Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Post
  • Reply
Jaxyon
Mar 6, 2016
boring as hell and also can be low-key racist

I happen to like NK Jemisin and thought she deserved a discussion thread, so here one is.

From Wiki:

Nora Keita Jemisin (born September 19, 1972) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer, better known by her pen name N. K. Jemisin. She has also worked as a counseling psychologist. Her fiction includes a wide range of themes, notably cultural conflict and oppression. Her debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and the subsequent books in her Inheritance Trilogy received critical acclaim. She has won several awards for her work, including the Locus Award. The three books of her Broken Earth series made her the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years or for all three novels in a trilogy. Jemisin was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program Genius Grant in 2020.

Do people have strong opinions about her and her work?

Yes!

One reason is she writes about things like cultural trauma that can be very personal.

Another reason is because she's an outspoken black woman, and she has done things like speak out about against white supremacist authors and the general racism and sexism in the genre.

The genre/industry isn't racist or sexist!

Yes it is.

Fair enough. What has she written?

The Inheritance Trilogy


Her first books, that initially made her famous. It mostly follows a young woman and her journey into palace intrigue.

The Broken Earth


Follows a woman's journey across a dying planet in an attempt to save her family.

This is, IMO, a better written series and also made her the first black person to ever win a Hugo for Best Novel.

The Dreamblood


Does she like to write short stories?

She sure does. Here's a list.

"L'Alchimista", published in Scattered, Covered, Smothered, Two Cranes Press, 2004. Honorable Mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 18th collection. Also available as an Escape Pod episode.
"Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows", Ideomancer, 2004.
"Cloud Dragon Skies", Strange Horizons, 2005. Also an Escape Pod episode
"Red Riding-Hood's Child", Fishnet, 2005.
"The You Train", Strange Horizons, 2007.
"Bittersweet", Abyss & Apex Magazine, 2007.
"The Narcomancer", Helix, reprinted in Transcriptase, 2007.
"The Brides of Heaven", Helix, reprinted in Transcriptase, 2007.
"Playing Nice With God's Bowling Ball", Baen's Universe, 2008.
"The Dancer's War", published in Like Twin Stars: Bisexual Erotic Stories, Circlet Press, 2009.
"Non-Zero Probabilities", Clarkesworld Magazine, 2009.
"Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints in the City Beneath the Still Waters", Postscripts, 2010.
"On the Banks of the River Lex", Clarkesworld Magazine, 11/2010.
"The Effluent Engine", published in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, Torquere Press, 2011.
"The Trojan Girl", Weird Tales, 2011.
"Valedictorian", published in After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, Hyperion Book CH, 2012.
"Walking Awake", Lightspeed, 2014.
"Stone Hunger", Clarkesworld Magazine, 2014.
"Sunshine Ninety-Nine", Popular Science, 2015.
"The City Born Great", published as a Tor.com exclusive available for free online, 2016.
"Red Dirt Witch", Fantasy Magazine: PoC Destroy Fantasy, 2016.
"The Evaluators", Wired Magazine, 2016.
"Henosis", Uncanny Magazine, 2017.
"Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death", A People's Future of the United States, 2017.

And one bound collection of short stories


You can listen to Levar Burton read Cuisine des Mťmoires from that book.

Jaxyon fucked around with this message at 22:40 on Apr 2, 2021

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


Brief thoughts on The Fifth Season
I hated the second-person scenes. They pulled me out every time, and there was no discernible reason for the perspective other than to obfuscate, and distract from the big perspective/timeline twist.

The world was built on an idea that I was never able to fully accept. I can't believe that a race of magical people who possess the ability to kill with a thought could ever become enslaved. The novel took half-steps to explain, but never to my satisfaction.

Ultimately, I felt like the perspective/timeline trick was an unnecessary complication, and nothing would have been lost if it were taken out. I understand what the author was trying to do, but it came off like an attempt to add depth through complication, rather than a way to see someone from a new perspective. I can't be more specific than that without spoiling it.

Jaxyon
Mar 6, 2016
boring as hell and also can be low-key racist

BananaNutkins posted:

Brief thoughts on The Fifth Season
I hated the second-person scenes. They pulled me out every time, and there was no discernible reason for the perspective other than to obfuscate, and distract from the big perspective/timeline twist.

The world was built on an idea that I was never able to fully accept. I can't believe that a race of magical people who possess the ability to kill with a thought could ever become enslaved. The novel took half-steps to explain, but never to my satisfaction.

Ultimately, I felt like the perspective/timeline trick was an unnecessary complication, and nothing would have been lost if it were taken out. I understand what the author was trying to do, but it came off like an attempt to add depth through complication, rather than a way to see someone from a new perspective. I can't be more specific than that without spoiling it.


The series is about societal racism, generational trauma, and plenty of other things. She wants you to feel the pain and trauma. She wants you in Essun's place. The book says "ďTwo days pass before anyone comes for you. Youíve spent them in the house with your dead son,Ē that is fundamentally different from ďTwo days passed before anyone came for her. She spent them in the house with her dead son". And I think something is lost there. The author is asking you to feel empathy.

