NK Jemisin, “The Evaluators” & How Long Till Black Future Month

Featured Image: Tomer Hanuka, WIRED, 13 December 2016


Keep the following questions in mind as you read NK Jemisin, “The Evaluators” & How Long Till Black Future Month Please note that the page numbers below correspond to the Norton print edition of Utopia. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

“The Evaluators”

Who are the characters? Describe Paul Srinivasan. Describe Thandiwe Solomon.

Paul is asking Thandi for help with a commission vote regarding the disappearance of a team. Wei’s personal logs expired b/c black holes and time delay, so no info. there. Who did “they” eat?

The whole story are excerpts (evidence) from DM chains, recall retrieved from subject’s memories, public posts, reports, individual notes, government surveys, etc. How does the multiple genre/fragments reinforce the main themes of the story?

How does the story talk back to WIRED? How does the story speak to our technological and environmental future?

What is the commission and on what are they preparing to vote?

What is at stake in piecing together the story of what happened to the lost First Contact team?

Why do you think of the form of the story? Why tell it via the chat thread? What does the chat thread provide that traditional narrative forms lack? What does the chat thread lack that more traditional forms of dialogue/narrative exposition may have included?

What do you make of the fictional hypertextualization? For instance, how does the description of an embedded image, which is not included, enhance the goal of the conversation? How do do the fictional links, page layout, the bracketed content, etc. infuse the story with irony?

Who are the Evaluators (Manka C.)? Who is Local Influential 1? Where is WEI Aihua (loves China is a funny translation)? What gets lost in translation? How is this a story about translation?

What is the purpose of evaluation on earth? What is the evaluator’s purpose on Manka C.?

What do the Manka look like?

How did the Manka react when a member of the First Contact team told them about Christianity?

What is “deceptive ideation”? How/why do the Manka control what the first contact team sees/thinks?

What’s the relationship between the calcium deposits and the bone pits described in the post by Angela Wheton?

Why/how does the Manka Evaluator transform from when he first meets Wei Aihua to the second time he meets her?

What is life on Earth like? For example, why doesn’t Wei Ahiua have children? How has Earth worked to solve overpopulation? Why has earth not yet recovered from the advent of the Anthropocene?

Does increased resources necessitate unsustainable reproduction and growth?

What caused the destruction of nearly three times the species that live on Dar-Mankana when the First Contact team visited? Was it meteor?

What is Carl Sagan’s theory of “Technological Adolescence”?

Why are the Manka “precisely the right population size for their society’s resource” (par. 20)? Why are there four sexes?

How do the Manka represent their social relations through the architecture?

Why does everyone keep asking Dr. Wei such personal questions. For example, why does Thandie ask if her postdoc supervisor, Dr. Wu, if she was “lonely” (par 35)?

How/why does the evaluator’s laughter change over the course of the story?

How much later do the people on Earth receive the transmissions from the Contact Team on Dar-Mankana? Who deleted Wei Aihua’s personal logs deleted?

What do make of the final piece of information, the “UC Trade Establishment Commission Excerpt”? What do you make of final conclusion?

How Long Till Black Future Month

What does NK Jemisin love about speculative fiction (i.e. science fiction, fantasy, horror, utopian/dystopian fiction, comics, magic realism, etc.), and what about this broad and popular genre disappoints her?

What are the benefits and drawbacks to magical thinking?

What is Afrofuturism and what are some examples does Jemisin provide?

How does white supremacy threaten the continued existence of life on earth and how does Jemisin imagine other worlds and futures that respond to that threat?

For Jemisin what does it mean to celebrate and imagine the Black future (in addition to archiving and honoring Black History)?

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