N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds
January 25, 2020 1:07 PM   Subscribe

[N. K.] Jemisin’s writing process often begins with dreams: imagery vivid enough to hang on into wakefulness. She does not so much mine them for insight as treat them as portals to hidden worlds. Her tendency is to interrogate what she sees with if/then questions, until her field of vision widens enough for her to glimpse a landscape that can hold a narrative. The inspiration for her début novel, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (2010) [Amazon; Goodreads], was a dream vision of two gods. One had dark-as-night hair that contained a starry cosmos of infinite depth; the other, in a child’s body, manipulated planets like toys. From these images, Jemisin spun out a four-hundred-page story about an empire that enslaves its deities. The book established her as a prominent new voice. Overview and interview with The New Yorker (archived link)

We've had a few posts on N. K. Jemisin and her works before, including her third consecutive Hugo win. Here is a bit more on her views on SF/F, in her own words, on Transcriptase:
I believe, as the other Transcriptase authors believe, that SF/F is for all of us. As such, this genre cannot be ceded to those who believe it’s OK to dehumanize, objectify, assault, or exclude any group of human beings [Transcriptase summary of the Helix incident]. Silence is what has allowed SF/F to develop a reputation for being un-diverse, unwelcoming to those who aren’t members of the power-wielding majority (white, Western, educated, Christian or Atheist, middle or upper class, straight, male, abled, etc.), and unwilling to question its own flaws. Silence will keep SF/F “white people’s stuff” if nothing changes.
And for more reading, here are some short stories by Jemisin, linked from Free SF Online, and directly below: And some of her short stories were turned into audiostories:
posted by filthy light thief (12 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
This is too good for a sunny Saturday afternoon!
posted by janell at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2020

You can also listen to "Playing Nice With God's Bowling Ball" being read by LeVar Burton. And Cuisine des Mémoires, which I don't think is available in text online.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:44 PM on January 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

I thought this was a great profile. I don't love her writing as much as some others do (though it's definitely only gotten stronger as she's gone along), but I think her work in this space is absolutely vital and she is pissing off all the right people.
posted by praemunire at 4:57 PM on January 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

i do unfortunately remember her joining the pile-on of that student newspaper ... but apparently having Big Opinions on twitter seems to be a thing for her. I'll probably get around to reading her books though, but I'll avoid her unmediated thoughts on twitter, and maybe most interviews.
posted by cendawanita at 6:52 PM on January 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

I think you'll be missing out. She's a thoughtful person with a lot of interesting things to say, especially but not exclusively about SF. If you take on controversial issues, sometimes you'll get either the substance or the tone of your engagement wrong, but...she's not speaking in bad faith, maliciously, or in a notably bigoted way. Once again, it feels like sometimes the left holds other left-ish people to a far higher standard than we hold people really out there trying to hurt us, which especially tends to redound to the harm of people of marginalized identities. You don't owe her your attention, of course, but if you're consciously giving her a miss over that, you're setting the bar very high.
posted by praemunire at 9:08 PM on January 25, 2020 [8 favorites]

Oh, no worries, eventually I'll read her books. I just don't go out of my way to hear her hot takes. She's not the only one.
posted by cendawanita at 9:16 PM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just now her twitter is full of boosting other Black specfic authors, so definitely worth reading.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:55 PM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

god, the fucking new yorker. after taking pains to explain Jemisin's Voltron reference as an "artifact" from her 1980's TV-watching, the article breezily compares a building in one of her novels to "an Eero Saarinen tabletop" with no further explication. i appreciate all the detail about Jemisin, whose books i love, but the tone of that piece is so sort of condescendingly anthropological, i can't even take it. if it turns out to take a while before we get to Black Future Month, i hope we get around to eating the rich in the meantime.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 12:39 AM on January 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I thought the title article would be about something else entirely, so let me take the opportunity to plug jemisin's super helpful worldbuilding classes (you can find more with Google)
posted by Cozybee at 7:20 AM on January 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

I liked the trilogy - Kattullus recommended it and literally shoved the three books at me. Yum.
posted by Mrs Potato at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2020

Personally, I like her short stories a lot more than her novels, but that may just reflect the fact that I almost always prefer short stories to novels.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:22 PM on January 26, 2020

My daughter and I were plotting out a short story to write together, the other day, and halfway through I realized it was turning into a pretty serious ripoff of The Broken Earth.
posted by gurple at 4:44 PM on January 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

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