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.

DA: Inquisition Story Review

So, since people keep asking me about this on Twitter, I’ll summarize my thoughts about this game, which I finished this past weekend. Emphasis on story vs other gameplay elements, so thus the post title. Spoilers herein, BTW, so a cut:
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Your groundbreaking is not my groundbreaking

Note: I will be mentioning a few spoilers in this post. Look away now if you’re not ready for that yet!

So, a few nights ago I started Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third game in a franchise I’ve liked a lot over the years. Just for shits and giggles I livetweeted my game for a few hours. Most of the feed is pretty dull — like, me eating dinner while waiting half an hour for the game to finish installing on my XBox’s hard drive. But once I finally got the game going and dug into the character creator, I felt a moment of sharp bitterness at the realization that even though I write fantasy, there are times when this genre is really, really hard to love. My in-the-moment reaction:

I ended up with this when I was done rolling up my character (sorry for the terrible image; it’s just a photo of my TV screen):

image shows a DA: Inquisition character: middle-toned black female elf with white facial markings and nearly bald shaven head

She’s okay. Not what I wanted. But okay. And that’s pretty much how the experience left me feeling, despite the fact that I’ve been stupidly excited over this game for something like three years. That pretty much killed the excitement right out of the gate. I’m still playing, but I’m not raving about this game to anyone, anymore. It’s just something to do, now.

So, this little experience has me thinking a lot about the concept of “normal”.
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You can tell a lot about a fantasy novel by its glossary

Was just working on the glossary for The Fifth Season. Glossaries are both fun and frustrating for me — fun because a glossary is worldbuilding at its most stark, and frustrating because it’s part of the story, and can enhance or detract from the reading experience if it’s mishandled. The tension between TELL THEM EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, HA HA HA and tell them nothing, nothing, they don’t need to know gets kind of uncomfortable after awhile. That’s why I’ve asked that all of my glossaries be located at the backs of my books, rather than the fronts — because, like maps, they contain unavoidable spoilers to the reader about where the story’s going to go and what it will involve. I prefer for readers to figure that out the way the characters do, by living in the world’s context and immersing in its strangeness.

Still, the Broken Earth trilogy is the, hmm, biggest thing I’ve ever written, and the scope of it is forcing me to do some things I’ve never done before. The Fifth Season is going to have a map, for example. (Yeah, yeah, I’m breaking my infamous “NO MAPS!” rule, lemmealone.) But I needed one while I was working on TFS, which pretty much means readers are going to need one too, so I’ve spent the past few weeks working with an artist on my first-ever fantasy map. That’s been fascinating as hell — the first draft alone is awesome — and when it’s done I’ll tell you more about it.

And the glossary is bigger. I’m editing it down now, because ya know, the glossary shouldn’t be longer than the novel. In the process I’m trying to put myself into the head of a reader who skips ahead to read the glossary before reading the book, because I know full well some of ya’ll do that. ::mom eyes:: That way I can (hopefully) extract any spoilers before you impatient people hit them. :)

So, an exercise! Here’s a random page of the glossary, from which I think I have extracted any spoilery material. There should be stuff here that makes you scratch your head and want to know more, but not anything that would reveal Important Plot Secrets. Warning in advance that I might have failed in this, so I’m putting it below the cut if you’d rather not risk it. The rest of you, if you’re feeling brave, help me out!

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Why I Talk So Damn Much About Non-Writing Stuff

A reader at NYCC asked me — not in an accusatory way if you’re wondering — why I spend so much time on social media talking about world events, social justice issues, health care, etc. I’m an SFF writer, after all; why don’t I just spend all of my time talking about writing?

What I told her, basically, was this: when I talk about those things, I am talking about writing. How can I manage good characterization if I don’t understand the complexities of human behavior, and their motivations? How plausible will my fantasy worlds be, if they don’t demonstrate the power dynamics and cognitive fallacies which shape our own societies — i.e., what readers will expect to see, given their own likely experiences? Apart from the fact that the stuff I retweet and comment upon affects me personally — e.g. race and gender issues, gaming, Amazon vs Hachette — these things are also story material. In The Kingdom of Gods, Dekarta’s personality is shaped by being a mixed-race person who cannot pass as Amn, in a society that has privileged and applied value to Amn “purity” for generations. That’s not a personal experience for me, but when you read enough stories like this about supposedly-loving parents who nevertheless consider their child’s brownness to be a “loss” for which they should be compensated… well. It’s easy to extrapolate. In The Broken Kingdoms, when Oree knows better than to expect justice of Shadow’s system of law enforcement — that part is personal experience, and also reading a thousand news articles about how police victimize and disproportionately target the poor and people of color and trans people and so on. Many of the scenarios in The Shadowed Sun are drawn from everything I’ve read and lived on how sexual abuse is handled in societies which are in denial about having a problem with sexual abuse, and which simultaneously point fingers at other “more barbaric” societies. And so on. Sure, it’s all fantasy… but I’ve always been firmly of the opinion that the various whoppers of fantasy (e.g. dream-stalking ninja priests) go down easier if they’re coated in realistic human structures and interactions.

