — offer emotional support along with mad contract-negotiating skillz, etc. But for me, as a new author who’s still very unsure of herself professionally and still trying to figure out how this crazy business works, the personal touch really helps. Case in point: on the day I got the first offer for 100K and its sequels, I was at work, which she knew, but she also knew how anxious I’d been about whether there would be an offer, so she called anyway. She asked me, “Are you ready?” then told me the amount of the offer. I excused myself, got up and closed the office door, then shouted, “ARE YOU F%#KING KIDDING ME?!” I don’t actually remember what else I said after that, though I do recall it involved a lot of gibbering and giddy squealing. (Best. Day. Ever.) Then, over the next few days as three different publishers bid on it in an auction, L called to give me periodic updates. Things happened so fast, with so many details involved, that my head was soon spinning. L always took the time to explain who was offering what, what the various configurations of advance meant, how the royalties would work, etc. When I asked questions, or simply babbled in excitement, she was never too busy to deal with it, and she gave me her honest opinions about all of it — but still made sure the decision-ball was in my court. When the final deal was made, she introduced me to my new editor and walked me through the next steps. Seriously, I can’t imagine how any author, especially a new one, could function without an agent like this.

So now you, too, have the opportunity to get a phenomenal agent like mine — maybe even L herself! L’s agency is The Knight Agency, and they’re running an online pitch contest! To quote L:

Here’s a chance to have your project reviewed by one of the agents at The Knight Agency. Submit three compelling sentences (150 words max) about your completed, unpublished manuscript to submissions @ knightagency.net (delete spaces). Write BOOK IN A NUTSHELL in the subject line or it will not be deemed elligible. One submission per project, please. Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work…and it may even lead to possible representation. Hurry, the deadline is April 20, 2009. Winners will be notified by May 1, 2009.

My agent search involved sending out large-envelope packets in waves of 10, each containing a letter, synopsis, sample chapters, and so forth. Cost a lot in time, paper supplies, and postage, and was a general PITA. I wish it had been as easy as sending an email. So if you’re looking for an agent, hop to it!

And in other news, I have begun preparations for a balcony garden:

Snapdragon, lavender, tigridia, peppers, collards, and more.

…And no, I’m not planting The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Shall post updates on what, if anything, grows.

Observations… theory?

Got the copyedit of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms today! I’ve never done this before, so I kind of boggled when I started flipping pages and saw all these little squiggly things on it. The folks in my writing group helped me decipher the first few pages, and the stylesheet included with it helps too. It looks like it’s going to be fun to work on this — and I needed to re-read it anyway, now that I’m working on Book 3, for congruity’s sake — but there’s definitely going to be a learning curve involved. Wish me luck.

And in cross-promotional news… over at the Magic District, fellow author Greg van Eekhout has some interesting observations about the state of the science fiction field. He’s got me thinking, and though I’m not ready to put forward a full-fledged theory yet, I do have a few hypotheses:

  1. “Science fiction” is increasingly perceived as just fiction, and just one particular subset of fiction — spaceships and rayguns, basically. This is despite the efforts of people within the field to treat it as a wide literary umbrella (e.g., the Science Fiction Writers of America, whose organizational name includes “and fantasy” even though the acronym hasn’t changed to reflect it, and which also incorporates some horror, YA, etc.).
  2. Science fiction (meaning here all the stuff supposed to fall under the wide umbrella) as a genre is failing to draw in constituents beyond its original target audience — the now-aging white males seen in Greg’s Observation 1. This lost audience includes young people, people of color, international readers (e.g., China), women, and fans of related media like games and anime. There are several factors involved with this failure — issues within the genre itself, an overall decline in book sales, other media’s perception of themselves as unrelated (e.g., video games = entertainment industry, even when the content is science fictional), etc.
  3. For 1 and 2, if the terminology is the problem, then SciFi/SyFi’s decision makes sense.

It’s 1 that interests me most right now, because that’s the new idea for me. I use the term “science fiction” to represent lots of things — science fiction, fantasy, sometimes horror; films, video games, books; the hardcore fandom and the casual watchers who’ve only seen the occasional “Star Trek” episode. But I do tend to use the term “sci fi” only among knowledgeable fellow genre fans, mostly because non-fans don’t seem to use it for fantasy, etc.

