Review: How Long ’til Black Future Month?

So often when I review short story collections I start by saying that they’re a mixed bag, which is me basically saying that the quality is uneven. Black Future Month is mixed, but all the stories work for me.

That surprised me a little because the stories really cover a lot of ground. If N K Jemisin has a lane, she clearly doesn’t need to stay in it. OK, very broadly speaking you could call all of these SF, but one could easily defend several as outside that domain.

More importantly than which Dewey Decimal number I assign the collection, I found all of them entertaining and most thought-provoking. Some play with storytelling, some subvert genre conventions, and all are just good stories.

With a title like this one, it’s easy to imagine that the point of the writing is to provoke reactions, especially given the state of the SF community. Jemisin walks a difficult line with boldness and panache. She is intentionally challenging many assumptions that underlie SF, but that’s never the whole point of a story. These are SF stories, and ideas and themes have center stage. By illuminating those themes from unfamiliar angles, these stories sparked new ideas for me.

Big picture issues aside, everyone in these stories is believable. All SF authors manipulate their characters to highlight the speculation inherent in the fiction. Jemisin’s people always ring true. I never thought that someone playing by her rules in the worlds she puts them in were acting like characters. They were people. (That reinforces the inclusion and representation goals, of course.)

Overall an interesting and exciting set of stories.

Strongly Recommended.

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