That’s the whole point of speculative fiction for me, really — playing the “what-if” game. What if, all other things being equal and people being people, the apocalypse happened every few hundred years? What if, all other things being equal and people being people, gods lived among us, and were sometimes real assholes? Those what-ifs don’t work without the people being people part. Which means I need to understand people, in the real world, in all their glory and grotesquerie.

So, for those of you who get frustrated by how often I post about Ferguson, or bigotry in video games, or whatever, and who wish I would just stick to writing… well. I get that you might not be interested in the stuff that interests me. But you might want to expand your definition of what’s relevant to writing, is all I’m saying. For the worldbuilder, all the world is necessary fuel.

Author strength training: Reading reviews

So, I saw Kameron Hurley (who’s got a new book out that I really need to get to ASAP) lamenting this morning on Twitter about something familiar:

It’s the thing they don’t really tell you in Pro-Author-Wannabe school: getting published is just the beginning. Or maybe they said it and I just didn’t want to hear it — because after all the effort most of us go through to learn the craft, make the connections, find the agent, and/or sell the book, who’s really ready to hear, “Okay! Now it gets hard“? But the thing is, despite the manuscript deadlines and the page proofs that have to be done yesterday and the interviews and the conventions and the blog maintenance oh and the day job most of us won’t be able to afford to quit, we also have to make sure we’re continuing to improve our craft. Becoming good enough to publish doesn’t mean you’ve crossed some artistic finish line; it means you’ve qualified for the real race. It means you’ve reached a minimum level of readability — and I can’t speak for other authors, but I’m not satisfied with minimum anything. I need to be the best writer I can possibly be. That means I need to not only “stay in shape” writing-skill-wise, I also need to make an active effort to improve those skills over time — kind of like strength training when you’ve hit a fitness plateau. A few ways that I’ve done this “author strength training” include: trying to stay current with my writing group, although I’ve done a terrible job of that lately and need to try harder; attempting drastically different styles and perspectives in my writing, and forcing myself outside of my comfort zone; and reading as much as possible, which I’m pleased to say I’ve done a decent job of this year. (Except Kameron’s book. Sorry, Kameron. Soon.)

But another thing I do is look at my reviews.
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What I’ve been up to lately

So, it’s been awhile, blogosphere; my apologies. I would’ve updated sooner, but I had some technical difficulties (now fixed thanks to a move to a new web host) and a series of cascading deadlines that was… well, not fun. But for the first time in awhile, I’ve got room to breathe! So here’s what you missed, if you don’t follow me on Twitter or FB.

“The Awakened Kingdom” and Inheritance Trilogy omnibus are on the way!

You can preorder the ebook version now. Just sent off the page proofs today! And here’s the cover, if you missed it:
Awakened Kingdom ebook cover - shows stylized brassy stars exploding on a burgundy background, and book title.


I came back from Clarion into a massive deadline and a fresh bout of bronchitis, so didn’t update at the time. Fortunately, a number of Clarion students have blogged about this summer, including Martin Cahill’s account of how the dreaded Week 4 went with me on deck. (Hint: I shot them. I SHOT THEM ALL.) It was grueling, inspiring, frustrating, and humbling in the best way. Clarionites, I miss you guys!

Some members of Clarion UCSD mugging for the camera, and me

Photo credit Vida Cruz, July 2014


Sept 19th was my birthday, so for a personal treat I finally got around to doing the thing I’ve wanted to do since 2004 when my first novel got me an agent, which I consider to be the starting point of my pro-writer career. I’m a big believer in the importance of acknowledging personal milestones; without those, I don’t feel like I’m making any progress in life. So to demarcate the point where I took a great flying leap toward the achievement of a lifelong dream, ten years later I’ve gotten my Gatherer tattoo. Those of you who’ve read the Dreamblood may recall that when a Gatherer-Apprentice is accepted into that path, he is marked with an identifying floral tattoo (since Gatherers’ faces are generally unseen — everyone knows them as “the Rose”, or “the Nightshade”). Nijiri’s is the blue lotus. I started to go with an Egyptian design originally, and some of you may recall that I solicited ideas from readers about what the Gatherer tattoo should look like. I got several good designs — thanks, folks. But nothing really grabbed me, and since I didn’t have the money to spare at the time, I set the idea on the back burner again. But then lo and behold, artist Lee Moyer and I got to talking about some things re Arisia (where we’ll both be GoHs next year), and he showed me a pretty, and that was it. That was Nijiri’s lotus. So with his kind permission, I have applied his art to my flesh.

