N. K. Jemisin’s New Contemporary Fantasy Trilogy Will “Mess with the Lovecraft Legacy”

In January, Orbit Books announced that it had acquired three new novels from N. K. Jemisin, including a contemporary fantasy “dealing with themes of race and power in New York City.” In a recent interview with Playboy, Jemisin—who just won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Obelisk Gate—shared more about how the novel will grapple with “basically Cthulhu” and the legacy of H.P. Lovecraft.

The as-yet untitled novel, which Jemisin plans on being the first in a trilogy, is based on her Tor.com original short story “The City Born Great”: the story of New York City’s rebirth at the hands of a reluctant midwife into battle against ancient enemies. Jemisin discussed expanding the themes of the story:

What’s your next project? What are you working on now?

I’ve already broken ground on my next series, which I’m planning to be a trilogy, but we’ll see. It will be based on a short story I did through tor.com called “The City Born Great”. It’s going to be set in New York, so I need to do a lot more research on New York. To boil it down, it’s about a group of people who embody the spirit of the city of New York. And they raise the city up into a kind of metaphysical entity that will help to fight against basically Cthulhu.

The City Born Great N. K. Jemisin

So if you’re using Cthulhu, are you an H.P. Lovecraft fan?

Oh, hell no.

This is deliberately a chance for me to kind of mess with the Lovecraft legacy. He was a notorious racist and horrible human being. So this is a chance for me to have the “chattering” hordes—that’s what he called the horrifying brown people of New York that terrified him. This is a chance for me to basically have them kick the ass of his creation. So I’m looking forward to having some fun with that.

It sounds as if Jemisin’s novel will join an ongoing conversation re-examining Lovecraft’s works in the context of their creator, a conversation that currently includes Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country, Ruthanna Emrys’ Winter Tide (as well as the Lovecraft Reread), and other recent works engaging with and challenging Lovecraft’s mythos.

A release window has not yet been set for the novels.

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