This year’s Bartels lecturer, bestselling novelist N. K. Jemisin, is the first author in the science fiction and fantasy genre’s history to win three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards. Her fiction and critical writing highlight extraordinary and ordinary people's potential to resist oppression and reorder the world—even when entire societies have been structured to limit and exclude them.

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N. K. Jemisin to speak on imagining a better future

N. K. Jemisin, award-winning fantasy author and critic, will give the Bartels World Affairs Lecture on Wednesday, October 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium.

The campus community is invited to join an in-person livestream watch party in Klarman Hall and attend a reception and book signing with Jemisin in the Groos Family Atrium after the event. A free watch party ticket is required. General admission is sold out. The lecture will also be livestreamed by eCornell.  

The Fifth Season is the first volume of the award-winning Broken Earth trilogy by Jemisin. After the lecture, attendees can buy books and get their copies signed.

A signature event of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, this year’s Bartels lecture kicks off Cornell’s new Global Grand Challenge: The Future. Organized and supported by Global Cornell, the multiyear challenge asks Cornell’s world-class thinkers to envision creative strategies and solutions for a future that is equitable, sustainable, and good.

Following her lecture, Jemisin will join a panel of Cornell faculty to discuss how we can collectively create a future focused on “what we want” – unconstrained by what currently seems achievable.

Jemisin, whose work frequently investigates themes of liminality, resistance to oppression, and political revolution, made history as the first author to win three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards for her Broken Earth trilogy. She has won the Nebula and Locus awards, and she was a 2020 MacArthur “genius” fellow. Jemisin will discuss how she builds the unreal worlds in her books by studying our own and how we might act to bring a better world into existence.

“Jemisin is the kind of writer who asks us to think differently about how to build the future by looking at both the real-world stories and imaginative storytelling worlds of people who have been historically left out of these conversations,” said Anindita Banerjee, associate professor of comparative literature, College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), and part of the faculty leadership for the new Global Grand Challenge.

Banerjee has published an explainer about how Jemisin’s novels work as acts of political resistance. “In her novels and critical writing, Jemisin has been calling for bringing those stories into a common dream of a future that will be equitable and livable,” she said.

Banerjee; John Albertson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering; and Kaushik Basu, the Einaudi Center’s Carl Marks Professor of International Studies and professor of economics in A&S, will join Jemisin for the panel discussion following her talk.

The Einaudi Center’s Bartels World Affairs Lecture brings distinguished international figures to campus each academic year to speak on global topics and meet with Cornell faculty and students, particularly undergraduates. The lecture and related events are made possible by the generosity of Henry E. Bartels ’48 and Nancy Horton Bartels ’48.

E. C. Barrett is a freelance writer for Global Cornell.

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