This is the tat freshly done. Can’t show you the final form because it’s still healing and looks kind of gross right now. -_- Maybe later.

Image of Jemisin's left shoulder with tattoo of a stylized blue lotus

Design by Lee Moyer, tattoo by Willie at Brooklyn Tattoo.

And a little something more…

ETA: Almost forgot; I’ve been busy with a few other things lately. A few reprints newly out, plus another NYT SFF roundup review is coming soon. I can’t talk about the review, but I suppose I can gloat a little about at least one of the books I’ve gotten to read lately, thanks to this NYT gig…

Photo of three books -- two anthologies featuring Jemisin reprints, the third a review copy of Ann Leckie's ANCILLARY SWORD

So that’s all the news that is news in Noraville. How’s by you guys?

A survey of my recent gaming

And by “recent” I mean “I played it recently”, not that these are recent games. ‘Cause I’m busy, and sometimes it takes me awhile to get around to things. Spoiler warning on all of these, so I’ll put them behind a cut, but these are all old games anyway, so my guess is that nobody really cares about spoilers anymore.

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Small Acknowledgements

I miss WisCon. One of the reasons it’s been one of my favorite conventions — during the years I wasn’t personally boycotting it, anyway (it’s a love-hate thing) — is that I learn so much, often despite myself, and that kind of learning is always a pleasure. (So many mind blown moments.) But that said, it’s a 1000-person con, and while I’m a very functional introvert, I am an introvert; I need space and silence to recharge and reflect. So I’ve been doing a lot of that in the slightly-more-than-24-hours since I got home.

In particular I’ve been reflecting on the speech of my fellow Guest of Honor, Hiromi Goto. It’s a beautiful speech; she has more poetry in her little finger than I could ever muster in a hundred years, and given that I was sitting in the audience dripping nervous sweat when I heard it, it gave me strength. (If you’re reading this, Ms. Goto, thank you again.) I’d noticed the thematic congruity of both speeches before fellow author Sofia Samatar “remixed” them to show them in conversation, though her reconstruction really brings it home.

But in particular I want to focus in on something that Ms. Goto chose to do at the very beginning of the speech:

I would like to acknowledge the Ho-Chunk and Dakota Sioux Nations and their traditional lands. I am a guest, here, and I am grateful.

It’s a common thing in this genre for us to acknowledge our mentors and allies, our families, our readers, anyone else who’s helped us get to where we are within the scope of our career. What’s uncommon is a broader acknowledgement; one which stretches past the individual and into community, and history. My nation is one which encourages its people to think of the present and future as something neatly divided from the past; one which values, valorizes, rugged individualism. The problem with this kind of thinking, though, is that it lends a false gloss of accomplishment to everything we do. Like businesses built on public land using public utilities and roads which then refuse to pay workers enough to keep them from them going on public assistance in order to survive… and which then demand a tax exemption because they’re doing the public such a favor by existing. Of course individuals who succeed usually work hard to do so; it’s just that their accomplishment doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and we are a country that likes to pretend otherwise. Particularly when the people who got us to where we are are those we’d rather not acknowledge, for various reasons.

Ms. Goto’s acknowledgement is, I think, modeled on the Australian Acknowledgement of Country that I alluded to in my Continuum GoH speech last year. And though I’ve come to believe in the time since that it might be too soon for reconciliation in SFF — that we have not yet earned that level of closure — I do think there’s value in emulating some of the other cultures which are trying to do this. What many of these cultures seem to have figured out is that acknowledgements, however small, matter. It’s not just the thefts, the violence, or the exclusions that hurt, but also the rewriting of history to pretend none of that shit happened. Injustice keeps the wounds festering, but it’s the lies that salt and sting.