As for enslaving a bunch of magical people, the implication of that is if you had the right ability, you'd be unenslavable. But the system is such that anyone can be enslaved, if it's done in such a way where it feels inescapable. Orogenes are abused and broken practically from the moment of birth. And then there are Guardians, who are both abusers and parental figures, and who can control them both emotionally and magically.


I like stories about empathy. One of the reasons I like Malazan, despite it's over the top 300,000 year old emo night-elf poo poo, is that it is at it's core a plea for empathy.

Jaxyon fucked around with this message at 07:45 on Apr 3, 2021

Dr.D-O
Jan 3, 2020


BananaNutkins posted:

Brief thoughts on The Fifth Season
I hated the second-person scenes. They pulled me out every time, and there was no discernible reason for the perspective other than to obfuscate, and distract from the big perspective/timeline twist.

The world was built on an idea that I was never able to fully accept. I can't believe that a race of magical people who possess the ability to kill with a thought could ever become enslaved. The novel took half-steps to explain, but never to my satisfaction.

Ultimately, I felt like the perspective/timeline trick was an unnecessary complication, and nothing would have been lost if it were taken out. I understand what the author was trying to do, but it came off like an attempt to add depth through complication, rather than a way to see someone from a new perspective. I can't be more specific than that without spoiling it.


I am 100% with you, my guy.

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


I like stories about empathy too. The Stranger by Albert Camus is one of my favorites. Jemisin's use of the 2nd person POV just flopped for me. It didn't work to enhance my understanding or ability to relate to the protag. It drove me further from it.

I also enjoy non-linear narratives where more is gradually revealed about the person that makes you less or more sympathetic toward them. like reading my post historyUse of Weapons by Ian M. Banks employed a similar technique to obfuscate whose POV is being shownbut there when it all came together, it resonated with me. Subjective opinion and all that but I didn't find any version of Jemisin's protag very likeable. They were all obnoxious in different ways. Granted, the plot gave her enough reasons to be pissed off and mopy in each iteration.

BananaNutkins fucked around with this message at 15:34 on Apr 3, 2021

Jaxyon
Mar 6, 2016
boring as hell and also can be low-key racist

BananaNutkins posted:

I like stories about empathy too. The Stranger by Albert Camus is one of my favorites. Jemisin's use of the 2nd person POV just flopped for me. It didn't work to enhance my understanding or ability to relate to the protag. It drove me further from it.

I also enjoy non-linear narratives where more is gradually revealed about the person that makes you less or more sympathetic toward them. like reading my post historyUse of Weapons by Ian M. Banks employed a similar technique to obfuscate whose POV is being shownbut there when it all came together, it resonated with me. Subjective opinion and all that but I didn't find any version of Jemisin's protag very likeable. They were all obnoxious in different ways. Granted, the plot gave her enough reasons to be pissed off and mopy in each iteration.

The protagonist is intentionally not conventionally likeable.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011




I canít take stories about oppressed wizards seriously unless theyíre being oppressed by other, more powerful wizards. Oppression flows from power, not towards it. A lot of series want to examine oppression but they also want to have their oppressed people have special abilities because itís fantastic and cool and provides a catharsis when the oppressed decides to switch on their powers and be badass. Stories have to jump through incredible hoops of narrative contrivance to explain why in this instance the very powerful people are being oppressed (see Attack on Titan for recent example. The explanation of why the Titan shifters are an oppressed minority would take pages to go into.)

Popular media like X-Men skirt this line by having the oppressed people able to take over if they wanted to, but they choose not to because Xavier is such a good guy. But in that case he normally keeps his group safe.

There are many opportunities to tell stories about oppression in fantasy but doing it through the conceit of oppressed wizards just does not seem like the best idea. And when these wizards win in the end the message is ďthe wrong people were the masters, weíll be better masters, plus weíve got magic powers.Ē

In real life, oppressed people do not have the power to annihilate their tormentors with flames from the aether plane. If they did, real life would look very different. When oppressed wizards can do that, they stop working as a parallel and any hope of a positive message is lost. Itís more likely that the story will end up validating people who want to believe that oppression happens for a legitimate reason

Ironically Jemisin seemed to realize this when she wrote her first trilogy, and had her gods oppressed by other, more powerful gods. Then she forgot it for the one that won all the Hugoís.

Ccs fucked around with this message at 17:39 on Apr 3, 2021

BananaNutkins
Aug 26, 2004

I'll split you open and I don't even like coconuts.


Having the oppressed class be the only ones with super powers was such an unbelievably dumb plot/world building hole that I thought it would be addressed by the end of the first book, or that the book would go deep into metaphor territory. Maybe the oppressed were systematically brainwashed to obey and be submissive, but that didn't seem to be the case.

Mat Cauthon
Jan 2, 2006

The more tragic things get, the more I feel like laughing.



BananaNutkins posted:

Having the oppressed class be the only ones with super powers was such an unbelievably dumb plot/world building hole that I thought it would be addressed by the end of the first book, or that the book would go deep into metaphor territory. Maybe the oppressed were systematically brainwashed to obey and be submissive, but that didn't seem to be the case.

