Author Archive for Nora Jemisin

25
Feb
10

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are GO!

It’s Launch Day! Launchy Launchy Launchy Launchy Launch!!!

I’m sorry. Here I am popping up after two months of silence, only to babble incoherently because HOLY CRAP MY BOOK IS OFFICIALLY OUT! I tried to think of something intelligent to post here, but my brain is pretty much full of WOO HOO WOO HOO right now.

So. Rather than try and rein in the Loony Tunes in my head, I will direct you toward a couple of posts over on my author blog that I think Magic Districtians might find interesting. The first is from a couple of days ago at the start of my Launch Week countdown, wherein I mention a few things that readers can do to help me out this week, if they feel so inclined:

  1. Buy the book.* (Please. Mama’s got student loans to pay.)
  2. Read the book. (This is kind of necessary for the next step.)
  3. If you like the book, tell everyone you know. This includes everyone on Goodreads, Library Thing, and all the retail bookseller sites, especially if they let you post reviews. (The Amazon “post your own review” feature is active now, BTW.)
  4. Under the category of “tell everyone you know”, blog about the book. You’d be surprised at how useful word-of-mouth is to authors.
  5. *If you cannot afford the book, that’s OK. Put in a request for it at your local library. Readers often think this won’t help authors, but it does! The more requests a library receives for a given book, the more likely that library is to order more copies of the book. More copies = sales for me, and you get to read it for free. Everyone wins! (Then please tell everyone about the book, blog about it, etc.)

To this I’ll add one more suggestion. I live in New York, as many of you know — and while I’m not doing a schmancy Big Name Author book tour or anything like that, I am willing to travel to places within a 2-3 hour drive to do readings, signings, etc. So if you’d like me to do a reading/signing in your town and you’re relatively close by, and you make the arrangements — no private homes, please; public places only — and you can promise me a crowd of 20 or more, then holla, and let’s see if we can work something out. (In fact I’m doing just such an event next week, at Flights of Fantasy up in Albany. If you’re in upstate NY or western MA, come by for a visit!)

The other post I’ll point you at is a thinky one on what constitutes epic fantasy — i.e., how should we define it? Some interesting answers there already.

Anyway, I’m off — got a launch party to prepare for, guests in town, guest blog posts to write, and miles to go before I sleep. But since you guys have been with me pretty much since we started this blog, I just wanted to pop in and share a little of the WOO HOO WOO HOO with you. WOO HOO!!

17
Dec
09

“How did you learn to write?”

(Just a note, folks: this is going to be my last Magic District post for awhile. Between grinding away on Book 3 and the imminent publication of Book 1, and my own day job, and family stuff, I’ve got too much on my plate, so am trimming back. Not permanently, but consider me on hiatus for a bit. To quote Ahnold: I’ll be back.)

In a recent conversation I had with some other professional authors, one of them related an exchange she’d once had with a professor of creative writing. On learning that she didn’t have an MFA, this person asked, “But how did you learn to write, then? Who taught you?” This is not meant to be a commentary on academic elitism, note — I’ve gotten similar questions from family, friends, and random acquaintances, when they learn I’m a writer. It’s one of those questions writers get all the time at parties, right up there with “Would you like to write my book?” and “So what do you think of Stephen King?” (Lately that last question has been either Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer instead. But I digress.)

Anyway, my answer to the “how did you learn to write” question is complicated. Continue reading ‘“How did you learn to write?”’

10
Dec
09

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

Just an FYI, folks. The Magic District has been going strong for almost a year now, and we’ve built up a nice-sized audience. So we’re expanding! Over the next few weeks you’ll see some changes hereabouts — possibly a new look, definitely some new names. Several hot up-and-coming fantasy writers have agreed to join our merry little band, and I think you’re going to like them all. Stay tuned!

