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.Goodreads
Y’all, I love N.K. Jemisin (and her books, heh). I started with her Broken Earth series and immediately recommended it to everyone I know who loves fantasy. Then I read her Inheritance series, which in my mind is the tiniest bit less good than the Broken Earth series, but I still loved it.
And now I’ve *finally* read How Long ’til Black Future Month?, and she is just as good at writing short stories as she is at writing novels.
In the Introduction, Jemisin talks about why she started writing short fiction. While attending a writing workshop, she was advised to learn to write short stories. She didn’t understand the advice — she knew the short story is a completely different art form than the novel, and the pay for short stories was, at that time, “abysmal.” What finally convinced Jemisin to start writing short stories was the argument that writing those would improve her longer fiction. She didn’t know if that was true, but she decided to spend a year writing short fiction to find out. And she found out that writing short fiction *did* improve her longer-form fiction.
She says she wasn’t too good at the short story at first, but she definitely improved, because the stories in How Long ’til Black Future Month? are SO GOOD. And it’s obvious that some of the short stories in BFM were expanded on and used for her novels.
I enjoyed all of the stories in BFM, but my favorite is “The City Born Great,” and it just so happens that this story is the basis for her upcoming novel The City We Became, so I’m super excited for that. (I was already super excited, but now I’m doubly super excited, which is a lot of excitement.) I just love the idea of cities going through stages until their souls are ready to be born, and having one person chosen to represent the soul of a city and be its midwife, so to speak. I’m really looking forward to a longer version of this one.
I also loved “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters,” about the haunting of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If there were ever a time that supernatural and mythical creatures were going to show themselves, I have no doubt that it would be directly after a natural disaster like a hurricane or a major earthquake when people are already dazed and have let their guards down.
If Jemisin’s How Long ’til Black Future Month? sounds like your kind of thing, I highly recommend it.