Did we read the same series? It's very clear that the point at which we enter the story builds on thousands and thousands of years of slavery and oppression, which has completely shaped the mindsets of every person on the Stillness to believe that Orogenes are useful pets at best and inhuman monsters at worst. Systematically brainwashing an entire people rarely looks like strapping them to the Clockwork Orange torture machine one at a time.

I don't think the Broken Earth Trilogy is without flaws but I'm kind of surprised at the specific criticisms here ITT so far.

The 2nd person narrative throws me off each time I read it, albeit less each time, but it feels mostly effective not only in forcing the reader to inhabit what happens to the protagonists rather than passively observing until there's something specifically connects to the reader's background, identity, perspective, etc. The whole point is to upend our assumptions that people with magical abilities who can instinctively kill at a thought (which is not actually true on the whole, as is demonstrated literally in the second chapter of book one) could ever be enslaved or sufficiently cowed that they would rather hide their abilities than attempt to rebel or rule their lessers. Jemisin is attempting to show how the rhetoric of biological essentialism, eugenics, and supposed racial superiority are forces that work outward as well as inward. Most orogenes believe themselves to worthy of nothing more than the thinly veiled slavery imposed on them by the Fulcrim and the Guardians. The ones who think otherwise are eliminated. Even Alabaster went on with the whole thing until the slightly less antagonistic Stone Eaters faction conscripted him into their schemes. Syenite smothers her own infant son rather than allow him to live as another Orogene slave to the Guardians and years later Essun comes home to find her son dead at his father's hands because he couldn't stand to let his child live as an Orogene. The beyond tragic symmetry there would drive most people insane. What kind of person could reconcile those experiences and still believe in the concept of goodness, or family, or even justice? How would you live with that, continue on to try and find some sort of meaning or refuge in the world? I don't think all of the 2nd person narration lands perfectly but I don't think it's meant to - you're supposed to feel uneasy and disconcerted at what you're vicariously experiencing as a way of demonstrating how ontological anti-Blackness and systemic racism breaks people over and over while also forcing them to continue on working, producing, reaping whatever the world decides it needs or wants to take from them in order to perpetuate itself. It's not meant to be a comfortable read. You're not meant to like the protagonists, because people surviving slow and fast moving apocalypses are rarely likeable and because the subtext of the books is that most of us would go along with the sort of society that oppresses and exploits Orogenes as long as we were comfortable enough and had a "job" or role to play in our own little communities. It's an indictment.

On the more technical points about magical people not being enslavable, Orogenes are wizards yes but they are not all powerful and there's at least two other castes that we know of that can easily kill them - Guardians and Stone Eaters. The origins are the Guardians are not explicitly made clear aside from the silver shard thing, but from what I recall they were first created sometime after the Moondrift event possibly in response to the ascendency of Orogenes as the planet became increasingly unstable. Stone Eaters obviously predate Guardians but I can't remember specifically if Orogenes existed at the time of their creation. Either way both groups are devastatingly effective at finding and killing Orogenes. Further more, we know from the first book that most Orogenes manifest abilities as young children, especially if they are strong. Despite that, most of them are murdered by their parents or communities, with loss of life minimal enough (at least in comparison to whatever the Guardians will do if they find out you spared an Orogene and didn't alert them) to make the practice very, very common. So on top of the structural and psychological oppression that Orogenes face, there are very real threats that could keep them in check and even Alabaster is not some ultimate badass - someone almost takes him out in book 1 and his entire strategy when the Guardians are attempting to reach the hidden island in book 1 is "don't let them step foot on land", which suggests that he knows he got lucky in killing his first Guardian and a sufficient number of them could probably kill him. My sense throughout the whole series was less "oh wow wouldn't it be cool to be an Orogene" and more "oh my god these people are marked from birth and there's no escape short of literally blowing up the whole world".

The most effective sequence in the whole series is when Nassun is in the southern Fulcrum waiting for Schaffa and another young Orogene asks her "Did he break your hand too?", which causes Nassun to have a disassociative psychotic break with serious consequences. What you're reading there is a child realizing the scope of just how extensively her wonderful magical abilities, the ones her father killed her baby brother for having and her mother abused her into hiding, have warped and corrupted not just her life but the life of every person like her who has ever existed and might ever exist...unless someone stops it. No more compromises, no more pleading, no more hiding. Just end it. You don't need to be a protagonist in a fantasy novel to have that sort of realization, albeit without coming to the same conclusions. Focusing on the magic misses the point.


Anyway thanks for making this thread Jaxyon. I'm a big fan of Jemisin's work; 100K Kingdoms is probably one of my favorite series of all time. What did folks think of The City We Became? I haven't gotten around to it yet, although I read the short story that eventually became the novel and liked it. Urban fantasy that most explicitly focuses on the lived environment and personas of cities is a nifty framing but I'm a geographer so I might be biased to like that sort of thing.

Mat Cauthon fucked around with this message at 19:20 on Apr 3, 2021

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006



I'll preface that, while I was annoyed by the fifth season because of the reasons above, it was written well, and have good characters that carried it through.