03
Dec
09

Fantasy 2035

A few days ago I was on a panel at the Center for Fiction here in NYC on “The Evolution of SF/F”. The panel didn’t go wholly as described — among other things, Musharraf Ali Farooq wasn’t able to make it, and was replaced by fellow Orbit author Jeff Somers. Also, we spent rather less time on SF/F’s evolution, which as I see it encompasses present and future, and rather more time on SF/F’s past, partly as a result of one panelist’s (paraphrased) assertion that the SF/F of today lacks vision in comparison with SF/F of the past. Not surprisingly, we spent awhile dissecting that statement — in a friendly way, of course. Made for a good panel.

That said, I was kind of left wanting for discussion about the future of the genre, so I decided to do a little of that here.

Except it’s a big topic to cover, the future of an entire literary genre. Where does one begin? I could talk about the big movements of today — e.g., steampunk, slipstream, interstitialism — and make guesses as to where they’re going. I could talk about the hot up-and-coming authors of today and try and predict their careers. I could talk about the market, and what’s moving it now, and whether those financial factors will continue to have relevance. But frankly, I could do an entire blog post about any one of those topics, and who’s got time for that? I’ve got a book to write. And more importantly, lots of other people are already talking about all these things.

So I decided to focus on something different: the readership. What do I think the readership of fantasy will be like in, say, 25 years? Rounding up a bit since we’re almost at the end of 2009, that would be the year 2035.

Let me preface this by saying that it’s all going to be speculation. I have no access to marketing or sales data, beyond the small amount that gets released to the general public (example). I have the same awareness of subgenre sales trends that most of you do, which is to say mostly anecdotal and probably overgeneralized. I also have no access to demographic data beyond what’s available to laypeople in this field — which ain’t much, let me tell you. A few of the major magazines for the industry do polls or surveys of their subscribership, but these are controversial and focused on the mags’ readership, which means they all have a significant selection bias problem.

Moreover, it’s become increasingly clear to me that no one really has any clue what SF/F’s current readership looks like, let alone its future. In the latter days of the now-infamous RaceFail discussion in the SF/F blogosphere a few months back, a non-scientific roll call of people of color in SFdom put the lie to the common perception that the field’s readership is almost exclusively white, with PoC being as rare and exceptional as unicorns. In the first three or so days of the roll call, nearly a thousand people spoke up to say that they were PoC SF/F fans — note that this is just from within the limited population of LiveJournal — and many of them also mentioned parents, siblings, significant others, and so on, who were too. That’s a lot of unicorns. And in the older “Slushbomb” conversation (about gender bias) that took place a few years back, it gradually became clear that the dismal submission numbers from women writers that many magazines received were basically proportional to how many women were published by same — in other words, magazines that published more women got more submissions from women. Suggesting, of course, that there are plenty of women writers out there (and defying the common assumption that women don’t write SF), but they’re selective about where they send their work; they don’t waste time sending to markets seen as female-unfriendly (or less-friendly).

What all this reveals, IMO, is that we have no frakking clue what the SF/F readership really looks like. Specific to fantasy, I’ve heard lots of assumptions made — frex that fantasy’s readership is mostly white women, mostly members of the “knowledge class” or at least college educated, mostly middle- or upper-class, mostly lapsed Christians or into alternative religions like Wicca, and so on. But in reality? Those assumptions are probably about as spot-on as a Magic Eight Ball.

So here’s my theory. I think that half a century of SF/F film, television, gaming, and other media has created an SF/F consumership (note: not readership) that’s probably a representative subset of the population as a whole. (For the sake of clarity, let’s say the North American population, though these days SF/F media is global and I think its consumership is, too.) Maybe less so in fantasy, because fantasy as a genre has been less well-served by non-book media; beyond the occasional blockbuster like Lord of the Rings or gaming hit like World of Warcraft, we haven’t had as many hits to lure mainstreamers into the book-reading niche of the genre. (And unlike science fiction or horror, the hits in fantasy media haven’t ranged as widely over the breadth of the genre. Most fantasy hits focus on one subset of fantasy, IMO: secondary-world medieval-European sword and sorcery.) Regardless, I think that consumership is large and strong and diverse — probably at parity or close to on gender, and close to representative on race, class, and so on.

