OK, so how is N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series?

Wow, I must have lived in a cave. She won the Hugo award for best novel three years in a row???

I heard about some problems with voting in the Hugos? Is this a result of that, or does she really deserve the Hugo award for all three books?

Has anyone read the series? Thoughts on it?

I haven’t started this one yet, but I like her Inheritance trilogy. I’m also interested in how she talks in interviews about ways standard fantasy tropes don’t work for her as a woman of color. For example (paraphrasing), the knight who swoops in to save the maiden may be from the dominant culture and the rescue may oppress her more.

The problem was with the nominating, not the voting. Here you can see how the votes break down. (I haven’t read any of the Jemisin books, so can’t say anything more than that the descriptions of the books doesn’t make me want to read them.)

As mentioned above, there was a problem in the nominating system in years past, but that wasn’t a factor this year after a change in the rules.

Even if it was still an issue, Jemisin would more likely be hurt by the shenanigans pulled by those folks - many of them being less likely to support something written by women, people of color, LBGQT, etc. Actually, in a controversial move in SF circles, one of the ringleaders of one of those groups suggested she had sub-human intelligence due to her race (despite the rather obvious evidence to the contrary) and got kicked out of the SFWA over it.

I thought the first book of the trilogy was the best, but all of them have been award worthy novels. I don’t always take the entire slate of Hugo nominees as the best of the year, but this one was certainly worthy of a nomination and I thought it was far and away the best among this year’s nominees.

If hard SF is more your style, you probably won’t like it, but the story itself is a very good work of fantasy. I thought the Broken Earth trilogy was a significant improvement over her Inheritance trilogy, if that’s any help. If you read any modern fantasy at all, I certainly recommend it.

It’s not all that unusual for an author to win several Hugos around the same time, if not always in a row. Sometimes it’s just several Hugo nominations around the same time. Take a look at the list here:

Yes, N. K. Jemisin has won three in a row for all the books in a series and got a nomination for a book in another series. This overlaps with Ann Leckie winning one and getting three nominations for her books It also overlaps with Cixin Liu winning one and getting one nomination for two of the three books in a series. Before then, John Scalzi has won one and gotten three nominations for his books. Moving back further, Connie Willis got a bunch of nominations and wins, as did China Miéville and Mira Grant. Looking back even further, there was the period of Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert J. Sawyer, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Before that, there was the period of Orson Scott Card and C. J. Cherryh. You can continue back this way all through the history of the Hugos with various authors having a run of nominations and wins around the same time.

Authors tend to have periods when they produce their best books. They tend to have periods when their fans nominate and vote for them often. Then they slow down in productivity and other author’s fans do more nominating and voting. Jemisin’s period of popularity and productivity will pass just like it did for all the other authors.

They are ridiculously good. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Jemisin, but this series? It’s going to change fantasy in a way few other series have, in my opinion, through its emphasis on certain themes that tend to get overlooked (e.g., a different take on parenthood than nearly any other f/sf book I can think of).

She’s in the very top tier of f/sf authors alive today.


I generally don’t lean to the F side of F/SF. Although, I will admit to reading more recently. However, this series was very good. I think most book series, whether trilogies or longer, have some low points. The Broken Earth may have some subplots that you care less about but they are still extremely well written and important to the story.

I read four of the six novel nominees this year by chance and not design. I am Scalzi fan and like his easy to read style. In any other year I would have picked The Collapsing Empire. This year, not so much.

I enjoy Scalzi a lot. At his best he’s super-fun; at his worst he still tells a pretty good story.

But I kinda think he’s operating on a different level from Jemisin. And I expect he’d admit it, too. He’s pass-the-time fiction; she’s give-you-insight-into-the-human-condition literature.

I liked the first two books, but I thought the third one was too much tell, not enough show. It came off as really heavy-handed to me, as if she didn’t trust her readers would know a dystopia that used nice words was a dystopia.

I’m gonna be the odd one out here; I’ve only read the first book and I thought it was good, but not especially ENJOYABLE. The worldbuilding is very interesting, the literary device she uses is cool, but I couldn’t get invested in the characters. I doubt this is because they were “not like me” in some sort of racial sense, but rather, because I struggle to like “broken” characters, and I swear, practically every character Jemisin writes is damaged in some way, and this makes it difficult for me to connect with and root for them.

FWIW, I had a similar problem with A Song of Ice And Fire (written by a white dude) where I thought all the characters who survived the first book were despicable and I didn’t care what happened to any of them.

So… the book is probably worthy of the award (I don’t read enough modern stuff to have a good standard of comparison, but it seems clever and well written) but I didn’t LIKE it, which is another question entirely.

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her, and I’ve read just about everything she’s written. She’s taken her genre into places it’s never gone before and I find her stuff to be definitely in the can’t-put-down class.

This is a totally reasonable approach. I was thinking about her and George RR Martin, and how they’re both in the Grim 'n Gritty subgenre, but still completely different.

Here’s the difference: NK Jemisin’s grim 'n gritty is fuckin tragic. George RR Martin’s grim 'n gritty is fuckin metal.

Broken Earth is chockablock with violence, from torturing kids through fighting battles to defend settlements through causing apocalypses (yeah, plural). I don’t remember a single instance of violence where I pumped my fist and said, “YEAHHHHH!!!” Instead, every instance I can remember, even when the protagonists inflicted violence on the very antagonizing antagonists, I thought, “Oh. oh. oh fuck.”