And maybe this is the kind of thing that can help. It’s a simple gesture, only a few words, but words have power. I did not include an acknowledgement like this in my speech, and I feel instinctively that it should be different to an acknowledgement of country; as I understand the Australian practice, those are done at events using public space and/or government funding, for the obvious reason that the government wouldn’t exist without the land it stands upon, and the people who’ve funded it — all of them. In the US, that’s a more complex statement, because so much of this country was built not only upon stolen land but stolen labor. And in the literary field, our foundations were built in different ways.

So this is my Acknowledgement of Genre. Or Art. Still noodling. I welcome suggestions on changing/improving this, BTW.

I acknowledge the Lenape people on whose ancestral land I stand; the African people whose bones were buried unmarked in this city’s foundations; and the involuntary and exploited labor of people from every land which helped to make New York City great.

I also acknowledge the literary ancestors without whose sacrifices and inspiration I would not be here: Mary Shelley, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Joyce, and Octavia Butler. You are joined most recently by Maya Angelou, an inspiration to us all.

I’m aware that this is too simple a statement to encompass the totality of any one person’s literary debts owed — just as the acknowledgement of country is too simple a statement to acknowledge the totality of any colonial nation’s debts. And I’m aware there’s substantial controversy regarding acknowledgements like this, which — without a real effort at memory, and unaccompanied by a serious attempt to redress past wrongs — can seem superficial, trivial.

Still, I think it’s a start. I kept it short because a complete acknowledgement would take forever, and because this is meant to be symbolic, not literal. The first paragraph is obviously specific to my locality. For the second paragraph, I chose four names so that two could be male and two female. For my first two names I deliberately chose people whose place in genre history is often forgotten or elided in favor of white men; then Joyce because he’s probably my strongest actual literary influence; then Butler because I would never have tried to get published in this genre without her example to lead the way. Obviously I chose only people who are no longer living — thus “ancestors” — because acknowledging the ancestors is a tradition that my own family has adopted, and which I suspect a lot of African American families do as well in an effort to reclaim lost aspects of our heritage. And I included Maya just because it felt right.

For now this is a thought exercise. I’m not giving any more speeches anytime soon — my next GoH appearance will be at Arisia — and I’ve got novellas and books to write as well as a whole bunch of short fiction to read before Clarion. But I think I’m going to try including this at the beginning of any future speech I give, once I refine it to my liking. You’re welcome to use it too.

A note on my Wiscon speech

Some friends asked me about a part of the speech that bothered them — namely the quote that I included from Delany’s 1998 essay, this line in particular:

As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

Since other folks may have the same questions, let me address them here. I can’t speak to what Mr. Delany meant, and wouldn’t presume to try. He’s perfectly capable of speaking for himself, if he wants to do so re a 16-year-old essay quoted by some woman he met once and probably doesn’t remember. I can only speak to why I chose this passage, and what it meant for me. To me it seemed a straightforward description of the SFF genre of the 50s and 60s, especially from the perspective of an outsider trying to break in: that is, mostly white liberals — by the standards of the time, however we might describe them today — and people who were at least Jewish if not liberal, and thus theoretically accepting of black writers because they got the concept of discrimination. (Delany’s essay details how accepted he actually was in those days. Might want to go read it, for context.)

But I’m not Jewish, and I don’t have a radar that pings whenever “Jewish” and words like “economic” are mentioned in close proximity. It didn’t even occur to me that the statement could be read as an allusion to the stereotype of Jewish people being parsimonious. That’s certainly not how I read it, obviously — but I get that this is one possible interpretation of the passage, and that my own privilege as a non-Jewish person is why I didn’t notice that. And especially in light of (TW for anti-Semitism and general bigotry) ongoing bullshit happening both here and overseas — I also get why some of the folks who heard those lines were… concerned.

Sooooo not my intention, ya’ll. Really sorry for that. And from here forth I’ll try to keep a closer lookout for those kinds of “stereotype keyword” combinations, to avoid confusion/alarm.

[ETA: fixed broken link.]

Wiscon 38 Guest of Honor Speech

[ETA 3/28/14: Added markup; text is still the same. Also, please note a discussion here about a line in the Delany quote that concerned some people.]

Thanks to all the WisCon volunteers, members, and other supporters, who have given me the opportunity to speak to you now.

Trigger warning: I’m going to refer to rape, harassment, racism, and other forms of bigotry and abuse in this speech. Also, profanity warning. That’s sort of standard with me.

I’m going to start this off with a quote from Chip Delany, writing in the essay “Racism and Science Fiction” which was published in NYRSF in 1998. It’s online, you can look it up.