The story "The Ones Who Stay and Fight" from this collection made me so angry, to the point I'd rather not read anything by this author again. It's a response to "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin. Omelas is a thought experiment about how we all accept the suffering of another to live in society; in the story it's an actual child locked in a closet, humiliated and beaten to somehow maintain the utopia is Omelas. Everyone has a choice to live in utopia, or walk away, but walking away is an unknown, and not necessarily going to end well for those that do. Now I guess Jemisin didn't accept that, and believed there would be someone who fights the system... so we get a story about a utopia with police who murder (humanely, lol) people whose beliefs don't fit in society, like selfish people, and if the person has children those children might be killed later, or become the secret police, depending if they can conform to society. She explicitly writes it as a response to Omelas, but if that's the case she didn't get what LeGuin was saying; the protagonists in "The Ones Who Stay and Fight" don't fight anything, they are just more actors in the suffering of others, they are like the ones who stay in Omelas. It just seems like Jemisin believes her story's murder and oppression is okay because she thinks it's humane, and that's super hosed up.

killer crane fucked around with this message at 19:30 on Apr 3, 2021

Mat Cauthon
Jan 2, 2006

The more tragic things get, the more I feel like laughing.



Oh man I remember that story. I got yelled at in my writing group for having similar criticisms, that was an interesting couple of days.

No one gets them all right, not even your favorites.

mllaneza
Apr 28, 2007


Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952





Black Future Month immediately takes a turn from that first story. Read past it, there are some outstanding stories in there. A couple of my early favorites revolve around food and relationships. There's some mysteries, some tales of sacrifice, some really creepy bodyhorror.

On the whole it's one of the best single-author anthologies I've read.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013




Ccs posted:

Itís more likely that the story will end up validating people who want to believe that oppression happens for a legitimate reason

Speaking of this, her oppressed wizards are capable of killing large numbers of people entirely by accident whenever they lose control of their emotions in a moment of panic or anger or whatnot.
As an example, in the first chapter of first book a wizard schoolgirl comes very close to accidentally killing one of her classmates in a playground dispute. So not only are the oppressed people wizards, the books explicitly establish a good reason for literal school segregation.

It just doesn't work for me at all.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


mllaneza posted:

Black Future Month immediately takes a turn from that first story. Read past it, there are some outstanding stories in there. A couple of my early favorites revolve around food and relationships. There's some mysteries, some tales of sacrifice, some really creepy bodyhorror.

I'll give it a try at some point, probably. I've just had a bad taste after fifth season and... I don't know why she decided to take on LeGuin, I just don't get it; maybe it was a fine story until she decided it worked as an argument against one of the best sf writers ever.

Also I remember my biggest annoyance with the Fifth Season series: it's effectively Atlas Shrugged, but fantasy. That oppressive have-nots are keeping the best humans down, not allowing humanity to thrive because they fear/are jealous of/exploit the truly talented peak.

I've heard interviews with Jemisin, and there's such a disconnect between her belief in public, and what comes across on the page. Maybe reading more of her work would expand/explain, but I've read her most famous, award winning series, and her response to one of the best works of sf literature, and her best foot is not forward.

Nerdburger_Jansen
Jan 1, 2019


killer crane posted:

I'll preface that, while I was annoyed by the fifth season because of the reasons above, it was written well, and have good characters that carried it through.

The story "The Ones Who Stay and Fight" from this collection made me so angry, to the point I'd rather not read anything by this author again. It's a response to "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin. Omelas is a thought experiment about how we all accept the suffering of another to live in society; in the story it's an actual child locked in a closet, humiliated and beaten to somehow maintain the utopia is Omelas. Everyone has a choice to live in utopia, or walk away, but walking away is an unknown, and not necessarily going to end well for those that do. Now I guess Jemisin didn't accept that, and believed there would be someone who fights the system... so we get a story about a utopia with police who murder (humanely, lol) people whose beliefs don't fit in society, like selfish people, and if the person has children those children might be killed later, or become the secret police, depending if they can conform to society. She explicitly writes it as a response to Omelas, but if that's the case she didn't get what LeGuin was saying; the protagonists in "The Ones Who Stay and Fight" don't fight anything, they are just more actors in the suffering of others, they are like the ones who stay in Omelas. It just seems like Jemisin believes her story's murder and oppression is okay because she thinks it's humane, and that's super hosed up.

I just read this, out of curiosity from this description. The vision is one of eternal violence against a disease (bad people) to maintain a utopia. Interestingly, the author predicts your rage, and attributes it to the fact that equality enrages you. The deeper logic appears to be that those who get squeamish at this kind of unending violence just have accepted that inequality is part of the world (meaning that the desire to achieve this utopia, and the willingness to take on this unending violence against the disease, are one and the same).

