I have a question for readers. Has there been an author or authors you have tried repeatedly to read? N.K. Jemisin has been one of those authors for me. Jemisin has gained recognition in the science fiction and fantasy genre over the past several years with groundbreaking works like the Broken Earth and Dreamblood series. I have tried several of her novels and never been able to finish any of them. However, I can be a stubborn reader and not give up on an author so quickly after disappointment.
Finally, I have made my way through one of Jemisin’s books and her short story collection, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, finally provides the entryway to her interesting and thought-provoking storytelling. I consider short story collections the stepchildren of an author’s oeuvre. Most readers prefer novels and short story collections are mostly for diehard fans of that author. However, I believe they can be a gateway to an author’s body of work and should not be overlooked if that writer’s novels don’t grab your attention initially.
Jemisin writes in her introduction that she is not a short story writer but puts this collection together as another avenue to reach readers. I would agree with her initial assessment as a short story writer because some stories in the collection felt like they were preludes to longer pieces of fiction. However, there are several stories that stood out like L’Alchimista, the story of a chef that receives unusual ingredients from a mysterious customer who wants her to create the perfect dish. Cloud Dragon Skies is Jemisin’s take on the dragon trope that is a staple of fantasy fiction and she does an excellent job of subversion in that story. Red Dirt Witch is a fantastic story that blends the Celtic Fey mythology with a black woman that has visions about the Civil Rights Movement and the result of those efforts.
As with all short story collections, the reader will not connect with every story in the book. However, I have learned about Jemisin’s incredible skills as a writer and storyteller. She has a fantastic imagination and knows how to build worlds as well as anyone in the science fiction and fantasy genre. How Long ‘Til Black Future Month (I love the title and cover) is a solid place to start for those readers who have not read her work.