Science fiction and fantasy are usually associated with white male authors, but the literary landscape is changing and N. K. Jemisin is perhaps the best author to prove it. The award-winning speculative fiction author uses her work to highlight characters and themes that don’t usually get to shine in the genre, with her most recent trilogy featuring “a big-boned dreadlocked woman of color waging an epic struggle against the forces of oppression.” The first book of that trilogy, The Fifth Season, led Jemisin to become the first black person to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel.
The Fifth Season is the first part of the Broken Earth series. The second book, The Obelisk Gate, went on to win another Hugo for Best Novel, and the third and final book of the series, The Stone Sky, was released last month to high praise. The book is already #11 on the New York Times best-seller list and is likely to win a Hugo as well, given its popularity with fans. The Broken Earth trilogy is currently being developed into a series for TNT.
In addition to winning two Hugos, Jemisin has been nominated for the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award. Her novels are incredibly evocative, using ideas and literary techniques that may seem strange at first glance but quickly become so absorbing that readers can’t get enough. The Broken Earth series, for example, is about an oppressed class of people who are able to move mountains with their minds, and part of the books are written in the second person — a style that is extremely rare in the genre. Jemisin is a particularly important literary figure for black women, who may not have seen such a powerful representation of themselves in speculative fiction since the late great Octavia Butler.
Jemisin’s first novels, the Inheritance trilogy, were released in 2010 and 2011. Since then, she has been a prolific author of both novels and short stories. Jemisin also spends time speaking out on feminist and anti-racist issues on her personal blog and on social media. In her column “Otherworldly,” she reviews science fiction and fantasy books for The New York Times. According to recent comments, Jemisin’s next project will be based on her short story “The City Born Great.”
Photo Credit: Laura Hanifin,2015