The girl's father is killed, and the narrative voice chastises her for being mad about it Ė she is offered the opportunity to redeem herself by joining in the never-ending struggle to preserve utopia, by going on to murder other people, just as her father was murdered, working for the organization that killed him.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


Nerdburger_Jansen posted:

I just read this, out of curiosity from this description. The vision is one of eternal violence against a disease (bad people) to maintain a utopia. Interestingly, the author predicts your rage, and attributes it to the fact that equality enrages you. The deeper logic appears to be that those who get squeamish at this kind of unending violence just have accepted that inequality is part of the world (meaning that the desire to achieve this utopia, and the willingness to take on this unending violence against the disease, are one and the same).

"My oppression is the right kind of oppression cause it oppresses the right people," is a stupid response to the Omelas story. The story just wedges itself as agreeing that society exists on the backs of the oppressed, whether a child in a closet, or a "bad guy" getting killed by the secret police. It doesn't say anything different, in fact its manifesto is to stay and continue the suffering of others.

At least in Omelas you could walk away, in Jemisin's story you'd just be killed. It doesn't offer another coherent viewpoint.

e: again it may be a fine story by itself, but she explicitly wrote it as a response to Le Guin's story... and I criticize it for failing at that.

killer crane fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Apr 4, 2021

team overhead smash
Sep 2, 2006

Team-Forest-Tree-Dog:
Smashing your way into our hearts one skylight at a time

killer crane posted:

"My oppression is the right kind of oppression cause it oppresses the right people," is a stupid response to the Omelas story. The story just wedges itself as agreeing that society exists on the backs of the oppressed, whether a child in a closet, or a "bad guy" getting killed by the secret police. It doesn't say anything different, in fact its manifesto is to stay and continue the suffering of others.

I dunno, this defence kind of strikes me as a ďHeh, youíre bigoted against my bigotryĒ kind of defence. Violence in self defence is not morally the same as someone just committing regular violence for kicks or what have you. Causing suffering only to people who want to cause suffering to others is not the same as torturing a random innocent person.

While it is still not perfect, as a perfect utopia wouldnít have need for this kind of action, it is a different take. If you still feel itís not morally acceptable then thatís fine - but you also need to have a think about how society distributes suffering at the moment and whether thatís any fairer.

Nerdburger_Jansen
Jan 1, 2019


team overhead smash posted:

I dunno, this defence kind of strikes me as a ďHeh, youíre bigoted against my bigotryĒ kind of defence. Violence in self defence is not morally the same as someone just committing regular violence for kicks or what have you. Causing suffering only to people who want to cause suffering to others is not the same as torturing a random innocent person.

While it is still not perfect, as a perfect utopia wouldnít have need for this kind of action, it is a different take. If you still feel itís not morally acceptable then thatís fine - but you also need to have a think about how society distributes suffering at the moment and whether thatís any fairer.

The violence in the story is not in self-defense.

team overhead smash
Sep 2, 2006

Team-Forest-Tree-Dog:
Smashing your way into our hearts one skylight at a time

Nerdburger_Jansen posted:

The violence in the story is not in self-defense.

It was an example of how the morality of an action changes based on the context around that action and why I therefore disagreed with the take I was responding too, not meant to describe the story.

Peel
Dec 3, 2007



A little off-topic, but if you're annoyed by the Fifth Season's (or similar's) take on 'what if a population of humans with dangerous superpowers' you might want to check out the SF anime From The New World, which takes the exact opposite tack. The psychics are in charge, and the full working out of how this works, and the kind of people they are and society they've made is unsettling but compelling. I think of it every time this discussion happens.

It's based on a novel, but I don't think that's been translated.

biracial bear for uncut
Jun 9, 2009

ask me about being the most obnoxious person of all time

killer crane posted:

"My oppression is the right kind of oppression cause it oppresses the right people," is a stupid response to the Omelas story. The story just wedges itself as agreeing that society exists on the backs of the oppressed, whether a child in a closet, or a "bad guy" getting killed by the secret police. It doesn't say anything different, in fact its manifesto is to stay and continue the suffering of others.

At least in Omelas you could walk away, in Jemisin's story you'd just be killed. It doesn't offer another coherent viewpoint.

e: again it may be a fine story by itself, but she explicitly wrote it as a response to Le Guin's story... and I criticize it for failing at that.

It's almost as if police aren't literally killing people in real life to "preserve utopia" and the real world choices are either to join those police and maybe influence change or get murdered yourself at some point by opposing them.

Also see how many people are in denial about this even happening, or trying to justify it.

The problem ITT is the assumption that the story Jemesin wrote is about a fictional society, and not an indictment against a real one that we actually live in.


quote:

What did folks think of The City We Became? I haven't gotten around to it yet, although I read the short story that eventually became the novel and liked it. Urban fantasy that most explicitly focuses on the lived environment and personas of cities is a nifty framing but I'm a geographer so I might be biased to like that sort of thing.

I enjoyed it, but I suspect a lot of people ITT won't if they had so many problems with metaphorical writing that they couldn't get into because they can't connect with the lived background Jemisin often draws from for her emotional background for characters.

Probably going to be somebody that gets all offended by how Staten Island and Lovecraft are portrayed in it.

biracial bear for uncut fucked around with this message at 13:18 on Apr 4, 2021

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


biracial bear for uncut posted:

It's almost as if police aren't literally killing people in real life to "preserve utopia" and the real world choices are either to join those police and maybe influence change or get murdered yourself at some point by opposing them.