Those people aren’t all reading, note. A significant proportion of them don’t read, period, and that number is declining throughout US society as people’s time and attention-spans are consumed by flashier media and interaction. Still, a goodly number of them are reading, and of the ones who are, I think the book-producing end of the fantasy genre is doing a better and better job of capturing them. So here’s what I think we’ll see in the future of the fantasy readership:

  • Lots of young people. The phenomenal growth of the YA genre suggests that lots of young people are readers, and as those readers grow up they will no doubt look for their happy places in adult genres, and at that point fantasy will benefit mightily. Just think about how many kids and teens have now grown up on Harry Potter and the Twilight saga. They’re coming for the adult market soon, and their tastes are going to dominate the field for quite some time. We’d better be ready.
  • Gender parity. I suspect that while the fantasy readership used to be mostly male — especially in the days when quest doorstoppers and sword and sorcery formed the heart of the genre — it’s already reached parity, or swung over to being mostly female, if only by virtue of the fact that women spend the majority of dollars on books in the US. Also, the genre has made several efforts to court women readers, like the rise of the new Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance subgenres, and more female-centered fantasies. That said, I’m seeing whiffs of a corresponding effort to pull boys back into genre reading (and back into reading, period). Nothing citable at this point, just a sense that with the success of stuff like The Dangerous Book for Boys and steampunk and other genre fiction that targets boys and girls equally, we’ll see the pendulum swing back to the center.
  • The end of medieval European milieu dominance, thank God. I think this may already be happening; outside of a few blockbuster authors who are well-established, or who have passed the torch (and franchise dollars) to younger authors, I’m not seeing nearly as many fantasies in thinly-veiled Dark Ages settings as I did growing up in the Seventies and Eighties. And again, let’s look back at what kids are reading. Their fantasy tastes are decidedly non-traditional; among the bestsellers I’m seeing lots of modern settings and lots of cultures — like all those manga set in Japan. I suspect that the typical medieval European fantasy is headed the way of the sword and sorcery genre — not dead, but not dominant either — with only a few trope-breaking or subversive examples of same reaching prominence in the future. At least, that’s my hope. (Can you tell I’m a little sick of mediEuro fantasy?)
  • Correspondingly, I think we’ll see more interest in international fantasy, either from Western authors dipping into non-Western mythologies/cultures or actually written by people outside of the English-language sphere. We’re already seeing burgeoning SF/F literary movements in other countries — China most notably, but also in countries like India and Nigeria. And more of what’s already out there is getting translated for the English-speaking market. This is a good thing, because most of the fastest-growing economies in the world — whose citizenry will be buying and writing more books — are not English-speaking, so we’re going to miss out on a lot if more of it doesn’t get translated.
  • And now a note of doom and gloom, for which I fully expect to get an earful from you guys. =) I suspect Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are not long for this world in their current incarnation. These kinds of trendy surges never last — mostly because once publishers start cranking out books to take advantage of the trend, the trend ends up expanding beyond its market and being glutted with substandard books, at which point readers get annoyed and go elsewhere. I don’t think the subject matter of UF and PR is going away; women are here to stay in the fantasy genre, and they want strong female characters, action-filled plots, and steamy romance. But the by-now-stock UF cover with its close-up on tattooed or bare female body parts, and the by-now-stock PR plot with a supernatural creature getting hot and heavy with a human woman, and so on — these are formulas, and formulas don’t last. Women like variety, too. That said, I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. Sales don’t seem to be flagging, and publishers are still buying them left and right. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Correspondingly, I think we’re going to see more interest in formula-breaking fantasy. I don’t mean just genre-bending stuff like interstitial or slipstream; I think we’re going to start seeing subversions of all the popular formulas soon. That’s something else that seems to characterize the readership coming out of YA — they like familiarity with a twist. I’d be stupid to try and predict what’s going to come of this — in my wildest fancies, I never imagined sparkling vampires, frex — but it’s definitely coming. The readership of 2035, the Millennials of today, are easily bored and not just change-friendly, they’re change-demanding. Again, those of us in the production end of the field had better get ready.