“Since I began to publish in 1962, I have often been asked, by people of all colors, what my experience of racial prejudice in the science fiction field has been. Has it been nonexistent? By no means: It was definitely there. A child of the political protests of the ’50s and ’60s, I’ve frequently said to people who asked that question: As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

We are still a long way away from such statistics.

But we are certainly moving closer.”

I’m tempted to just stop there, drop the mic, and walk offstage, point made. Chip’s a hard act to follow.

But it has been almost twenty years since his prophetic announcement, and in that time all of society — not just the microcosm of SFF — has racheted toward that critical, threatening mass in which people who are not white and not male achieve positions of note. And indeed we have seen science fiction and fantasy authors and editors and film directors and game developers become much, much more explicit and hostile in their bigotry. We’ve seen that bigotry directed not just toward black authors but authors of all races other than white; not just along the racial continuum but the axes of gender, sexual orientation, nationality, class, and so on. We’ve seen it aimed by publishers and book buyers and reviewers and con organizers toward readers, in the form of every whitewashed book cover, every “those people don’t matter” statement, and every all-white, mostly-male BookCon presenters’ slate. Like Chip said, this stuff has always been here. It’s just more intense, and more violent, now that the bigots feel threatened.

And it is still here. I’ve come to realize just how premature I was in calling for a reconciliation in the SFF genres last year, when I gave my Guest of Honor speech at the 9th Continuum convention in Australia.

For those of you who don’t stay on top of the latest news in the genre, let me recap what happened after that speech: I was textually assaulted by a bigot who decided to call me a “half-savage” among other things. (Whoops, sorry; he calls himself an “anti-equalitarian”, because why use a twelve-cent word when you can come up with a $2 word for the same thing? Anyway.) He did this via the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s official Twitter feed, which meant that he was using the organization as the tool for a personalized, racist, sexist attack; because of this he was later expelled from the organization. He was just the inciting incident, though; the really interesting thing is what surrounded this whole affair. I got the expected rape and death threats from this man’s supporters and others, which I duly reported to various authorities, for whatever good that did. During the month or so that it took SFWA to figure out what it wanted to do with this guy, a SFWA officer sat on the formal complaint I’d submitted because she thought I had “sent it in anger” and that I might not be aware of the consequences of sending something like that to the Board. A SFWA affiliate member posted a call for civility on his website; in the process he called me “an Omarosa” and a “drama queen”, but of course he didn’t mean those in a racialized or gendered way. In a semi-secret unofficial SFWA forum there was intense debate — involving former SFWA presidents and officers, and people who weren’t members at all — about why it was desperately important that SFWA retain its harassers and assaulters, no matter how many members they drove off, because their ability to say whatever they wanted was more important than everyone’s ability to function in genre workspaces, and SFWA’s ability to exist as a professional association.

Let me be clear: all of these were racist and sexist attacks, not just one on the SFWA Twitter feed. And let me emphasize that I am by no means the only woman or person of color who’s been targeted by threats, slurs, and the intentional effort to create a hostile environment in our most public spaces. People notice what happens to me because for better or worse I’ve achieved a high-enough profile to make the attacks more visible. But I suspect every person in this room who isn’t a straight white male has been on the receiving end of something like this — aggressions micro and macro. Concerted campaigns of “you don’t belong here”.

This is why I say I was premature in calling for a reconciliation. Reconciliations are for after the violence has ended. In South Africa the Truth & Reconciliation Commission came after apartheid’s end; in Rwanda it started after the genocide stopped; in Australia reconciliation began after its indigenous people stopped being classified as “fauna” by its government. Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted? How can we begin to talk about healing when all the perpetrators have to do is toss out dogwhistles and disclaimers of evil intent to pretend they’ve done no harm?

(Incidentally: Mr. Various Diseases, Mr. Civility, and Misters and Misses Free Speech At All Costs, if you represent the civilization to which I’m supposed to aspire then I am all savage, and damned proud of it. You may collectively kiss my black ass.)

Maybe you think I’m using hyperbole here, when I describe the bigotry of the SFF genres as “violence”. Maybe I am using hyperbole — but I don’t know what else to call it. SFF are dedicated to the exploration of the future and myth and history. Dreams, if you want to frame it that way. Yet the enforced SWM dominance of these genres means that the dreams of whole groups of people have been obliterated from the Zeitgeist. And it’s not as if those dreams don’t exist. They’re out there, in spades; everyone who dreams is capable of participating in these genres. But many have been forcibly barred from entry, tormented and reeducated until they serve the status quo. Their interests have been confined within creative ghettos, allowed out only in proscribed circumstances and limited numbers. When they do appear, they are expected to show their pass and wear their badge: “Look, this is an anthology of NATIVE AMERICAN ANCIENT WISDOM from back when they existed! Put a kachina on the cover or it can’t be published. No, no, don’t put an actual Navajo on the cover, what, are you crazy? We want the book to sell. That person looks too white, anyway, are you sure they aren’t lying about being an Indian? What the hell is a Diné? What do you mean you’re Inuit?”