That is what Omelas is about.

biracial bear for uncut posted:

Also see how many people are in denial about this even happening, or trying to justify it.

That is what Omelas is about.

biracial bear for uncut posted:

The problem ITT is the assumption that the story Jemesin wrote is about a fictional society, and not an indictment against a real one that we actually live in.

That is what Omelas is about.

Jemisin wrote her story as a response to Le Guin's story; that's not extratextual, she mentions it within the story. It fails as a response, because it doesn't actually say anything new. If it's a retelling it fails, because, while it has suffering, it misses the act of walking away.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011




Peel posted:

A little off-topic, but if you're annoyed by the Fifth Season's (or similar's) take on 'what if a population of humans with dangerous superpowers' you might want to check out the SF anime From The New World, which takes the exact opposite tack. The psychics are in charge, and the full working out of how this works, and the kind of people they are and society they've made is unsettling but compelling. I think of it every time this discussion happens.

It's based on a novel, but I don't think that's been translated.

From the New World is one of my all time favorite series. One of the few anime Iíve watched twice. Also The Song of Shadows sets an incredible mood in the opening scenes : https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxke2YUjBcM

Carrier
May 12, 2009


420...69...9001...


I've only read the fifth season and that was years ago at this point, but the only thing that stuck with me from that book was the god awful sex scene. I know people love dunking on e.g. Peter F Hamilton for his sex scenes, and they really are terrible, but jesus this one was equally bad. Maybe I just don't get it, but I never understood why the first book won so many awards.

biracial bear for uncut
Jun 9, 2009

ask me about being the most obnoxious person of all time

quote:

Jemisin wrote her story as a response to Le Guin's story; that's not extratextual, she mentions it within the story. It fails as a response, because it doesn't actually say anything new. If it's a retelling it fails, because, while it has suffering, it misses the act of walking away.

It's almost as if "walking away isn't possible" is part of the response.

Jaxyon
Mar 6, 2016
boring as hell and also can be low-key racist

Carrier posted:

I've only read the fifth season and that was years ago at this point, but the only thing that stuck with me from that book was the god awful sex scene. I know people love dunking on e.g. Peter F Hamilton for his sex scenes, and they really are terrible, but jesus this one was equally bad. Maybe I just don't get it, but I never understood why the first book won so many awards.

Probably because a lot of people thought it was good.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


biracial bear for uncut posted:

It's almost as if "walking away isn't possible" is part of the response.

If that's the case, Jemisin is saying there's no reason to even try not to act in the suffering of others for our own benefit.

Walking away, in Omelas, means even trying to not participate in suffering correlates to losing benefits of living in society. So saying walking away isn't possible is saying trying to minimize suffering isn't possible... so we should just participate in it to maximize our own happiness. AGAIN: all this story does is agree with those that stay in Omelas, and you're saying it defends them as the only/right decision; it's a bad response to Le Guin's story, and that's been my only criticism.

If you're right, that she intends it to mean walking away is not possible, and suffering is justified, then it's just a story of "gently caress you, got mine." That, and if Fifth Season is a retelling of Atlas Shrugged, I'm leaning on believing NK Jemisin is, through her texts, a huge Libertarian, and maybe the new Ayn Rand.

I get I should read more of her work before having such a spicy take. And I don't think she wrote The Ones Who Stay to defend causing suffering, but, again, as a response to Omelas, that's what kind of what it is.

Mat Cauthon
Jan 2, 2006

The more tragic things get, the more I feel like laughing.



Where is this thing about Fifth Season being a retelling of Atlas Shrugged coming from? Did Jemisin suggest that somewhere?

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


Mat Cauthon posted:

Where is this thing about Fifth Season being a retelling of Atlas Shrugged coming from? Did Jemisin suggest that somewhere?

Nah, it's just my own unfair, bad faith take on the theme presented on the page (the superior people are kept down by the greedy masses). They're good books, with well written characters, and palpable emotional prose.

On that note though, I don't ever intend to seak out extratextual content by authors to explain what they write. If it was supposed to come across in the story, then it should come across in the story. If it doesn't, they failed in their intention as a writer.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


killer crane posted:

Nah, it's just my own unfair, bad faith take on the theme presented on the page (the superior people are kept down by the greedy masses). They're good books, with well written characters, and palpable emotional prose.

"Superior people" is never what comes across with orogenes, just people who are born with powerful magic. They are very clearly not better or worse than anyone, just people, which is rather the point.

Though I did really like that scene when everyone told Essun she couldn't build her trains but she built them anyways.

Jaxyon
Mar 6, 2016
boring as hell and also can be low-key racist

killer crane posted:

Nah, it's just my own unfair, bad faith take on the theme presented on the page (the superior people are kept down by the greedy masses).

