Scattered Post-Hugo Thoughts

These will be scattered because I’m in the middle of today’s wordcount, and therefore I don’t have time to make them clear or organized in any way. Book 3 proceeds!

I’ve had time to process the Hugo win, a little. Mostly I did it by spending yesterday introverting and writing, because that’s how I chew on momentous things. Didn’t quite hit my target — only 2000 words instead of 3 — but still did okay.

But now I’m finding my thoughts wandering in directions both personal and contextual. Partly that’s because people keep asking me how I feel. I’m not sure how to answer this question, when it’s asked. Fine? Happy. A little hungry, though it’s too early for dinner. A few key points of information have pushed me to actually think about The Meaning of The Hugo, though. First off, an interviewer today pointed out an old interview I did back in June of 2011 that asked me where I’d like to be in 5 years. I jokingly said a Hugo would be nice. WELP. Gonna have to come up with a new 5-year goal, huh? Then Orbit’s publicist pointed out to me that I am apparently the first black woman to win a Hugo for a novel. No, OEB didn’t; she got hers for short stories. Folks who like to fact-check, can you confirm? But if that’s true…

Well, what if it is? What does that mean? In practical terms, it means I can look forward to years more of being confused with Nnedi Okorafor (and every other black woman in SFFdom), who also won a Hugo on Saturday for her marvelous novella “Binti.” The Puppies would have you think it’s a sign of the oncoming white guy apocalypse, or Affirmative Action Gone Wild, or some conspiracy to pick a random writer, because she’s a black woman, and give her a coveted honor that she cannot possibly have earned, because she’s a black woman. I started to write an Open Letter to them, calling for them to finally wake up and realize they’re a laughingstock as well as ineffective, but… man, fuck those guys. They’re never going to change. And I’ve got shit to do.

Meanwhile there’s a swath of SFFdom that would have you think the opposite — that my identity has no bearing on me winning, or on my writing, or anything — because race and gender have no bearing on white male writers so why should it re me? (Hint: it has bearing on white male writers.) That’s the segment of SFFdom that is generally bewildered by the whole discussion of diversity because Colorblindness ™ and I Never Ask What The Gender Of The Writer Is Before I Buy A Book ™ even though their personal bookshelves contain 90% white guys. These are the folks who really don’t get the readership’s calls for diversity, but eh, they can at least try to give the market what it wants, so they then send me yet another magazine invite rather than do anything to change or improve themselves. (Gotten two more in the past few days, pre-Hugo, but post-rant.)

Both of these ways of looking at the genre are useless. But I can’t do anything to change them, other than continuing to do what I do — write the best I can, share it with as many people as I can, and talk about what all of it means. I’ve passed off some invites toward other black authors who are awesome but under-read. Otherwise I’m business as usual.

So that part of my life isn’t going to change. What will? Well, I imagine all my books will soon have stickers on them saying “HUGO WINNER,” in bookstores everywhere. That’s nice, but doesn’t really have a lot of impact on me, directly. I’ll probably end up on a few more college syllabi, so my sales might get a positive bump. That’s good too. Beyond that? Well, now I’ve got a reason to get that second tattoo. Right shoulder, stylized black rose. I think now I can work up the nerve to ask Elise Matthesen about commissioning a necklace with all my nominee pins and such, as I’ve always wanted to do. Might wait ’til I’ve got more money, though, because good artists don’t do good work for cheap and she deserves anything she asks for it. Also, I’m gonna eat that slice of Key Lime Pie I got from Butter & Scotch on Saturday night, because I’ve been saving it. Gonna call my Mom, too.

And then I’m gonna finish my wordcount. Because at the end of the day, that’s all the Hugo means: that I’m a good writer. But I knew that already. The external validation is nice, but at this stage of my career, I didn’t need it. I know who and what I am.

So back to work.

28 thoughts on “Scattered Post-Hugo Thoughts”

  1. Great job on the Hugo! It makes my life a bit easier because now when I’m trying to convince people to read your work I can say, “Well, she won the Hugo award.”

  2. Congratulations on the Hugo. I’m glad you are as comfortable as you are in your identity as a writer – that’s not always an easy place for people to get to, regardless of their career. I thought the Fifth Season was terrific, and I can’t wait to read the next installments (yes, I know I’m now behind by one).

  3. Congratulations on the Hugo! You’re one of my favorite authors and it’s nice to see you getting a much deserved reward.

  4. Congratulations on the win! You’re an excellent and ground-breaking writer, and it’s great to see you get the recognition you deserve.

  5. Congratulations on your award. I don’t normally follow the Hugos but saw an article about them on Slate recently. I was horrified to see some of the ugly trends going on. At any rate, I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories since “The Broken Kingdoms” and am anxiously awaiting my copy of Obelisk gate.