But the violence that has been done is more than metaphysical or thematic. Careers have been strangled at birth. Identities have been raped — and I use that word intentionally, not metaphorically. What else to call it when a fan’s real name is stripped of its pseudonym, her life probed for data and details until she gets phone calls at her home and workplace threatening her career, her body, and her family? (I don’t even need to name a specific example of this; it’s happened too often, to too many people.) Whole subgenres like magic realism and YA have been racially and sexually profiled, with discrimination based on that profiling so normalized as to be nearly invisible. How many of you have heard that epic fantasy or video games set in medieval Europe need not include people of color because there weren’t any? I love the Medieval PoC blog for introducing simple visual evidence of how people like me were systematically and literally excised from history. The result is a fantasy readership that will defend to the death the idea that dragons belong and Those People don’t.

Incidentally, the person who runs the Medieval PoC blog estimates she has received something on the order of 30 death threats in recent months.

And let’s talk about the threats — including the ones I’m likely to get for this speech. The harassment. The rapes. The child abuse. Let’s talk about how many conventions have been forced to use disturbingly careful language to basically say, Don’t assault people. Let’s talk about how much pushback statements like that have gotten from people whining, “Aw, c’mon, can’t I assult someone just a little?”

Worst of all, the violence has at this point become self-perpetuating. I can’t tell you how many times I was told, with great vehemence and hostility, that there was no chance of me having a career in SFF — by other people of color. Yeine, the protagonist of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, was almost a white man because I listened to some of what these people were saying. (Imagine if I’d listened to all of it.)

I have no idea what to do about all this. Just keep doing what I’ve been doing, I guess — just write, and try to improve my writing, and publish, and try to stay published. Every few months, pause to deal with some bigot’s bullshit. Then get back to writing. For the first time in my life I was diagnosed with high blood pressure earlier this year. It’s back down to normal, now, but bigotry kills, you know. Gotta be more careful of my physical and psychological health. Gotta survive. Because that’s all anyone can do, if we’re ever to make it to the point that reconciliation is possible. We aren’t there yet.

There are some signs of hope, I guess: SFWA did throw that one bigot out, though plenty more remain. Chip Delany’s been honored as a SFWA Grandmaster some fifty years after one of his novels was rejected for serialization in ANALOG because its editors didn’t think anyone could relate to a black protagonist. WisCon invited me here to be one of its Guests of Honor, five years after I ragequit the Concom over the Elizabeth Moon affair. We are talking about what’s happening. We are fighting back. But I am desperately afraid that Delany’s prediction will continue to prove true, and that the violence will escalate as more of us step up and demand that our contributions be recognized, our personhood respected, our presence acknowledged. If that’s the case, then we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. And we need to prepare.

So. If they think we are a threat? Let’s give them a threat. They want to call us savages? Let’s show them exactly what that means.

Arm yourselves. Go to panels at Wiscon and claim the knowledge and language that will be your weapons. Go to sources of additional knowledge for fresh ammunition — histories and analyses of the genre by people who see beyond the status quo, our genre elders, new sources of knowledge like “revisionist” scholarship instead of the bullshit we all learned in school. Find support groups of like-minded souls; these are your comrades-in-arms, and you will need their strength. Don’t try to do this alone. When you’re injured, seek help; I’ve got a great list of CBT therapists, for any of you in the New York area. Exercise to stay strong, if you can; defend what health you have, if you can’t. And from here on, wherever you see bigotry in the genre? Attack it. Don’t wait for it to come directly at you; attack it even if it’s hitting another group. If you won’t ride or die for anyone else, how can you expect them to ride or die for you? Understand that there are people in this genre who hate you, and who do not want you here, and who will hurt you if they can. Do not tolerate their intolerance. Don’t be “fair and balanced.” Tell them they’re unwelcome. Make them uncomfortable. Shout them down. Kick them out. Fucking fight.

And maybe one day, when the fighting’s done, then we can heal. On that day, all of us will dream freely, at last.

Thank you again.