If you know me, then you’ll know there was no real choice but to love How Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories from N.K. Jemisin.
In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city 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 figure out how to 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
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I am the biggest Jemisin fan. Seriously. Sell me some of her grocery lists. Ever since finishing The Broken Earth trilogy, I’ve been obsessed ever since. And this collection is no different. While it’s different than anything I’ve ever seen, it truly showcases Jemisin’s true gift of writing. Jemisin is such a talented writer in terms of characters and setting. Even though these stories are shorter, there is no lack of attention to detail and world building. Each one establishes us in a world, with characters who grab us, and stories with glorious mystery.
While I could go on and talk to you about why I love this collection and Jemisin in general, I want to talk about the introduction to this collection. Jemisin talks about how difficult it was to read, love, and find herself in science fiction. Growing up I never even thought about science fiction. And now it feels as essential to myself as breathing. I was firmly rooted in fantasy. Loving the new worlds, the dragons, and political explosions. I only really discovered science fiction in college. I had an ex-boyfriend who was obsessed.
He was talking this science fiction class and right then I realized that it wasn’t for me. While I read all the materials he did, and listened to the after class discussions, I knew that space wasn’t open to me. They would all crowd around the professor at the end, and he would talk to them and tell them new things to read. But I was always on the outside. On the periphery.
Only when I found a professor in literature who showed me Margret Atwood and Octavia Butler, did I feel more welcome. Those classes were spaces of openness. More so than I had felt before. For once, I was included in the conversation. My words were heard.
This inspired my thesis on Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy. It felt so affirming to read a POC woman’s writing and to analyze it critically. Not only about the ways it was written, but what it said about our future. The ways this science fiction could be used to talk not only about our future, but our present. But while doing research for it, I was coming up against walls. More literary theory on why science fiction wasn’t worthwhile, and the history of it. The pulp magazines, and the history of male whiteness.
And because of this, and my experience, I wanted to write about how much this collection, and N.K. Jemisin means to me. And to the speculative fiction genre as a whole.
So I wish I could go back in time and hand myself this book. Jemisin’s work as a whole. To show me, there are people who are writing these stories. These conversations are going on. And you can speak. I never felt a part of the genre, but Jemisin’s work makes me feel welcome. Makes me feel heard. This short story collection is no different. There’s the same explorations of genres, of boundaries, of definitions. Of new narratives. And each story hooks you in a different way. Thrills you. Invokes and ignites a different feeling in the pit of your stomach. That all turns to love.
If you are as obsessed with Jemisin as I am, then you will love this collection. And even if you’ve never heard of her, then you need this collection. Not only is it written beautifully, evocatively, and utterly captivating, it could possibly change your life.