  6. Congrats again. You deserve it. I love both of those trademarked excuses you wrote. I’m always on the lookout for interesting new reads; out of curiosity, who are those under-read awesome writers you referred to?

  7. Congratulations on what I am sure is a well deserved win. I have not yet read the book in question (its on top of the ‘To Read’ pile right now), but am looking forward to it when life gives me the opportunity.

    A little sad that I was blocked on twitter for attempting to say the same. But, manage your account how you like. Congratulations, regardless.

  8. jiuguizi, I have a series of auto-blockers in place with currently over 100,000 people blocked. That’s been necessary given the amount of Gamergate- and white supremacist-related online harassment I experience. The auto-blockers also screen out people who could potentially be harassers — new accounts, those with fewer than 15 followers, some other factors. Trust me, it wasn’t personal.

    If you tell me your Twitter handle, I can unblock you, as long as you don’t look like a Gger or bigot. :)

  9. Clever, and sad that it is necessary, but I totally understand. I mostly only use Twitter as a news source, and follow people who do/say/think things I enjoy or want to better understand. I don’t post anything of value, and only have 2 followers, so I totally get why the filters would flag me. I use the same handle there.

    And for what it’s worth, I only got back into fiction in general and SFF in particular after reading of the mewling canids. Their flailing did a great job of filling my bookshelf with books I might have overlooked, and they gave me a handy list of books to avoid.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. Just not too quickly, I’m a slow reader ;)

  10. Could I, respectfully and hesitantly, also ask to be unblocked on Twitter? I think I had fewer than 15 followers when I attempted to follow you there. I don’t have all that many more now. I don’t want to bludgeon you with fan overload, so feel free to ignore the request. But if you would indeed be so kind, I’m 1n1m1

  11. First up…congratulations.
    I wish I could say that I knew that you were somehow different from other writers because apparently your skin colour affects others.
    I just thought you are a good writer.
    And still do.
    I’m old enough to have read Chip Delany and criticised Dhalgren to others. Not because it was a bad book. Mostly because I was young and didn’t get most of it. But…being castigated thereafter because he has more pigment than me apparently…shut me up.
    When I read SF/F I don’t picture the author…I picture the worlds they make.
    And that is what it was about then. And still is.
    If you wish to make a statement about your writing I’d love to think about the fact that it’s appreciated…not for sour motives but for sweet ones.

    Oh yeah…and I loved Octavia Butler’s work…because it was good…and no other reason.


    Kevin from Wycheproof.

  12. “The external validation is nice, but at this stage of my career, I didn’t need it. I know who and what I am.” When I read that, my first thought was, “That’s awesome – I can’t wait to get there.”

    But then I thought, you what, the hell with waiting. I’m just going to start being in that place right now. Write words, finish books, be unstoppable.

    Thanks for your continuing inspiration!

  13. I’m so happy that you won! I honestly can’t think of a past winner for “Novel” which was better than “The Fifth Season,” and I don’t think that I’ve seen such an innovative and thematically exciting take on the artistic project of epic fantasy since Tolkein invented the modern version of the genre. I love your beautiful prose and your organic, richly textured, awful world and the deeply meaningful ways that it touches your main characters’ lives. I feel like diversity is really important to SF/F for aesthetic as well as political reasons. If authors like you and Cixin Liu weren’t able to participate, we would lose so much, both because of the distinctive perspectives you bring to your work and your sheer, astonishing skill. Thank you so much for continuing to write with such energy and dedication. I’ve bought every book you’ve written, and I’ll probably buy every one that you write in the future.

  14. Congratulations! I am a librarian and it always shocks me when I find a fantasy reader who hasn’t read one of yours. I’ve been recommending you for years.

  15. I simply want to offer my congratulations on the Hugo as well as my sincere and true thanks for giving the world so many fantastic books. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve nominated and voted for your novels for the Hugo every time they were up, and I’m so glad that you now have the award you’ve long deserved. Also yeah, fuck those guys.

  16. You are awesome, so are your books. I’m thrilled you got recognition for them, congratulations!!! For me, as a woman and poc, it is very obvious that your stories come from some seriously different place than your average SSF novel. Thank you and keep up the great work!

  17. So much congratulations to you for your win! I’ve been telling people high and low to read The Fifth Season! I just finished The Obelisk Gate last week and WOW! I cannot WAIT to get back to The Stillness.

    I saw your note above to another commenter about the auto-blockers on Twitter. I *just* joined Twitter a couple weeks ago to follow some of my fave authors (you included!) and I was so embarrassed and distraught to find myself blocked this morning. I think I just said that I was reading The Obelisk Gate on a GoodReads “what are you reading” thread, and I tweeted at you – sorry if this is bad Twitter manners – I’m still trying to get the hang of the place. But if it was an auto-blocker, I would love to be unblocked! My Twitter is @chessakat. I promise I’m not a troll and I’ll never tweet at you haphazardly again.