For example, when non-genre people ask me about 100K, I say, “It’s a fantasy novel,” or “I’m a fantasy writer.” And I usually further clarify: “You know, like Lord of the Rings or Narnia?” But all my life, I’ve thought of myself as a science fiction writer, and with genre fans I say that. There’s no need for clarification. I write anything that falls under SF’s broad umbrella: spaceships and rayguns, magic, monsters, black holes, dragons, things that go bump in the night. “Sci fi” is the easiest way to say that, among people who read and write the same thing.

But how did it happen that people outside the genre don’t think of it that way — if it’s true that they don’t? This is an hypothesis, after all… but I can’t think of a way to test it. Ideas, anyone?

New Post at the Magic District: Retreats

OK, I know I’ve been posting more at the Magic District lately than I have been here. Sorry, ya’ll. =( Still learning how to juggle all this stuff. And apparently I’m going to be adding more soon; Altered Fluid is thinking about starting a blog. Yo ho, yo ho, a blogger’s life for me…

Anyhow, this week’s post is an expansion of my post here (last week) about the retreat my writing group undertook. So check it out!

Free Drugs and Rock n’ Roll at the Magic District!

…well, no, I just talk about it for free. But it’s the thought that counts!

Tired, but happy

I love my writing group! Last week we went on a retreat, taking over a farm in western Pennsylvania (near Gettysburg), where we spent 5 days doing nothing but writing and hanging out. I have to tell you, I’m not the sort of person who hangs out with a bunch of people easily for 5 hours, let alone 5 days, but this was worth gold.

Altered Fluid at its retreat; taken by Robert
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Sale to Postscripts!

Woo! I sold a short story. It’s called “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters”, and is set in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Sold to the UK print ‘zine, Postscripts. No info yet on publication date, but I’ll keep you posted.

I don’t write short stories often. The problem is that I rarely get discrete ideas. For example, I once started a story about an assassin in a vaguely Egyptian setting who viewed killing as a transcendant religious experience. But that got me thinking about why a religion might consider murder a good thing… which got me thinking about why anyone would need to be murdered… which got me wondering what sort of society would need to develop in order to support this ideology… which got me thinking about how this religion’s cosmology would’ve developed… which got me researching whether the moon of a gas giant could be habitable… which made me wonder whether people living on such a moon might still be able to make the same observations of the heavens that, say, the Egyptians did… which made me wondering whether other people on the same planet would interpret those observations the same way… which made me think about this religious country’s enemies and allies…

The result was two complete novels — unpublished as yet — the outline of a third, and a novella set in the same universe but with different characters… but no short story. The original short story was never finished.

I don’t mind when this happens; I like immersing myself in a novel world more than I like the brief dalliances of a short story. Still, I do wish I’d get short story inspirations more often, because I find them more challenging and exciting to write. I can’t stop myself from writing novels; that’s a compulsion. I do that to stay sane. But forcing myself to work on a more condensed idea, and conveying that idea clearly, takes all my skill. I feel like more of a writer when I do it.

Anyway, in a few months, you’ll be able to read this one. =) Yay!

New post over at the Magic District!

As I mentioned, I’ll be posting stuff on Thursdays over at the Magic District. Today’s post is about sex. Go see!

Now it can be told: The Magic District

Hey, all. Been working for the past few days on a Sekrit Projekt! Which no longer needs to be secret. See, me and some other authors have decided to form an online promotion gang. Well, I heard about it and got jumped in (pummelled by WordPress issues), and now we’re the baddest motheshutyomouths on the internet. …Well, not really. But we will be, one day. =)

Check it out: The Magic District! It goes live on Friday, and we’re promising a new post every day, plus a Sunday “open question” that all of us will answer. Who’s “us”, you say? Well, Margaret Ronald, whom I’ve been raving about here; Greg van Eekhout; Tim Pratt; Diana Rowland; and fellow Orbiteer Rachel Aaron. (Conversations between me and Rachel: “You write 1000 words a day??” “ME TOO!!” “What, yours is also a three-book deal for which you’re now busting your ass to finish books 2 and 3 on time?” “ME TOO!!!” Instant BFF material, I tell you.) It’s a great crew and I’m proud to be aboard. I’m all aflutter!

I’ll be posting on Thursdays, BTW; I start a week from today. We’re going to talk about topics like the secrets of great villainy, and how far one can or should go with fantasy-novel sex (that’s one I’m planning to do for my first post), and so on.