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.

PAIN!!! Also, possible translation news. But PAIN!!!

I feel like I’m channeling the Horta today. For reasons I’ve never quite understood, I’ve begun developing these absolutely awful headaches in the last couple of years. They seem to come at random, though dry weather, too much sugar/alcohol, red wine, and some hormonal shifts sometimes contribute. And they’re grinding, twisting, chewing things, like there’s some critter inside my skull steadily boring its way out through one spot (just above my right eye). Sometimes there are weird afterimagey things too, like when you look at a bright light, except I haven’t, and sometimes I get queasy. Friends who know tell me these are all the signs of the dreaded M-word: migraine. But I’m 36, for pity’s sake; why would my body wait ’til now to hit me with this? ::grumblemutter:: Well, I guess denial ain’t just a river in Egypt; I’ll have to go talk to a doctor.

But the only reason I’m online right now and not draped across my couch groaning and contemplating trepanning, is because I got an email from L, my intrepid agent, who let me know that a German publisher has made an offer for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and its sequels. Farfegnugen! (Translation: I know absolutely no German, but I’m thrilled.)

Today, Germany. Tomorrow, some other parts of Europe and maybe Russia!

Important recommendations!!

Sorry for the silence lately. Moved into a new apartment on Monday, and my life has only just begun settling back into sanity. Hopefully my new writing study will be configged by tomorrow, at which point I can finally resume work on BrightGod, which has been on hold for about a week. I’m itching to get back to it.

But!! Before I do, I must share the following. With extra exclamation points!!!

Those of you in New York City, or ever to visit New York in the near future — you must visit the Dessert Truck!! Before now, my favoritest dessert place in all the world was Boston’s Finale. And… well, Finale’s still up there, mostly because they do hot toddies and coffee/chocolate drink mixes that are to die for. (Mmmm… hot chocolate with Bailey’s.) But finally I’ve found someplace in my new hometown that’s just as good. And so unpretentious and inexpensive! Every one of the Dessert Truck’s items are $5 or less. But bottom line: the taste. I’ve had their Molten Chocolate Cake, their Creme Brulee, and — tonight — their hot chocolate. All three are stunning, but let me tell you about this hot chocolate. Think of the richest, finest, smoothest imported chocolate pieces you’ve ever had. (Imported because most American chocolate has issues.) Then liquefy it — but leave it thick, I mean molasses-thick, so heavy on the tongue that you actually have to stop and take a moment work it around in your mouth before swallowing. “Swallowing” is in fact a misnomer, because you can’t swallow this. Instead you have to sort of relax the muscles in your mouth and throat and let it find its own path to your stomach, which it does, but in its own good, thick, sweet time. But before it goes, it lingers awhile in your mouth, just kind of hanging out, kickin’ it with your taste buds. Your taste buds are all like, “YO!! I can’t believe this! I never felt anything like this in my LIFE!!” And the chocolate is all, “‘Sup.” And it grins and winks and leans back, knowing full well it’s amazing.

Like that.

I think this might be deadly. Thick rich gourmet chocolate is attacking my braaaain. Lord knows what it’s doing to me, but if I die, know, all of you, that I died happy. ::wistful sigh::


I’ve been hearing about this phenomenal webcomic called Bayou by Jeremy Love, and I finally decided to check it out. It’s utterly brilliant. A fantasy take on life in just-post-slavery Louisiana, beautifully and powerfully rendered. Little Lee is trying to enjoy her childhood as the daughter of a hard-working sharecropper, though the ugliness of racism rapidly erodes what carefree innocence she had. After a day when she dives into the bayou to fetch the body of lynched child, Lee sees the child’s spirit in the act of transitioning into a supernatural, magical realm. Eventually she travels to that realm herself — a place that is home to talking animals, terrifying creatures like the carnivorous Jim Crows, and monsters. But not all of the monsters are terrible. Lee befriends a big green monster called Bayou, who has great strength but not much courage. Since Lee’s got courage in plenty, but she’s still just a little girl, they pair up and go off on a quest, hoping to rescue Lee’s friend Miss Lily (and in the process, also saving Lee’s father, who is in danger of being lynched for Lily’s disappearance).

The story is superficially a children’s tale, referencing everything from Alice in Wonderland to European faerie myths. But it goes deeper than that, retooling many African and Native American myths (and true stories) to meld seamlessly with the rest. The result is sheer beauty.

I’m not sure it’s really meant for children, though, given the amount of violence and ugliness in the story. It’s mostly stuff that really happened back in those days — lynchings, whippings, and worse — and it’s portrayed unflinchingly, with an artful starkness that’s both beautiful and shocking. I would show it to my kids if I had any, because this too is educational; I think all American children should know both the good and the bad about our country’s history. It would be a great springboard for discussion, IMO. But if any of you reading are parents, I’d advise you to read the comic yourself before sharing it with your kids, and decide whether yours are ready for it. Some of the stuff in it is gory and a bit scary, even for me.