Song of Ice and Fire? Damn, but Martin can write him some fun violence. There are Red Weddings, of course, but there are also scenes of thrilling bloodshed and rollercoaster mayhem.

I’m glad the bookshelf has room for both. Her approach to violence is one reason why I think of Jemisin as Le Guin’s successor.

I’ve been reading the Hugo winners I missed, and the Fifth Season was the only one that made me want to read the rest of a series - even before the second and third books won. And I’m hardly similar to her characters.

She gets lots of points from me for keeping the third book of reasonable size without page inflation just because she could - unlike some other authors I know.

The former. I see bad actors, playing toxic tribal identity politics, on both sides. I suppose it is hopelessly naive, but I wish it were all simply about recognizing the best SF stories written in a given year. Period. Instead, it’s clearly just a factional fight and neither camp is open to voting for an author supported by the other side. It’s about winning, defeating the enemy, not recognizing the best SF (whether written by a straight white greybeard or a Millennial black lesbian socialist).

I read an excerpt of Jemisin’s 2015 book at NPR’s website and was not impressed. The very informal writing style strikes me as something you’d read on Twitter or on a personal blog, not in a carefully crafted literary work. For example:

All of those phrasings would be fine if they were from dialogue. But it seems as though this narration is supposed to be the omniscient authorial voice, and I don’t like it. (Perhaps that makes me a fusty old fossil—so be it.)

This tone is not consistent, however, which makes the informal parts even more jarring:

Now those are decent sentences. (Not breathtaking, but decent.) So what’s with “leaderish things” and “because why not?”

But as I wrote the above plaint, I wondered: am I just out of touch with the literary standards of the day? So I took a look at an excerpt of the Anthony Doerr novel that won the Pulitzer the same year (Doerr, BTW, is a middle-aged, straight, white, cisgender, married father of two from Ohio):

And it’s all like that—it doesn’t alternate literary sentences with weirdly informal tweet-y ones. Here’s a continuous passage of several sentences:

Nice. Really good stuff.

So it would seem my standards still hold in Pulitzer-land. Would that it were so in Hugoville.

The Hugo is for the top preferred stories from the votes of the paid (attending and supporting) members of the World Science Fiction Convention who choose to vote, choosen from the top 6 (once 5) nominated stories in a given category. Given such, a Hugo can’t be invalid–if a Hugo winner is the story with the most votes, then the story with the most votes is the Hugo winner. There is no such thing as an objectively “best” story (remember that scene in Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams tearing out pages from a text book?) so there is no “recognizing” it–there is only the story liked best by a given group of voters. And this was the story liked enough by the Hugo pool (but not this Hugo Pool) to win.

SlackerInc, could you look through the list of Hugo novel nominees for the past few years and tell us which ones (which didn’t win) which were written by straight white greybeards are, in your opinion, better than the ones which won the Hugo?:

(This question is just for SlackerInc. Please, everyone else, please don’t offer your own opinion on this matter. I want to know what SlackerInc thinks is best without him being prompted by someone else.)

Uh, yeah, Jemisin deliberately plays with the shock of contrasts. Formal and informal contrast; jokes and tragedy contrast (although not many jokes); beauty and horror contrast.

You’re correct that she’s not mimicking the style of another author. That’s not a bug.

I know that you don’t like it. You’ve made your opinions on racial matters clear, of course, so pardon my jaundiced eye.

I’ve been following this since long before the Hugo mess occurred, because that was the culmination, not the beginning. I want to say this as strongly as I can in CS.

This is not two equal sides, except in the sense that Trump says there are good people on both sides. There aren’t. One side in the science fiction world split is neo-Nazi racist bigoted sexist homophobic trash. The other side is everybody else, good, bad, and indifferent. Yes, winning is important, in exactly the same way that winning against the political nazis is all-important. It’s all of decency against evil. THAT’S NOT TWO EQUAL SIDES. You can’t condemn both of them equally or really compare them in any way at all. Only one side counts. And it’s not the Nazis.

We keep hearing that we are not in normal times. Yet the Hugos have returned to a semblance of normalcy, meaning messy, imperfect, goofy, stumbling, and puzzling while sometimes getting it right. (I have no idea if any of this year’s winners are right as the best of the year because I haven’t read any. I mean right in that the writing is the focus and not the political stance of one minority.) Gives me hope that the rest of the universe can some day soon return to doing it right.

Exapno, I didn’t say there were “two equal sides”. Nor did I say there are “good people on both sides” like Trump did. In fact, I said just the opposite, and fundamentally I bemoaned the fact that there were “sides” at all. I would like to see a group of voters who are deeply familiar with the history of SF, voting for the stories they think are best each year. Not fighting for their “side”. The “Sad Puppies” are assholes (though not all of them are Nazis). But their opponents are not, it seems clear, using Pulitzer-style standards to choose the most deserving winners based on merit, with no agenda. Yes, merit is subjective-ish. But it’s so obvious there’s a thumb on this scale.

Someone could have made this exact same argument to defend the Academy in the #oscarsowhite days, before they changed the membership in order to make nominees more diverse. Would you have accepted that argument then?

This is scurrilous, slanderous bullshit. I know you were in the threads in which I named “Moonlight” the most deserving Best Picture Oscar winner in recent memory, even though I also liked “La La Land” a lot (and speaking of jazz, I’ve also noted in those threads that I consider black jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Miles Davis to be among the greatest artistic geniuses in the history of humanity).

Yes, I would, and did. (If not in this forum then in others.)