I would suggest you read that again because that's not textual or even subtextual.

team overhead smash
Sep 2, 2006

Team-Forest-Tree-Dog:
Smashing your way into our hearts one skylight at a time

killer crane posted:

If that's the case, Jemisin is saying there's no reason to even try not to act in the suffering of others for our own benefit.

Walking away, in Omelas, means even trying to not participate in suffering correlates to losing benefits of living in society. So saying walking away isn't possible is saying trying to minimize suffering isn't possible... so we should just participate in it to maximize our own happiness. AGAIN: all this story does is agree with those that stay in Omelas, and you're saying it defends them as the only/right decision; it's a bad response to Le Guin's story, and that's been my only criticism.

If you're right, that she intends it to mean walking away is not possible, and suffering is justified, then it's just a story of "gently caress you, got mine." That, and if Fifth Season is a retelling of Atlas Shrugged, I'm leaning on believing NK Jemisin is, through her texts, a huge Libertarian, and maybe the new Ayn Rand.

While the story is a response to Omelas, itís also a response to real life too.

You canít walk away from all of society in real life and you canít avoid involvement by yourself in systems which produce suffering in real life. Even in theoretical luxury gay space communism societies we may set up I the future, no-one is seriously insisting that suffering wonít exist in some form.

Criticising it for not allowing people to walk away or for having suffering seems to therefore be missing half the point. Of course you canít!

As a theoretical exercise thatís not being taken too literally, I donít have much problem with the power of the state being solely used against nazi fucks or to prevent people from turning into nazi fucks. In the real world that doesnít literally mean assassination squads to murder people if they act selfishly and itís certainly better than what we have now.

High Warlord Zog
Dec 12, 2012


killer crane posted:

The story "The Ones Who Stay and Fight" from this collection made me so angry, to the point I'd rather not read anything by this author again. It's a response to "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin. Omelas is a thought experiment about how we all accept the suffering of another to live in society; in the story it's an actual child locked in a closet, humiliated and beaten to somehow maintain the utopia is Omelas. Everyone has a choice to live in utopia, or walk away, but walking away is an unknown, and not necessarily going to end well for those that do.

This isn't the core thought experiment of LeGuin's story though. The original is an unnamed narrator going: I'm going present a vision of a fictional utopia. Here are some details. Does this sound plausible to you? Here are some more. Does this sound plausible? Some more, retconning earlier details. Plausible? Ok then, imprisoned child. Plausible now? And if so, why?. It's very explicitly trying to get readers to confront the cynicism so many people fall into when asked to imagine alternate worlds.

biracial bear for uncut
Jun 9, 2009

ask me about being the most obnoxious person of all time

killer crane posted:

If that's the case, Jemisin is saying there's no reason to even try not to act in the suffering of others for our own benefit.

Walking away, in Omelas, means even trying to not participate in suffering correlates to losing benefits of living in society. So saying walking away isn't possible is saying trying to minimize suffering isn't possible... so we should just participate in it to maximize our own happiness. AGAIN: all this story does is agree with those that stay in Omelas, and you're saying it defends them as the only/right decision; it's a bad response to Le Guin's story, and that's been my only criticism.

If you're right, that she intends it to mean walking away is not possible, and suffering is justified, then it's just a story of "gently caress you, got mine." That, and if Fifth Season is a retelling of Atlas Shrugged, I'm leaning on believing NK Jemisin is, through her texts, a huge Libertarian, and maybe the new Ayn Rand.

Yeah, you missed the point entirely if that's how you keep reading it.

You literally cannot opt-out of society. Full stop, it can't be done short of committing suicide.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


You're missing what act is taking place in Omelas. The point isn't that opting out of society ends the suffering of others; It's that if you try to not participate in the suffering of others you will lose benefits of society.

The people in Omelas aren't walking away because they don't want the comforts of that society. They walk away because that don't want to participate in suffering, and they lose their society because of that choice. Just the act of living in Omelas is, at least, passively causes the suffering in that society. It's hyperbolic in the story, because utopias are hyperbolic ideals.

So saying "you can't actually walk away from society," in the context of Omelas, is saying "you can't actually attempt to not participate in suffering." If Jemisin's point is that you can't walk away, that you shouldn't try to not participate in suffering, then she's just agreeing with those that stay, and rationalizing their decision.

When I saw the name of her story, and someone in another thread said it was a response to Le Guin, I had wondered if/hoped it would give a third way to Omelas. What does staying and fighting mean? How would someone in the Omelas stay without participating in suffering? Then I read it, and it didn't say anything new, it just agreed with one side.

I can see the story by itself would be a fine critique of society... But it's not by itself, she wrote it as a response to Omelas, and it fails at that.


e: if the point of her story is that we can't not cause suffering, that we should instead embrace the suffering we cause, and cause the right kind of suffering to the right kind of people, then it's an abhorrent message. While maybe that sounds nice for fully automated gay space communism, because this is a thought-experiment-as-story, it's also justifying the same act by others to obtain other societal "ideals," like racial purity, or militaristic hegemony. I don't accept that Jemisin believes a person should strive to cause suffering to obtain the society they desire.

killer crane fucked around with this message at 13:27 on Apr 5, 2021

biracial bear for uncut
Jun 9, 2009

ask me about being the most obnoxious person of all time

I'm not seeing anything that says she's rationalizing the decision, though. Just that it's impossible not to share some of the responsibility/guilt for society being the way it is.