    Congratulations again! A well-deserved win. <3


  18. Dear Ms. Jemisin,

    Congratulations on your Hugo award. I look forward to reading The Fifth Season. I collect Hugo and Nebula award winning novels in hard cover format and have all of the winning novels in this format for both awards since their respective inceptions. Are you aware of any plans to publish The Fifth Season in hard cover format? I would very much like to buy a copy if there is such a plan. Thank you for your writing efforts and, hopefully, whatever information you can provide on my question.


    Jim Young

  19. Matthew von der Ahe

    Ms Jemisin,

    I have a new favorite phrase! “Fuck those guys. They’re never going to change. And I’ve got shit to do.”

    Thanks for that, and for sharing all your other published work. The world is a better place for it.

    Matthew von der Ahe

  20. Ms. Jemisin,

    Congratulations on your Hugo! I probably can’t think of any praise that someone else hasn’t already said, but it is all 100% deserved.

    I just devoured The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate within a reading marathon of 36 hours, so my brain is a little… uh… stoned? But the stories shook up my heart just as surely as an orogene could and I’m getting a little embarrassed of this metaphor now. In any case, thank you for writing about people who are more human than the people who would refute them. It means a lot.

  21. Whatever else there is to say about the Hugo, winning it persuaded my local library system to buy all your books. Previously they only had TFS (and ordered TOG), much to my shock, but now I’m looking at the recent-orders page and it’s your entire novel bibliography.

  22. Hello Ms. Jemisin,

    Congratulations on your Hugo win!

    I admit I do not read as much SFF as I used to, but I have come to love John Scalzi’s work, and it is through his blog that I came to know of you. I purchased The Fifth Season, read it in a couple of days (the Hugo is well deserved!), and then bought its sequel; I am now eagerly anticipating the third. In the meantime, I will go out and look for your earlier work. You are now one of my favourite authors!

  23. Congratulations on the award! I am reading the Fifth Season right now and wow …it is a hard book. It hurts. It almost hurt so much I put it down… but then I was like, no, no, no THIS is what I have always wanted as a female SFF reader; this is women writing, speaking, screaming their experience, honestly and boldly… and if it hurts, well maybe it should. Congrats on a well earned award.

    And “Fuck those guys. They’re never going to change. And I’ve got shit to do” is about to become my new life motto.

  24. Super late to the part here, but I just finished The Obelisk Gate today and The Fifth Season, um, two days ago?

    First of all, I read the first six pages of The Fifth Season and then had to put the book down and seriously consider never, ever writing again because there’s no effin’ way I’ll ever come close to what I was reading. The only other books that have done that to me are Cat Valente’s Dirge for Prester John books and I’m almost entirely convinced that she made a deal with the devil to get those written (and the cost was the third book). I then had to get up and go write because I am convinced the best writing makes you want to quit and then encourages you to go and try harder.

    Second, speaking as a white guy, I think your identity has a lot to do with your win and that it’s important. I liked the Thousand Kingdoms books enough to pick up the Dreamblood books, which are amazing. One of the things that consistently stands out to me about your work is that it’s not JRR Tolkien. Many years ago I said to someone that I would never write fantasy fiction because Tolkien has already had the final word on what fantasy should look like, so why should I bother? That was very white guy of me, as I realize now. You, through all of your body of work (that I’ve read), have utterly shattered that mode of thinking. I can’t help but imagine that your identity caused you to conceive of a completely different world than I thought of when considering what a fantasy novel looks like. Outside of any arguments about identity politics and the stupidity of the Puppies that matters a great deal. So, like, it can’t possibly be an affirmative action situation because holy shitsnacks you’re a good writer and you wrote an amazing book. But it can’t be a, “Let’s all pretend identity doesn’t matter,” thing because if you were a white guy you probably wouldn’t have written what you did.

    Of course I’m now going to have to avoid writing fantasy because I just can’t do what you do (and also sci-fi is my first love)…

  25. Wow. Almost finished with obelisk gate and I’m thoroughy impresses (engrossed with the story, shouting at my kindle, and staring at rocks real hard). Read the fifth season because I thought Seveneves was gonna win the Hugo. Didn’t really care until I read about the puppies thing then thought your win might have been from voters feeling a sense of something other than sci-fi/fantasy awe. F+!? That. Your characters are… connective, conductive, and corrosive. Their relationships show occlusions that tear at my humanity. I know nothing I write will encourage you to continue writing like friends and family, but please know you have cheerleaders from unexpected places.

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