Author NK Jemisin (image courtesy the New York Public Library)

NK Jemisin has made history a few times already. In 2016 she became the first Black American writer to win a Hugo Award, science fiction’s most prestigious prize, for her novel The Fifth Season. She did it again in 2017 and 2018, when wins for each subsequent installment in her Broken Earth series made her the first author to win a Hugo for every novel in a trilogy. Praised for her inventive stories that weave fantastical elements with modern themes of oppression, and cultural and racial conflict, Jemisin has been rightly described as the “most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer of her generation.” Her intricately built, epic worlds often imagine radically different futures from those most commonly associated with a genre historically dominated by white men, some of whom have become famous for stories which evince disturbingly racist streaks.

Next Tuesday (June 16), Jemisin will join comedian W. Kamau Bell for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel, The City We Became, presented by the New York Public Library. The novel, which brings her unique brand of speculative fiction a little closer to earth, is set in a version of New York City where the future is threatened by an ancient evil that seeks to divide and destroy its community by capitalizing on its differences (sound familiar?). The City We Became imagines cities as living, sentient organisms that take shape as individual human avatars. New York and its five boroughs are embodied as mainly Black and brown folks (Staten Island and the nefarious Enemy that threatens the city are not insignificantly imagined as white women).

At a moment when New York City is slowly beginning to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously considering numerous pieces of legislation that could combat pervasive police brutality against Black people, Jemisin’s POC-centered speculations about the future of this city feel especially timely.

Where: Online, via NYPL
When: June 16, 8–9pm EDT

See the NYPL event page for more information.

Note: Jemisin’s 2015 book, The Fifth Season, is available as a free ebook for NYPL library card holders via its e-reader app SimplyE.

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.