All that said — let me reiterate. Bayou is brilliant. Quite frankly, it’s one of the most original pieces of fantasy I’ve ever read, period. Apparently others have figured this out too: DC Comics is going to be putting it into print. Yay for Jeremy Love! And yay for me, because now I’ll be able to read my new favorite comic on the train commute.

Go read it! Oh, wait, forgot. Go read it!!!!!!!!!!!!

WFC pics, thoughts

I brought a camera with me to WFC, and of course completely forgot to use it 95% of the time. So the best photos I have from the con were actually taken by other people. The first is from Doselle Young, whom I met on Saturday night, along with his wife Janine. We were discussing an odd incident that had just occurred, in which a stranger had stared at me and then asked me whether I was Nalo Hopkinson. -_- Since I look nothing like Nalo (though our first names do share three letters!), I could only laugh about it — but then we found out my fellow writing-group member Alaya had been mistaken for me throughout the con. (We also look nothing alike.) At this point we started joking about all the other people we could be mistaken for, finally culminating in the great (but dead) Octavia Butler herself. So in the spirit of Halloween, here is me as “undead Octavia Butler”:

\"But I thought you were dead!\"

The night before this, there was the Signing Session, which was huge and a lot of fun. As I mentioned before, I completely lost it over meeting several of my favorite authors. Here’s me fangirling on Marjorie Liu, snagged from her:


I’m so geeky.

All that said… the mistaken-identity incident does bring home some realities in the wake of Obama’s victory. As powerful a symbol as he now is — and yeah, I’m thrilled — it doesn’t change a lot. People will still mistake the only two black women at a small convention for completely different black people. I will still have conversations in the bar with random strangers who insist that “you people” should stop complaining now that “racism is dead”. (Yeah, that happened too.) And racism won’t be dead, by any stretch — in fact I suspect it’ll get a little worse for awhile, as more people go into denial and decide that it’s no longer worth talking about or working to eliminate.

Just like a Democratic sweep doesn’t indicate some sudden progressive awakening among the American people, as the Prop 8 horror illustrates. So my feelings right now are best encapsulated by a fortune cookie message I got the night after I found out 100K would be published, and which I’ve kept as an inspiration: You had a great start! Now work harder.

We’ve still got a lot of work to do to fix this country.

Anyway, back to writing.

Back from WFC

Tired, sick (caught a cold, bleagh), but happy.

For those who don’t know (I didn’t), World Fantasy Con is basically “the professionals’ con” of the spec fic field. It’s expensive as cons go, which unfortunately puts it out of the reach of most casual fans, but which results in a nice collection of pro authors, editors, agents, and reviewers all glomming together and enjoying themselves for a whopping 5 days. This year was my first visit to WFC, so it was all shiny and new for me.

And oh so much fun. I have to confess that I’d been very nervous about this con, having already imagined it to be full of distinguished individuals from the rarefied upper echelons of publishing. It was. But distinguished or not, these individuals’ favorite pastime seemed to be kicking back in the lounge with a beer (or three) and waxing eloquent about cheese. (No, really. The conversation got quite heated, as I recall, though I don’t recall why — something to do with substandard Gruyere. I’d had a few glasses of wine at that point.)

There were panels to, though I’ll admit I didn’t find these as much fun — I guess I’ve been spoiled by the nerdpunk panels of Readercon and the “anything goes” panels of Wiscon. They weren’t bad by any stretch, just not as thought-provoking/controversy-addressing/informative as I usually like. (Though I did enjoy the heck out of “The Language of Fantasy”, in which Farah Mendelson taught me two new words! …both of which I’ve forgotten. Gah. I have them written down, though, and I’m planning to order her book, which should teach me even more.) Was also amused by the “Stealth Halloween” which took place on Friday. WFC is a no-costumes con, owing to its professional nature, so there were several people in costume but not obviously so. There was an excellent Sarah Palin, and though I saw Mary Robinette Kowal that day, I didn’t realize she was dressed as Agent Scully. Excellent costume, just… well, stealthy. =)

I really enjoyed the readings, which introduced me to several new authors I’ve never read. But the real gem of this con was that I got the chance to meet so many people whose work I’ve enjoyed, or with whom I’ve only worked/interacted online. I can’t even list them all, but among them were Wendy Delmater of Abyss & Apex (I just bumped into her in an elevator), Jetse de Vries formerly of Interzone (who actually remembered my last submission and who I now apparently owe a grasshopper next year), authors Carol Berg, Marjorie Liu, and Kay Kenyon (all of whom I went fangirl on; it was embarassing, but I couldn’t help myself) and so many more.

My one regret is that I didn’t ask to do a reading this year, mostly because I keep thinking “Well, the book won’t be out for a year; who would remember?” But what I hadn’t realized was that because the folks at this con are pros, they understand the long timelines involved with publication, and they have correspondingly long memories. And there were a lot of people at the con who, for whatever reason, were looking for new voices via the readings, thus generating fresh buzz for the authors. So I missed an opportunity. =( Ah, well, part of the learning process. At the next few cons I attend, I’ll definitely be doing readings.

All that aside, though — ::happysigh:: So much fun.

