March 05, 2011

Saturday Storytime: Non-Zero Probabilities

N. K. Jemisin is the author of the Inheritance Trilogy, which are (warning!) not all out just yet (but soon!). Nonetheless, they've received plenty of praise, including the highly desirable Publishers Weekly starred review. Sample chapters are available if you want to give them a try. First time's free. Won't tell your mom.

Jemisin's short work is getting attention too. This week's story was nominated for a Nebula Award. Imagine, if you can wrap your head around it, a city in which probability works very differently. An excerpt:

And it's not like the signs are all bad. The state had to suspend its lottery program; too many winners in one week bankrupted it. The Knicks made it to the Finals and the Mets won the Series. A lot of people with cancer went into spontaneous remission, and some folks with full-blown AIDS stopped showing any viral load at all. (There are new tours now. Double-decker buses full of the sick and disabled. Adele tries to tell herself they're just more tourists.)

The missionaries from out of town are the worst. On any given day they step in front of her, shoving tracts under her nose and wanting to know if she's saved yet. She's getting better at spotting them from a distance, yappy islands interrupting the sidewalk river's flow, their faces alight with an inner glow that no self-respecting local would display without three beers and a fat payday check. There's one now, standing practically underneath a scaffolding ladder. Idiot; two steps back and he'll double his chances for getting hit by a bus. (And then the bus will catch fire.)

In the same instant that she spots him, he spots her, and a grin stretches wide across his freckled face. She is reminded of blind newts that have light-sensitive spots on their skin. This one is unsaved-sensitive. She veers right, intending to go around the scaffold, and he takes a wide step into her path again. She veers left; he breaks that way.

She stops, sighing. "What."

Keep reading.

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