So there’s my predictions. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to chime in with your own!

(Oh — and side-note: for those who’d like to read chapter 1 of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it’s up on my website.)

20
Nov
09

RWA-MWA Drama, Contest Winner!

No post today, folks. Since I spent a good chunk of yesterday in jury duty, I lost a day of writing, and as I’m already behind on Book 3, today was catch-up. I did, however, post a little rant on my own blog about the “Harlequin Horizons” drama and how it impacts me as a fantasy writer. Check it out.

And I haven’t forgotten that today is the end of my ARC giveaway contest! I got a lot of great entries by email and in the comments of the post, for a total of sixteen magnificently made-up gods. Thanks to all who participated!

The choice was tough. Frankly I wish I had more ARCs, because some of the entries were hilarious or just beautifully-written; our own Rachel Aaron’s was a case in the latter point. In the end, though, I was seduced by Jackie M’s entry:

Elena Niobe is the goddess of Falling Things. She has no home, and no homeland, and is most often found in the company of caravaners, nomads and transients. She has control over waterfalls and rain storms, market prices and dominoes, meteors and stars tumbling into black holes. She is a perfect savant with numbers, and can speak any language, but she is completely illiterate.

The color of her skin and shape of her face changes to blend in with her current company, but her eyes are always black, and her dark hair is always streaked with gray. To discover Elena Niobe in human form brings immense fortune; to break her trust by revealing her to others brings the worst of calamities. And she cannot stay for too long in one place–for while she always has the power to make things fall down, the longer she makes a home for herself, the less able she is to stop things from falling. Her favorite lovers have all a bad habit of dying abruptly and tragically.

The best way of winning her favor is to do something truly kind for someone who has either lost their home, or who has never had one. Conversely, she does not look well on those who exploit the vulnerable.

Lovely. So, Jackie, please send me your mailing address and I’ll drop the ARC in the mail to you ASAP!

12
Nov
09

ARC Giveaway Contest!

OK! In just over 3 months now, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms will launch. (February 25, 2010, to be specific; you can preorder now at most of the major online booksellers.) So I’m getting ready to go into hardcore promotional mode. Keep an eye on my own website for lots of changes in the coming weeks — a new look for the site, more giveaways, sample chapters, and more, all up to the big day.

But that doesn’t mean the Magic District will get short shrift. Ergo, I’m kicking things off here with the first of two Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) giveaways (the other will be at my site in a few weeks). Details below the cut.
Continue reading ‘ARC Giveaway Contest!’

06
Nov
09

Tired Nora is Tired

30 minutes to spare!

There will be no thoughtful, chewy post today, because I’m sick. I had a cold earlier in the week, but from the way it seems to be rebounding, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have con crud too. (Thanks, immune system. Just kick a girl while she’s down, why don’tcha.) Therefore, I lack the energy for thought and chewiness, or even a decent con report. As evidenced by the fact that I’m posting half an hour before my posting-day ends. Sorry.

In the meantime, let me gleefully shout-out to fellow Districters Tim Pratt and Greg van Eekhout, both of whom I finally met in person at World Fantasy Con last weekend. Rachel, you’re now the only one of us I haven’t met yet! Get with the program, chica!

In the meantime, it’s official: I now have spare The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Advanced Reader Copies available. Just a couple! So I’ll be giving away one of them here in a week or two, and another at my own site — just as soon as I think up a suitably interesting contest. (Suggestions welcome, BTW.)

Until then, please send healthy wishes my way. The crud is powerful.




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