Next up: packing and preparing to move to my new apartment! ::sigh:: Guess the fun had to end sometime.

World Fantasy, here I come!

Starting to get excited about going to World Fantasy Con for the first time. I’m leaving Thursday, and have already started mapping out what events I’ll be participating in. (I won’t be on any panels, note — since this is my first time, I’m just going to observe/experience. Maybe next year.) Thus far I think I’ll attend:

Continue reading ›

New review from The Fix!

The Fix reviewed “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, and had good things to say:

Retelling the tale of Red Riding-Hood as a direct parallel to traditional vampire stories makes “Red Riding-Hood’s Child” a rewarding listen. Though it contains explicit sexual references, these are skilfully handled to avoid jarring or crassness. In essence, this is a simple tale with a large dose of fantasy, well written by N. K. Jemisin and given a smooth reading by Rajan Khanna. The ending, though a little abrupt, is suitably conclusive.

Hee! This one’s a keeper. =)

What I’ve been doing lately

1. Writing! Have passed the 50K mark on BrightGod (halfway done!) and also penned a 7K-word short story. The short story’s current title (subject to change, ’cause that’s what I do) is “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beside the Still Waters”, and it’s inspired by a documentary I recently saw: Trouble the Water, about Hurricane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans — during the storm and years after — through the eyes of its poorest residents. Some of ya’ll know I went to college in New Orleans, so this is something I care about a lot.

2. Apartment hunting! (But I decided to postpone ’til later.)

3. Article writing! Today on Fantasy you can find my review of Persona 3, which uh lets you know what else I’ve been doing in my spare time.

4. Reading! Currently on the pile are The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008, Sly Mongoose (Tobias Buckell), and a nonfic pick, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, by Sudhir Venkatesh. This is the guy who went among the drug dealers of Chicago in Freakonomics and figured out why they all live at home with their parents, despite the supposed glamour of the lifestyle. I’m looking forward to this one.

5. Getting healthy! Have lost 5 pounds without dieting, solely by working my ass off (literally) at the gym. It’s fun, too. Hooray for Stephen’s Cardio Sculpt class!

That’s it!

Red Riding-Hood’s Child up at Podcastle

My fantasy erotica story, “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, is up today at Podcastle; download here if you’re interested. A warning, though — this story’s rated X, for good reason. If you like retold fairy tales, decontructed gender roles, sexual allegory, and (very) hairy men, download away.

Read by Rajan Khanna of my writing group Altered Fluid! Such a lovely voice that man has.

Well, whaddaya know. HM in Year’s Best!

24 hours after my lament that I hadn’t been doing so hot on the short story front yesterday, I got a heads-up from alankria about using the “Search Inside” feature on Amazon to see whether my name popped up in the forthcoming (tomorrow) The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. Alankria’s did — congrats! And mine did too, for “The You Train”. That just made my month.

Also props to Rajan Khanna of my current writing group, Altered Fluid, who also got an HM, and Veronica Schanoes of my old writing group Black Beans, who got pub’d outright (not an HM, an actual YB) in this year’s volume.

So much coolness, all around.

Props from SFRevu!

2008 has not been a good year for me on the short-fiction front. I haven’t written much, though that’s largely due to being in novel-mode for all but one month of this year (the month between me finishing 100K and hearing about the book deal). I slacked on submissions for a good three months or so after the book deal; my head was just kinda spinny for awhile there. =) The short stories I’ve been sending out haven’t sold yet; I keep getting “almost, but not quite” or “I liked it a lot, but” or “I held this awhile, but finally decided not to buy it” emails from editors. Frustrating, but that’s how it goes in this business. You either get used to it or you give up, and — well, obviously I’m still here. =)

But as a result, I haven’t sold a single story this year, and have had only a few published from among last year’s sales. That’s pretty sucky by my standards, so I’m going to have to buckle down and get back to work on that front.

Fortunately, I found a source of motivation: a good review! Here’s what SFRevu.com had to say about my latest-pub’d story, “Playing Nice With God’s Bowling Ball,” out in the August issue of Baen’s Universe:

“Playing Nice with God’s Bowling Ball” by N.K. Jemison starts with Detective Grace Anneton interviewing a little boy named Jeffy Hanson. Jeffy is upset because his friend Timmy Johnson has disappeared through a black hole, one that Jeffy had made. Grace, of course, doesn’t believe him but starts investigating the disappearance of Timmy. Jemison makes a fine debut here and gives the story a good ending. …I’ll look forward to more stories from Jemison and Crowell in the future.

(Alas, Baen’s misspelled my byline name, and this review perpetuates it. I’ve emailed Baen’s about it, but no biggie.)

So yay! They liked me! Now I need to write more shorts.

By the way — remember that Baen’s is a pay-to-read site, so you’ll need to subscribe or send them $6 to read the story, if you’re curious. They’re a great magazine, publishing lots of good up-and-comers, so please support them! Even without paying, though, you can read the first half of the story, which includes some hilarious and lovely illustrations by Russ Hicks. Check it out!