Genre author N.K. Jemisin has been named a 2020 MacArthur Genius Fellow. The foundation praised her work “in intricately imagined worlds and gripping narratives while exploring deeply human questions about racism, environmental crises, and familial relationships.” The foundation acknowledges that “her novels push against conventions of science fiction and she is expanding the spectrum of participants in the creation of speculative fiction.”
MacArthur Fellow @nkjemisin is pushing against the conventions of epic fantasy and science fiction genres while exploring deeply human questions about structural racism, environmental crises and familial relationships. ✍️#MacFellow https://t.co/qyFafNE8U4 pic.twitter.com/T70uet2Enk
— MacArthur Foundation (@macfound) October 6, 2020
N.K. Jemisin Is Changing The World One Book At A Time
Jemisin is the author of many bestselling books including her Inheritance Trilogy; the three-time Hugo award winning Broken Earth Trilogy, a non-fiction book called How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? In addition to her speculative fiction, Jemisin also writes graphic novels like Green Lantern. Her most recent book – The City We Became – came out what feels like 100 years ago in March of 2020.
Image via Hachette Books
Jemisin’s novels often deal with the lives of black women in genre settings that have historically excluded people of color. Her writing is poignant, and also pointed. She also studies oppression; racism, xenophobia, and climate change within the structure of her created worlds. Her ambitious and groundbreaking work has changed the landscape of science fiction and fantasy as we know it. Although her work is speculative, it starkly reflects the issues of everyday society. However, despite these weighty issues, Jemisin’s books are also still fun and fascinating to read. She navigates a delicate balance in her fiction, and it pays off every time.
According to the MacArthur Foundation: “Jemisin is broadening the spectrum of participants in speculative fiction’s creation and surrounding fandom through her published works as well as her world-building workshops, frequent interviews, and active presence on social media.” The author is very active on social media, working tirelessly to advocate for equal rights and social justice. Like Octavia Butler before her, Jemisin seeks to create a space in the world of genre fiction for black and female authors.
N.K. Jemisin Receives MacArthur Genius Grant
Image via the MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Genius Fellowship is awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Their mission “supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.”
Jemisin is also the first African-American woman and author of speculative fiction to win a MacArthur Genius Grant since Octavia Butler in 1995. MacArthur Genius Fellows receive a $625,000 grant to aid in their future endeavors. This is a big deal for Jemisin who was still working a day job while writing her first two trilogies. She actually launched a Patreon in 2015 to raise enough money to quit that job and dedicate her time solely to writing. A grant like this is also incredibly valuable to writers who often barely make enough money to survive.
The MacArthur Foundation posted a video with all of the winners online. In the video Jemisin says that she is “writing the stories that I wish someone had written for me.” Also joining her on the list of winners are fellow authors Jacqueline Woodson; Cristina Rivera Garza, and also Native American playwright Larissa Fasthorse.
“In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration,” according to MacArthur Fellows managing director Cecilia Conrad. “They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition, and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us.”
Congratulations to N.K. Jemisin and all of the other MacArthur Genius Fellows! Now is a great time to pick up a book by Jemisin and explore what this genius has to offer. And for more genre news be sure to follow Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.