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How long 'til black future month?
2018
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Author Notes
N. K. Jemisin is an American author and blogger, born in 1972, and based in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a B.S. in Psychology from Tulane University and her Masters of Education from the University of Maryland College Park. Her work includes numerous short stories, a novella, a triptych, The Inheritance trilogy, Dreamblood series, and The Broken Earth trilogy. The Fifth Season is a book in The Inheritance trilogy for which she won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Her other awards include Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice, Fantasy (for The Shadowed Sun); Sense of Gender Award, 2011 (for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Japanese version); Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice, Fantasy (for The Broken Kingdoms); and the Locus Award, 2010 (First Novel, for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms). She won the 2017 Nebula Award and the 2018 Hugo Award, Best Novel category for The Stone Sky. <p> (Bowker Author Biography)
Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
Fiction
Short story
Topics
Hurricane Katrina
Aftermath
Natural disasters
Redemption
Rebirth
Utopias
Spirits
Setting
New Orleans, Louisiana - South (U.S.)
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

SCIENCE FICTION HAS a long history of honoring the short story form, dating back to when pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction were effectively the only way to publish in the genre. Today, when most prizes for literary fiction are limited to book-length works, the major science fiction awards - the Hugos and the Nebulas - include short fiction categories. The short story, however, often seems at odds with one of the great allurements of both science fiction and fantasy: world-building, the power of a written narrative to immerse its readers in imaginary realms, histories and cultures. This - no way around it - takes up a lot of pages that a short story doesn't have. A story can allude, hint, call upon the reader's memory of other works, but it can only ever be a small window into what may or may not be the vast canvas in its author's mind. World-building is the glory of N.K. Jemisin's fiction, a gift best savored in her two series, the Inheritance trilogy and the Broken Earth trilogy. So it comes as no surprise that she begins her introduction to "How Long 'til Black Future Month," a collection of her short fiction, by explaining that once she didn't think she could write short stories at all. The most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer of her generation - all three volumes in the Broken Earth series won the Hugo Award for best novel, three years in a row, a first - Jemisin seems able to do just about anything, but you can see her point. Her visions are epic, full of cosmic battles, ruptured societies and (literally) earth-moving powers. You might as well try to squeeze a blue whale into a fishbowl; even if you succeeded, you'd ruin the majesty of the thing. Several astute teachers urged Jemisin to try writing stories anyway, and now, she says, she's glad. Her readers might be a bit more ambivalent. Some of the pieces are simple yet highly enjoyable. Jemisin, the former Otherworldly columnist for the Book Review who is also the first African-American writer to win the Hugo for best novel, has an affinity for familiar devices and story lines; she freshens them by inserting underrepresented characters and themes. "The Effluent Engine," a sexy steampunk yarn set in an alternate 19th-century New Orleans, offers a fine example of this. The heroine, Jessaline Dumonde, is a dashing lesbian spy with a stiletto concealed in her hat, a master of disguise in the secret service of the fledgling Haitian Republic, here depicted as "the foremost manufacturers of dirigibles in the Americas" and eager to obtain the technological expertise of a Creole scientist. The story's characters say deliciously hokey things like "We have word the Order of the White Camellia is active in the city," and it is irresistible. If Jemisin has a weakness, however, it's a propensity for didacticism. "The Ones Who Stay and Fight," which she describes as "pastiche of and reaction to [Ursula] Le Guin's 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Ornelas,' " takes an already preachy story as its springboard - let no one pretend that the genre isn't soapbox-prone - to argue with both the past master and the rabble of reactionaries who have harried efforts to diversify science fiction. It posits a sort of utopia while firing salvos at offstage skeptics ("It's almost as if you feel threatened by the very idea of equality. Almost as if some part of you needs to be angry"). The result makes for a lifeless exercise from a writer known for her ferocious and sorrowful vitality. Inexplicably, this piece opens the book, and it would be a shame if browsers unfamiliar with Jemisin's work were to conclude that it is representative of the whole collection. It isn't, although it does sometimes seem that Jemisin worries overmuch about getting her message across. One of her fortes, as she notes herself in her introduction, is "playing with genii locorum... places with minds of their own." Two of the stories in this collection depict young men - poor, dark-skinned and overlooked - who embody their cities, New York and New Orleans. The near-perfect "Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters" recounts how Tookie, left behind because he wouldn't fit in the family car, and an elderly neighbor cope during Hurricane Katrina, aided occasionally by a wisecracking, bat-winged "lizard." Their antagonist is a big, dark thing moving beneath the floodwaters. The events of the story itself make the nature of this thing quite clear, yet Jemisin feels obliged to double down on its allegorical nature by having Tookie label it "the Hate" and the "lizard" explain "this thing make people so ugly they don' even want to help each other." This unnecessary exposition kills the shiver of the sublime in a story otherwise marked by honed descriptions, winning characters and captivating New Orleanian dialogue. There is, fortunately, much more to love in this collection. Some of the stories are good old-fashioned science-fiction yarns shot from new angles, like "Walking Awake," a response to Robert A. Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters," in which a middleaged caregiver raising human children whose bodies will eventually be taken over by parasitical aliens experiences a moment of revolutionary awakening. "The Trojan Girl," a fleet-footed cyberpunk thriller, conjures a gang of digital entities, artificial intelligences gone rogue, roaming a virtual universe and seeking access to a greater reality. "Valedictorian," a follow-up set in the same world but much later, after the AIs have merged with some of humanity, features one of the determined, defiant girls that often turn up in Jemisin's work, then flips her view of her society upside down. Any fan of the Broken Earth novels will eagerly seize upon "Stone Hunger," set in that series' universe, in which another fierce girl, an "orogene" with the power to stoke or subdue geological tensions, pursues the man who destroyed her city. The nameless heroine of "Stone Hunger" encounters a "stone eater" (a type of being Jemisin invented for the Broken Earth series), a living statue, human in shape and able to speak without using its mouth, with a voice emanating from inside its body. "The stone-eater moves," the girl observes, "and seeing this causes chilly sweat to rise on the girl's skin. It is slow, stiff. She hears a faint sound like the grind of a tomb's cover-stone." This collection features many similarly uncanny moments in which the human integrates with what feels profoundly inhuman. (Jemisin does creepy so well, it's enough to make you wish she'd try a straight-up horror novel - another genre that could really use more black writers.) The stories here teem with impostors, parasites and hybrids. Sometimes they must be fought off, but this is one science-fiction author who does not take that stance reflexively. Expand your notion of what we can be, she suggests. Recognize that change is inevitable and often strengthening. Don't kid yourself that the alternative is safety; the alternative is death. LAURA MILLER is a books and culture columnist for Slate.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In 22 powerful and mind-expanding stories, several of which appear for the first time here, Hugo winner Jemisin (The Stone Sky) pushes boundaries, experiments with format and theme, and challenges expectations. While her tales span science fiction and fantasy, certain themes of defiance, feminism, and self-acceptance shine through no matter what the setting or premise. A king devours a dragon's heart to restore his virility in "The Storyteller's Replacement," only to experience unexpected consequences. A gifted chef is challenged to test new recipes by a mysterious benefactor in "L'Alchimista." In "The Effluent Engine," a Haitian spy meets her match in an American inventor. In "Walking Awake," a tale inspired by Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, a woman enslaved by parasitic aliens is given a chance to both avenge and free humankind. Throughout these stories, Jemisin's versatility is on full display, giving her diverse protagonists numerous chances to shine. Though not every story will resonate with every reader, there's something in this collection for just about everyone, and many of the works are memorable gems. Those who only know Jemisin for her groundbreaking novels will be impressed all over again by her short fiction, and it serves as an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with her work. Agent: Lucienne Diver, Knight Agency. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption that sharply examine modern society in her first collection of short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories. <br> "Marvelous and wide-ranging." --Los Angeles Times "Gorgeous" --NPR Books "Breathtakingly imaginative and narratively bold." --Entertainment Weekly <br> Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story "The City Born Great," a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis's soul. <br> For more from N. K. Jemisin, check out: <br> The Inheritance Trilogy The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms The Broken Kingdoms The Kingdom of Gods <br> The Inheritance Trilogy (omnibus edition) Shades in Shadow: An Inheritance Triptych (e-only short fiction) The Awakened Kingdom (e-only novella) <br> Dreamblood Duology The Killing Moon The Shadowed Sun <br> The Dreamblood Duology (omnibus) <br> The Broken Earth The Fifth Season The Obelisk Gate The Stone Sky
Table of Contents
Introductionp. vii
The Ones Who Stay and Fightp. 1
The City Born Greatp. 14
Red Dirt witchp. 34
L'Alchimistap. 58
The Effluent Enginep. 75
Cloud Dragon Skiesp. 113
The Trojan Girlp. 126
Valedictorianp. 150
The Storyteller's Replacementp. 170
The Brides of Heavenp. 183
The Evaluatorsp. 197
Walking Awakep. 214
The Elevator Dancerp. 234
Cuisine des Mémoiresp. 238
Stone Hungerp. 254
On the Banks of the River Lexp. 280
The Narcomancerp. 296
Henosisp. 333
Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrowsp. 341
The You Trainp. 354
Non-Zero Probabilitiesp. 362
Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Watersp. 373
Acknowledgmentsp. 399
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