Geology Fiction

Astronomy, physics and biology dominate the genre of science fiction. N. K. Jemisin has now added geology to the list with the Fifth Season and the other books in the trilogy. In terms of media, science fiction appearing in books is a given since it’s been known to have become popular through print mediums. There’s an interesting thread to be traced about the mediums that we tell stories through. A science fiction drama might play out on the pages of a book, but now we’re just as likely to see other planets and strange creatures through virtual reality goggles. Jemisin was, at some point, inspired enough by the study of rocks to deem it book worthy. This inspiration is the start of the Broken Earth trilogy although careful readers can see that Jemisin has carefully interwoven other subjects and inspirations into her work. I had been reading an interview Jemisin did with The Atlantic and she mentioned video games, that new and exciting medium for story-telling. In that mention of video games and the scandal of Gamergate, I was immediately reminded of the non-traditional stage that science fiction is frequently on. My coursework here at SUNY Geneseo had changed my occasional indulgence into professional subject matter for students and it was exciting to see that at least one author, someone on the tier of those accomplished in the study and production of English literature, was also tuning in to science fiction’s value. Science fiction has a long past that’s fraught with discrediting the genre as childish or something to be undertaken only in leisure reading, but as Jemisin pointed out in blog post she made, you can apply the tools and tricks of the study of literature to something as modern and far from a book as a vide game.

The post I found in Jemisin’s blog was a brief review of her gaming habits and what she had been consuming. Between Mirror’s Edge, Mass Effect, and Bioshock Infinite, it was Bioshock that drew the most flak. I’ll leave you to read her meditations for yourself, but it’s important to note the duality that Jemisin approaches these games with. On one hand she is able to pick apart the tropes of masculinity and poor portrayal of female characters as well as the incredibly problematic handling of race in the game. On the other hand she’s still able to enjoy it as something she invested in to play.

The Fifth Season checks the box of entertaining for the genre, but it has also been crafted by a very conscious author. The commentary on modern race relations is present for those looking for it. The socioeconomic issues, caste systems, and even redlining can be found in the book. These topics are carefully written about because Jemisin has witness and exposed the failures of the genre in other places. The history of the genre itself is already troubled with toxic masculinity and exoticism so it seems only right that Jemisin departs from that by pushing into rocks instead of deep space.

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