n.k. jemisin

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Affirmative inaction.

It’s pretty implicit: underrepresented writers couldn’t possibly just be good enough to have earned awards on the merits of their writing, so the only reason they’ve gotten nominated is because they’re [check a box]. Most people only mean underrepresented writers when they say things like this, note; the possibility of white male writers being nominated or awarded just because they’re white and male never seems to occur to them. So it’s certainly possible that [Brad] Torgersen is also trying to snub white men here… while simultaneously gloating over the nearly all-straight-white-male ballot that he and his buddies have successfully foisted on us. Yeah. No. He means women and brown people and gay people.

–N.K. Jemisin on inherent racism.

For context, Jemisin is responding to Sad Puppy Brad Torgersen’s claim that “affirmative action” in SFF has meant that works and authors [are] judged on the basis of author or character demographics and box-checking, not the audience’s enjoyment of the prose.

2015-04-11T15:49:32+11:0011th April, 2015|Tags: culture, hugo awards, n.k. jemisin, sff|


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.

–N.K. Jemisin on the real race.

2014-10-10T07:52:12+11:0023rd November, 2014|Tags: n.k. jemisin, writing|

Fucking fight.

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.

–From N.K. Jemisin’s Wiscon 38 GoH speech.

2019-04-29T11:15:33+11:0026th July, 2014|Tags: books, culture, fandom, n.k. jemisin, pop culture, sff|

What are orcs, exactly?

Think about that. Creatures that look like people, but aren’t really. Kinda-sorta-people, who aren’t worthy of even the most basic moral considerations, like the right to exist. Only way to deal with them is to control them utterly a la slavery, or wipe them all out.

Huh. Sounds familiar.

So maybe now you can understand why I’m not very interested in writing about orcs.

–N.K. Jemisin on orcing.

I don’t have orcs per se but I do have their mythological forerunner; the jötnar. One of the interesting things I’ve always found about the original Icelandic sagas, versus modern Tolkienian fantasy, is how… mundane the jötnar actually are. Yes some of them are monstrous and some of them are (a-har) giants… but just as many aren’t, and their relationship with the æsir is more like that of neighbouring tribes than The Heroes versus The Savage Horde. Sometimes they fight and sometimes they marry. Sometimes they offer each other hospitality and all the time they covet each other’s wealth. Ásgarðr itself has at least two within its walls (ski- and hunting goddess Skaði, and everyone’s favourite asshole, Loki), as well as numerous other residents who are, at minimum, “half-jötunn”, most notably Thor.

That’s how it was a thousand years ago. And then, somewhere along the line, that narrative got… lost. Simplified. And now we have the jötunn’s modern descendant: a rapacious sub-human saddled with all the baggage Jemisin talks about.

I can understand why someone wouldn’t be interested in writing about (or reading, for that matter) that particular trope.

2014-07-05T05:59:35+11:005th July, 2014|Tags: books, culture, n.k. jemisin|