If you're reading it as "agreeing" with a particular side of whatever debate you have going on in your head, you missed the point. The point is to make you uncomfortable and to make you evaluate your own role in things in everyday life. If you're failing to do that, it says more about you than the author.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


biracial bear for uncut posted:

I'm not seeing anything that says she's rationalizing the decision, though. Just that it's impossible not to share some of the responsibility/guilt for society being the way it is.

If you're reading it as "agreeing" with a particular side of whatever debate you have going on in your head, you missed the point. The point is to make you uncomfortable and to make you evaluate your own role in things in everyday life. If you're failing to do that, it says more about you than the author.

That is what Omelas is about. That is the point of the original story by Le Guin.

If you're saying Stay and Fight is a retelling, then it fails, because the heart of Omelas is about the consequences of not participating in suffering, and Stay and Fight gives no alternative to participating in suffering, no consequences for not participating.

I don't see why she wrote it as a response to Omelas. It was like a golden glove rookie boxer going against the heavy weight champion. Yeah, she's a good writer, but she's taking on greatness. Yeah, on is own, I see the point of the story, it might be a fine story, but it's a response to Le Guin, and as a response it sucks.

Mat Cauthon
Jan 2, 2006

The more tragic things get, the more I feel like laughing.



I'm at work right now so I have to be brief but I think some of what Jemisin's version tries to get at is that in the real world there's no binary choice of being in society versus not being in society - which I get but it's kind of lame to take someone else's story and change the rules so you can make your own point. A person can choose to ethically consume or volunteer with a worthy cause or whatever but at the end of the day there's no way to exist without complicity in brutal exploitation and suffering - and anyone who can sufficiently divest from society on a "walking away" level is probably able to do so as a result of wealth or power built on the legacies of those same oppression. The only real ethical choice is to fight and push back against those forces, understanding that the violence of the oppressed is not the same as violent done to oppress people.

From what I remember of the story the idea is proactively killing someone attempting to undermine the peace or revive an oppressive system is a bit of a controversy but the larger thing is the idea of complicity and morality. I agree that the story would've been fine if she didn't explicitly push the Omelas connection and I genuinely wonder what Le Guin would've made of it. She could be pretty incisive in her criticism.

biracial bear for uncut
Jun 9, 2009

ask me about being the most obnoxious person of all time

No, the idea of the story is that Um-Helat could only exist as it does because humanity waited until the last possible moment before extinction to take drastic steps to put an end to the various poisonous ideologies that were destroying it. At the very end, the narrator in the story is talking to you the reader, and asking you to fight against the injustices in society now, so that in the distant future there will be no need of the extermination workers in the story of Um-Helat.

quote:

And now we come to you, my friend. My little soldier. See what Iíve done? So insidious, these little thoughts, going both ways along the quantum path. Now, perhaps, you will think of Um-Helat, and wish. Now you might finally be able to envision a world where people have learned to love, as they learned in our world to hate. Perhaps you will speak of Um-Helat to others, and spread the notion farther still, like joyous birds migrating on trade winds. Itís possible. Everyoneóeven the poor, even the lazy, even the undesirableócan matter. Do you see how just the idea of this provokes utter rage in some? That is the infection defending itself . . . because if enough of us believe a thing is possible, then it becomes so.

And then? Who knows. War, maybe. The fire of fever and the purging scourge. No one wants that, but is not the alternative to lie helpless, spotty and blistered and heaving, until we all die?

So donít walk away. The child needs you, too, donít you see? You also have to fight for her, now that you know she exists, or walking away is meaningless.
Here, here is my hand. Take it. Please.

Good. Good.

Now. Letís get to work.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006


Again, on it's own, it's a fine story, but the story as a response to Omelas is bad. It's bad because walking away is about rejecting your own participation in suffering, and accepting the consequences of that. Staying, in Omelas, is accepting your participation in suffering for personal comfort in society.

The action of those that walk away isn't leaving society behind, it's about not being the cause suffering. The worldly application of the story isn't about a trust fund baby going to live in an eco commune in Montana so they don't have to hurt anyone, it's about how trying to ethically consume, or volunteer, or adjusting your life to lessen the suffering of others has consequences to your ability to live, laugh, love in society.

So, because this is a response to Omelas, literally saying "don't walk away" is telling you to participate in causing suffering. Either that, or it simply misunderstands what walking away means, and it is arguing against trust fund babies living in an eco commune in Montana. That's why it's a bad response.

e: I feel like I'm just retreading, and I don't really want to argue this anymore. I accept that is a good call to action story, where we need to do something to fix society's ills, and maybe that something needs to be drastic. I don't disagree with that message in the story. I think tying this story to Omelas changes the intended message, and makes it a bad story. It can be both. I just wish she hadn't tried to take on Le Guin, because it really did not work.

killer crane fucked around with this message at 17:10 on Apr 5, 2021

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply