By James Bacon: The collected edition of Far Sector is now available with a slew of wonderful extras including concept art and designs from Jamal and an introduction from Gerard Way. The Eisner Award nominated. These 12 comics were absolutely stunning. As previously mentioned (“James Bacon Reviews Far Sector”), Far Sector stands out so strongly, a fresh and genuinely brilliant comic. Nora K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell have created a wonderful character in Sojourner Mullein, ‘Jo’ from Brooklyn, the world Jo has been requested by is utterly fascinating, a Dyson Swarm at the far reaches of the galaxy. While it is set in the DC Universe and our protagonist is a Green Lantern, the surrounding science fictional storytelling is utterly fabulous, and this is matched in very finely drawn panels, Campbell really utilizing every square inch of the pages to portray excitement and give a real sense of place. A unique, bewilderingly beautiful place inhabited by three distinct species. The crime spirals, the murderer becomes murdered, politics and relationships between Jo and ‘The Trilogy’ the representatives of the three species twists and turns as we delve deeper into this astonishing new world.
Campbell’s artwork is vibrant and polished, complementing with intricate backgrounds portraying fantastically this imaginative science fictional world, to nearly the design level of detail. Jemisin knows her Green Lantern, that is for sure, this is an incredibly cracking good story, so neatly crafted and yet one always feels that there is such depth, the historical visual references, which readers may know, or may search for, the flashbacks, Jo watching on horrified as a victim is pistol whipped by her police partner, her life a real and difficult challenge that she has risen to, it is poignant and of the moment, and then here we have Guardians of the Peace turn emotionlessly on those they are meant to protect. One of the best comics you will read this year.
We were invited to a Far Sector roundtable interview with N.K. Jemisin. This was moderated by Brian Walton and also present were a number of other interviewers, Anne Brennaman (@annecomics and https://anchor.fm/thecomicscollective), Karama Horne (https://www.syfy.com/authors/karama-horne and the http://theblerdgurl.com/ ) Andrew Dyce (https://screenrant.com/author/dyce/) and Matthew Aguiilar (https://comicbook.com/author/MatthewAguilar/).
This was such a wonderful experience to be part of, Nora was so much fun, exceptionally engaging and there was just so much laughter. It was so delightful to hear the insights, but also it was a lovely hour, and a lot of fun. Any errors in the below are my own, as I transcribed by ear, as best I could and edited some questions for clarity. My transcription will also be copy edited, but errors lie with me.
Anne Brennaman: What’s it like to be able to create a Green Lantern, to put that stamp on the mythos?
N.K. Jemisin: [I first noted that Anne was wearing a Green Lantern Ring, and spoke about her friend who wouldn’t give her a Green Lantern ring, and they talked about this with much laughter and Anne noted she has the whole set, then Nora continued]: You are a hard core fan and I was not before they asked me to do this, specifically it was Gerard Way who asked me to do, and I was not interested in Green Lantern before that, and I had not even seen the movie, and my mental concepton of Green Lantern was shaped by my like of the Justice League back in the day, and I thought of John Stewart as the main Green Lantern, as that is what it was and I just wasn’t interested, or found it super clever. And then Gerard started explaining the world and his conception of what he wanted, and the world as he described was a world far away, beyond the regular sectors where Love is outlawed, and I was like, that is not going to work as love is paired with too many emotions and it has to be the whole set, and any time you give me carte blanch to write what I want in an existing universe and to reshape that universe as I see fit, I am happy, I am in. And so I began a crash course in Green Lanterning, so I got the mega-sized Geoff Johns and Silver Age issues and started reading those. There are too many to catch up, but I did as best I could.
James Bacon: I thought that there was a huge amount of depth to your character Sojourner Mullein, I hope I am pronouncing the name correctly now, I am not so sure…
N.K. Jemisin: [Laughing, out loud] I tried to make it an Irish name, so that is making me feel a little self conscious.
James Bacon: Jo is quite Irish, I wondered if you were trying to bring an extra depth to this character as there was a lot to her history and the first comic was very intense, and what you were trying to do with her, was she your first comic book character?
N.K. Jemisin: She was first one I have wrote myself, I have been a comics fan for years, and I did the same thing with her character that I did with any character I would have written, which was to give her some depth, but I honestly felt that she was a bit shallow as there wasn’t time to really delve into her background or any of the other stuff that is gone on in her life. I was only really able to give a thin sketch of her, and I was a little kinda sad about that, so to hear that she has a lot of depth, great, I faked it [laughter] but I wanted her to be three dimensional, interesting, memorable, quirky, complicated, flawed, she’s an ex NYPD cop, I have a lot of feelings with a capital F about that and I wanted to not portray her as a one note thing, I wanted her to be layered. If she came across as complex and having some depth, then good, it means I did what I set out to do.
Andrew Dyce: One really strong idea that came across in Far Sector was you what you were referring to there, the big idea being good, or the big idea being noble or rational, but then struggling with the action of it, can you speak to that to the larger story, was it intentional? The figure of justice.
N.K. Jemisin: It is the nature of policing, whether you are the lone sheriff on the frontier or whether you are part of the world’s biggest police force, which NYPD is. I wanted to show that Jo was wrestling with how to be a good person, doing good things, within the framework of policing, and Green Lanterns are space cops. And as I said I have capital F feelings about it and I wanted to explore the idea that, no you’re not any better off, you are not doing any better if you are the lone sheriff and you don’t have any bureaucracy to respond to, cause you are still part of the politics, still are the person with a really big gun, in a place where a lot of other people do not have any power. I wanted simply for her to be conflicted, and I wanted to explore the nature of will power, because Green lanterns are supposed to be powered by will, and what I was reading in more recent Green Lantern comics, and this is no shade on anybody, was anger rather than will, and I was seeing Guy Gardener get pissed off and go to town, and that to me was willpower, but acute short-term will power, if that makes sense, whereas the will power that changes the world is the will power that organizes, that spends years trying to chage laws, that doesn’t get discouraged when there are setbacks, that is a different kind of will power, but that the will power that I find more effective for changing the world and really I wanted to explore that. Jo gets mad lots of times, exerts huge burst of power, and there is payback, there is a backlash for that, because she runs out of power, and that was the reason I gave her the unique ring, but then she has got to find a way to keep going even after that burst of anger and the energy is gone and that to me was the interesting thing to explore.
Andrew Dyce: Did that go hand in hand with the emotionless City? If everyone was as angry as Jo?
N.K. Jemisin: One of the things I wanted to explore with the emotionlessness of The City Enduring was the fact that emotion is not an easy thing to shut off. So, for example, the people in City Enduring still performed emotion, because emotion is part of our body language, we make faces and we understand that they are in conflict with us, so I could not remove the idea of everybody being expressionless flat affect, made no sense for a group of people who were trying to communicate with each other. I wanted to explore the fact that emotion is a lot more complicated than even the idea of being emotionless. Basically my fear or concern is that I live in a society now that intellectualizes the idea that if you get angry about a thing, that is injustice, that you are somehow weakening yourself, that you are somehow doing something bad. We give more preeminence to people in our society who pretend [to be] emotionless, when in fact they are quite emotional but able to perform better. I could do a whole talk on this. I wanted to explore Jo’s open emotion versus the closeted emotion. I do not want to cross the streams on oppressive areas, but in this particular, that what was happening, there were lots of people in The City Enduring who wanted to experience emotion and so in some cases were doing it in an illicit fashion using switch off or performing emotions and pretending to be emotionless but really were pretty emotional and I wanted it to be layered. I like layers.
Karama Horne: We talked about Sci-Fi writers, I think we were talking about Octavia Butler predicting the future, and you said that Sci-Fi writers often don’t predict the future, they are talking about the future they are living in right now, so if that is the case for Jo, how much of Jo’s world is a reflection of our own?
N.K. Jemisin: Oh, 100%. That was her conclusion at the end of the series, she had go bajillions of light years across space, only to live in New York again with the same stuff and she chose to interpret that as people are going to people, but the fight for justice is going to be the same even if the people involved are different. She also concluded that maybe in the City Enduring where it is not personally attached to so many things, although she got personally attached, maybe in the City Enduring she can learn what she needs to go back to earth and do it right finally. because she had tried in multiple ways to contribute, to try and give back, to try and make the world better. She joined the army, well, that worked out great, she join NYPD, ditto, but maybe there is a way that she could do it and this was really her journey in realisizg the universality of justice, for lack of better description.
Matthew Aguiilar: One of the cool things that I love about Green Lanterns is about how their constructs become an extension of their personality and Jo has some of the most bad ass constructs, like jackets and hats, [much laughter from Nora] she looks awesome, like an action hero. Campbell did a great job of bring this world to life and her as well, what did you give to him in that regard working together, did she look a certain way, or those constructs, was that completely him, did you go back and forth a little bit, what was the process?
N.K. Jemisin: The Interesting thing is that I would give Jamal impressions and he would run with that, so for example, I wrote up a little series bible of the characters and the basic info about the world, because I know with comic books when something becomes successful you are not going to write it forever, you are going to hand it off to someone else. I gave him the profile of Jo, and in that profile there were some character keys, or character beats, as I am learning script writing lately so I am speaking script now, I pointed out that her eyebrows are always perfect, it doesn’t matter if the world is ending, this woman’s eyebrows are going to be perfect, if she has to use green lantern energy to do that, her eyebrows will be on point, so he took that she’s going to use the ring to fix her hair, she’s going to use it to wear a stylish coat when she needs a raincoat, and I didn’t say that, I just said her eyebrows. He took that and turned it into her, basically she is a fashion plate, but I also mentioned that she was modeled on Janelle Monáe, so he took a lot of inspiration from her as well, and her aesthetic. But no, I didn’t come up with that one image of her going to the funeral with the Green Lantern hat and cloak, and I saw that and just about died. I had not written that, but I was like, this is amazing. I said “Eyebrows, and you’ve got all this.” That was all him.
Matthew: We even got a Morpheus Matrix?
N.K. Jemisin: Those I did, every other issue there was a recap, I was trying to build the audience, and I wanted to mention how much Jo was a giant nerd. So each one of the recaps was evocative of popular science fiction, The Matrix, Independence Day, Aliens — which was my favorite of that whole trilogy. Every other issue there was a nerdy recap, and there were several that I wanted to do, that I wanted to do, and I had intended to have them in every issue, but apparently a few of my recaps encroached on copyright and I was informed by DC legal that we couldn’t do… a Blade Runner one, a Superman one [much laughter], it got weird, but so be it.
Karama Horne: you just talked about her fabulous micro blade technique with the ring, somebody else who was fabulous all the time, is Marth, so I am curious whether or not that’s your favorite character. But of the characters you were able to construct of the aliens, which character was your favorite, and which race was your favorite because of their characteristics.
N.K. Jemisin: I wish I had more time to explore the CATOLY, because I think they are much more interesting than I had got the room to play with, they are the plant people that eat people, as a religious experience, for them not you [much laughter]. You are dead, and I suppose that is a religious experience actually, depending on what you believe. I wish I had more time to explore the races in more depth, because I think all three are really interesting. They look human but are most alien in the cognition and emotions, and they were the ones who did the most extreme stuff, they were the ones who blew up their planets, and so they are like humans with temper dialed up to 11 and somehow they manage to survive to become a technologically advanced species. Out of the characters, Marth was definitely intended to be a high profile character. I wanted him to be like Catwoman to Batman, I wanted him to be the Catwoman of the series, a homme fatale, and we don’t have many homme fatales, instead of femme fatale, I wanted him to be gorgeous and dressed to the nines, looking like a wealthy and powerful person, which he is, but I also wanted to be layered too, which is why we get two different versions of Marth: one that is emotionless and one that is with emotion. I wanted Jo to constantly be torn between those two iterations of literally the same person and trying to figure out which one is real, and I didn’t get to explore him as much as I wanted to. Twelve issues doesn’t leave a lot of room, and comic books are stunningly short, says the novelist, – “What – I could only put this much in each one, this is terrible” [laughter] but I tried to make it work, for me. It was the equivalent for writing a slightly longer-than-normal short story, [laughter] which was a little frustrating, but at least I got a chance to explore and dip into the characters. But not go into depth yet. Maybe one day.
Karama Horne: So you might come back to Jo? I know she is out of your hands right now, but you are not leaving comics forever?
N.K. Jemisin: Oh, no, I am not leaving comics. If they wanted to continue Far Sector in the City of Enduring, but going into the main DC continuity, I do not have a problem with it, but there are elements of that that made it difficult to continue working on this character. I like World Building, I like all of it, I am not interested in dealing with pre-existing worlds to the same degree. If I had not already agreed to do film scripts and another novel, but between that, and it wasn’t going to be as fun anymore, yeah, if DC decides they want to revive Far Sector and the City Enduring, I hope they give me a call and I have let them know this.
Andrew Dyce: Because the Far Sector, the first story was told, just the response, I know it can be a little different from writing a novel to something that is so collaborative, Jamala Campbell, a monster, seeing the response to the story, was it a different kind of satisfaction, did people get what you were looking for, did people get what you were digging, what you hoped they would, seeing it being handed over to fans?
N.K. Jemisin: The honest to goodness truth is that I am not connected to comics fandom to get a really clear sense of what people thought of it, I saw people talking about it on twitter, if I did a Far Sector search which brought up lots of tweets about Indian agriculture, and (laughs) theres something about the oil and gas industry in India uses Far and Sector a lot, so I didn’t see, I learned a lot about India’s oil and gas industry (laughter) but I wasn’t able to see a lot of responses to the story itself, so I do not know what people felt about it, I didn’t get any hate mail, which I guess is a good sign and sales were decent apparently, which is also a good sign. In the book world there are lots of reviewers, there are some reviewers in the comic world, but it’s not the same volume, and I am sorta in a habit of not looking for reviews that are aimed at fans, I look for professional reviews, because those are something I am supposed to see, so I don’t really have a clear sense, the professional reviews I saw, seem generally positive, but beyond that, no hate mail is kinda what I got, so I don’t know if people caught the things I was trying to put into it, and I am hoping that now the compilation is available, that now the book world is going to get into it, as opposed to the floppy world, and then I will see more feedback about how it hit.
James Bacon: I should say that from comic fans I know, it has been very well received, and the first issue went to a second printing, and this is a desirable comic to have, where the first appearance of a character is desirable. The comic came out at a bad time for comic shops and the industry and it actually bucked the trend, some comics faltered and Far Sector had energy and buyers, which is crucial. I loved the humor and laughed out loud, even the line @at and Jo says don’t laugh [much laughter], the geekiness. Were you keen to add humour, to add in a way fan service, as I couldn’t stop laughing [laughter], how did you bring that into the comic?
N.K. Jemisin: That’s just me, I make jokes all the time, as you have probably seen, they are not always good [laughter]. But I try, and this is the part of me that tends to inform all of my protagonists, whatever their racial or gender background. I am a nerdy silly person, and people don’t seem to realize that the Broken Earth series that I am famous for was me exploring a very grim dark topic in a way that is not typical for me. Any of my other books are nerdy and silly, well sometimes, well not the one about death priests, well anyway, that said [laughter], well, even that one had some humor in it. That is how I handle difficult topics, when you are going to be exploring something as painful and difficult as some people got effectively mind raped in the span of Far Sector, people were dealing with a literally physical oppression of something is natural to them, when you are dealing with these topics, these very weighty issues, you can either take them 100% cold seriously or you can give them a little bit of built in stress relievers. Comic books are a medium that can do in-depth, serious exploration of really painful topics. I do not have the skill to do that in comics yet, particularly in a built-up franchise milieu like the Green Lantern series. There is only so far I can go into hardcore grim dark, so I felt like it was necessary to build in pressure valves, and those valves were meant to be humor, and that was just me. The nerdy part was just me. I am a Blerd, I am 100% Blerd, all of those movies Jo was parodying are some of my favorite movies. [laughing]
Anne Brennaman: What I wanted to know, as I am involved in the Twitter side of social media, the response towards Jo herself was amazingly positive, a lot of people really clicked with her, loved her design, the LGBT community loves her too, and just from that aspect it is one of the most talked about comics, at least on my feed in the last year — [‘Good to hear’ says Nora.] The thing I wanted to ask you was about the 3 races, and I love worldbuilding, and with Green Lantern you don’t often get them staying on a planet, they hop around the universe. With this they get to sit and play with it. How did you come to the idea with these 3 different races and what was the philosophy, and was there any part you wish you could expanded on more — I am especially thinking about the cloud cryptocracy?
N.K. Jemisin: I had meant to explore that more, but that’s just part of, if you are doing world building, there are always going to be past tragedies and apocalypses and things that you allude to, the cloud cryptocracy were the organization, kinda like an organized crime group of alien races who colonized the planet that City Enduring came from, so I wanted City Enduring and the 3 races to have a history of having to work together against oppression, but at this point they are tenuously allied, but the tenuousness is starting to become more tenuous, so I really just wanted that in there to give them sufficient world depth, so that you could see that they had periods of conflict and periods of working together and gradually its settled on working together as better than conflict, but it was always work, and that was really it, I just wanted that clear from jot. Other things I would have liked to explore more, is actually Marth’s background, Marth’s ancestor, the reason he had an extra bit on his name, they had ridiculously long names, was because basically he and his whole lineage are meant to atone for the fact that his ancestor was the one who pressed the button that killed everyone’s emotions, that unleashed the emotion exploit, so his job is to make up for that, and all of the stuff that he did over the course of the series was his attempt to fill that ancestral bargain. But you know, there are other ways to do that [laughter] and Marth has a big family, and I wanted to explore that in depth, because it is as complex as the Bat family, [laughter]. I was trying to take inspiration from existing comics and as complex as the Lanterns themselves, and I really wanted to delve into that more deeply. Oh well, one day.
[Anne mentioned she would like to see Marth’s Robins, to much laughter.]
Matthew Aguiilar: We see a lot of Lanterns getting their rings and typically it is a very emotionless affair, the ring seeking you out, and you pop it on. This is by far the most memorable giving of the ring sequence, and Jo literally gets it in a club with a very stylish Guardian [much laughter]. There was finite character space but we still even got a couple of pages and a sense of who JO is and her background, and why she was chosen. Was there anything more to this sequence, of her getting the ring and her backstory that you wanted to fit and didn’t have the space for?
N.K. Jemisin: No, I feel I was able to get all of her back story in. In that issue where she does a lot of flashbacking, I had intended to seed that in more slowly over the course of the story, but realizing that I needed, and also me learning about comics, you’ve got to include action sequences a lot more often than I am used to, so the action sequences kinda booted everything into one flash back issue, where I would have preferred to intersperse it over the course of the story. But you know, that is just the nature of a different medium. But I was able to get into her background fairly well, what I had intended was to get across, that she is not the first black female Green Lantern, who was an alien before her, and now there is a little girl, I have not caught up the more recent stuff, but I wanted to explore if this was going to be a Black American Green Lantern, then she is dealing with aspects of her identity on top of being a Lantern, and dealing with this. I was raised, and this is not the case for every Black woman, I cannot speak for 6 million people, but I was raised, I think a lot of Black women get raised with the idea that your job is to give back to the community, if you get power you use that to help. And she was a person who knew from jump that she was intelligent, she had skills, she could use those skills to help people. So I wanted her back story to be a litany of, again, again and again, she tries to help, she tries within the system, that doesn’t work. She tries without the system. And basically, she’s growing into a revolutionary. When she goes back to Earth, if I had been writing that part, well granted she has a lot to deal with in the current continuity, so when she gets some free time and she’s not a Green Lantern anymore, I want to see what she can do without a ring. But the bestowing of power, seems to me to be a thing to be approached with reverence, it does not feel right to me to be a kinda of accident, I wanted that Guardian, who was also a bit of a rebel herself, I wanted that Guardian to do this in a much more planful way, and realize that she needs to pick the right person for this particular ring, a ring that is more dependent on long term will power, as opposed to the short term acute will power.
James Bacon: I wasn’t aware of how much of a comic fan you are, are there any comics now at the moment that you really enjoy and are finding really good?
N.K. Jemisin: These days I am enjoying indie comics that are not part of the big two, and not part of the superhero framework. I have been a giant fan of just about anything that Kelly Sue DeConnick does, but in particular I like Pretty Deadly, and love Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. I’m really into Saga, hope they come back from hiatus at some point, [laughter]. So many things, the Wicked and Divine, those are my comics these days, and I also read a lot of manga, or I used to, these days I don’t have time to read.
Karama Horne: Just in terms of those references, yes Saga is coming back. Also, about the manga, it just dawned on me that when Jo uploads part of her consciousness into the system – wait – Ghost in the Shell, is this a Ghost in the Shell reference?
N.K. Jemisin: No this was actually a reference to cyberpunk as a whole, little bit Matrix, little bit Ghost in the Shell, little bit William Gibson, little bit Pat Cadigan. I am a book cyberpunk lover. I did like the original Blade Runner, haven’t actually gotten around to seeing the more recent one, and things like that. The visual aesthetic is not interesting to me, but that said, since I know people do like it, I tried to evoke a lot of different cyberpunks, so we had the ring that had a giant plug in it, that she had just shoved it into her own brain, and things like that, that’s what she needed to contextualize because she was a nerd, she was into cyberpunk, she had seen the Matrix and that was really it, but that was not comics specific, that was a genre reference.
Karama Horne: I need to know whether or not you are still collecting cheese in Skyrim [great laughter from Nora].
N.K. Jemisin: I actually have not been playing Skyrim lately, because I am in deadline hell on my latest novel. I do not allow myself new games, during that period. But that said, the DLC for the Outer Wilds came out about a month ago. I do not know if you guys played the Outer Wilds, it is one of the most cute games about quantum physics I have ever played, I would highly recommend it if you have not played it already, but it is adorable and it is also mind blowing. So that is what I have been playing lately. But I do miss the cheese days. Twitch went through a period where it was not safe to stream while black, so we are still kinda wrestling with all the implication of all that, and I haven’t done much Twitch lately, and the cheese Skyrim I do as a stress releaser or fund raiser, and I haven’t done it for a while. For those who don’t know, I get bored with traditional fantasy, so I play Skyrim, but because I don’t care about killing dragons and all that other nonsense, I just collect cheese, and I built a house, and I have a tower on that house, and I put the goat cheese in one room, and the blue cheese in another, and both rooms are full of cheese, that is literally all I do, cheese Skyrim. [Laughing] Like I said, geeky and silly.
Karama Horne: Everyone needs to know about cheese Skyrim [much laughter]. Congratulations on the adaptations, and the recent announcements, has there been any talk about adapting Far Sector.
N.K. Jemisin: Not that I know of, y’all will be the first to know when someone mentions it to me. We did briefly discuss adding Jo to the HBO series, but I think they wanted this to be focused on the 80’s and Jo is a millennial, and everything about her is shaped by her millennial experiences, and I didn’t think that would translate well, but beyond that, I do not know about any adaptations on that level.
James Bacon: In 12 comics there was a lot to it and a lot of story to it. You are very busy, but do you feel that comics could be a medium that you could develop something larger in, something new, and something your own? It is interesting that all the comics you like as well as being independent are the creators’ vision of a total new world, all amazing worlds. Is that something you would like to do at some stage?
N.K. Jemisin: In a heartbeat with bells on [much laughter]. I haven’t had time as you said. I have been in book contracts straight for ten years, which for a lot of authors is a great experience because it means we get paid during all that time, but it also means a grueling writing schedule that does not allow for a lot of room for other things. I have almost entirely dried up on writing short stories for example, because of the book contracts. however, when I am done with the follow up of The City We Became, I announced this, The City We Became is no longer a trilogy, The Great Cities is no longer a trilogy, it is now a duology as a I realized the story is more compressed than I thought it originally was and Orbit is flexible enough to let me shrink it back down. So when I am done with this, I will be done at that point with having to write to constant deadlines and I will be free at that point to explore some new things.
Now immediately, right now, I am contracted to do the script for the Broken Earth movies with Sony and we are going with Outlier Society right now as the production company and I am learning script writing, which learning comic book script writing was really useful for, although it’s a whole other world with the film stuff, so for me it is always about trying new things, and I have not been able to try new things for a while, but as soon as I get some free time, part of the reason I wanted to do Far Sector, was not only so I could get used to the medium, but also get to make contacts and get to know people and assembling a team and things like that.
James Bacon: That begs a follow up, if you don’t mind, do you have a story in mind you want to bring to people through comics, I don’t want to tie you down but it’s quite a news item.
N.K. Jemisin: I have a very vague, it’s a very vague idea at the moment, and it’s an idea I need to spend more time developing, which I have not done. Again, once I have some free time, who knows, we will see what happens, I do not want to commit, I also have not assembled my team, we will see what the future brings.
Anne Brennaman: I am actually neck deep in The City We Became right now, I started it because Far Sector was the first piece of your work that I found, and I know for a lot of people in my circle, that a story holds true for everyone. I was wondering for them, for people who want to get more of your work, do you have out of your books and short stories you have written so far, one that clicks most with Far Sector and a jumping on point for getting more of your stories?
N.K. Jemisin: I would say The City We Became, that’s my latest published novel. I’m writing the sequel right now, it’s set in New York, it has a whole slate of quirky characters and serious characters and it is my attempt at humor. After writing the grim dark of the Broken Earth series, I thought that I wanted a palate cleanser of light heartedness and, of course, immediately I decided to write about gentrification and police brutality. Anyhow, The City We Became is probably the closest to that, it has no thematic similarity to Far Sector, but it is set in a magical New York, and at least in that sense they will get some familiarity, most of my stuff is secondary world, so I don’t know how easy it would be for people who are used the familiar environment of comics and the familiarity of the Green Lantern milieu to pick up something that is completely beyond earth and anything they know, but The City We Became is pretty familiar.
Andrew Dyce: What of Jamal Campbell’s work sticks most fondly in your mind, within Far Sector?
N.K. Jemisin: Honestly, it was the fact that he was able to make the city itself. What I wrote and what I wanted was the city to be a character. When you are doing urban fantasy, and I guess this qualifies as urban science fiction, it’s important for this city to not just be generic backdrop. It is important for the city’s uniqueness, quirkiness, strangeness to come across, and he did that. I would say things like there’s an issue with a giant protest happening, they are in this particular platform, this is what its character is, is the place of memory, the place where they bury their dead, there are statues, there are floating mausoleums, there are floating plant palaces, but what we really see is a giant swirl of people flying and a carpet of people walking on the ground yelling with placards, and Jamal came up with HR Gieger-esque row of bald imposing statues. Like I didn’t say that, I didn’t suggest that, he just went with it. Whenever I say that the city [needs] to have a character that speaks to this emotion or this theme, he went wild with it, and when I did the first script of issue 1, it was twice the length of all the rest. After that issue, and a couple of issues in, I realized I am giving way, way, way too much instruction. This man knows what he is doing, I am just going to get out of his way. I would simply include the themes and the very basic stuff that needs to be there, and he went hog wild with it, and he made the city have a character and I think that was amazing. When we were considering perspective artists for this originally we had started with Sean Martinbrough, but Sean wasn’t able to do it for various reasons, and he came up with the initial character design for Jo, and we were looking at other artists and the thing that stood out for me about Jamal’s work, we were looking at Immortal Nadia Greene, he had several cityscapes in that, that I felt were perfect, he did that also in Naomi, there were also a couple of examples of him doing really good cityscapes in Naomi as well, and at that point that was what decided me. I wanted someone who could make sure the city was an unspoken final character or extra character and he did it.
And then the interview session was nicely brought to a close.
I have to admit, I was super excited by the concept of a bigger comic project and it was good to have other interviewers ask questions similar to what I had prepared, but probably a bit better, and also ask, what I had not expected. Thanks to Jason, Brian for arranging this amazing interview, and to the fellow round tablers, Anne, Karama, Andrew and Matthew for their fab questions. Especially thought to Nora, for engaging so much, and just sharing so much insight and laughter.
[Publication of complete transcript authorized by Jason Fagan of BHI.]