Samuel Delany

New wave science fiction author, noted for The Jewels of Aptor, Dhalgren, Babel 17 (ISBN 1857988051 ), etc., etc. His richly imagined, dream-like works have a definite fantasy leaning, and are characterized by brilliant word play.

He wrote a wonderful memoir, The Motion of Light in Water, which chronicles his coming of age as a science fiction author in the Lower East Side in the early 1960s, his interracial marriage to poet Marilyn Hacker, and his involvement in pre-Stonewall gay culture.
Don't overlook his critical writing. I had the pleasure of being in a seminar he gave at Cornell ten years ago; among other things, we read Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and RogerZelazny's He Who Shapes. Maybe two of us had read anything by him before, and I wish I'd read much more by then.

One of my favorite essays by Sam Delany explains why so much academic humanities writing is so opaque: talking about things in a complicated way guarantees that a small group will have the opportunity to work the theory out before it leaks out to the world at large (he puts it much better, of course).

I think those of us in computing should think about our jargon in light of that argument. To the average reader, I think we sound more like Gayatri Spivak than like RichardFeynman. -- GeorgePaci
I think I've read all of Delany's novels, now, although I have not yet started on his nonfiction. It seems to me that I made a vast mistake by reading them in (more or less) reverse chronological order. Dhalgren was probably the best novel I've ever read (and re-read, and re-read). Triton was pretty damn good. Babel 17, Nova, etc. were enjoyable but not much above average. And Jewels of Aptor was just poorly done. Am I alone in these impressions? Am I missing something, or am I simply noticing that, at one time, he was less mature as a writer?

Delany admits this point in The Motion of Light in Water, specifically regarding writing The Fall of the Towers. By the time he began writing the last volume, which he started immediately after finishing the previous volumes, he was painfully aware of stylistic and plotting mistakes in the previous books.

I just read RadicalUtopias?, which contains Triton along with two other novels...and places Triton last. The flow of the three together, the common theme (gender issues), and the high quality of writing throughout puts it as one of my favorite bound works, up there with Dhalgren. -- AdamBerger

I really, really hope you folks are kidding about Dhalgren. Nobody I have ever talked to about this, um, "novel" has ever finished it. I made it about two thirds of the way through before giving up in complete despair. Oh, and Triton was one of the worst pieces of drivel I've ever finished. I kept expecting Delany to make some kind of point, and he never did. Talk about gender confusion! Oy! Also, his characterization of the revolution was lame at best. How could his character have been so completely out of touch? Well, I guess it just went along with the whole tone of confusion in the novel. -- MartySchrader

Nope, not kidding. Sorry you don't feel the same way, but believe us that there are those that feel that Dhalgren is a fine piece of work. --AB

Well, for those who haven't attempted to read this masterpiece (of kaka) you should be aware that about halfway through or so the narrative breaks up into multiple parallel first-person descriptions, none of which make any point or really have anything to say. Not that anything in this book makes any sense, or course -- apparently Delany was totally stoned off his plank when "composing" this mess. Oy. I wonder if Delany and Heinlein got together and planned out Dhalgren and Number of the Beast at the same time...? [Huh? If the author got stoned while writing, would this not get corrected when he recovers while trying to get it published? Or would the publisher noted this? Maybe he wants it this way for some reason?]
CategoryAuthor, CategoryScienceFiction

EditText of this page (last edited November 21, 2005) or FindPage with title or text search