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DELANY


This could be about:
   Delany, the academic.
   Delany, the musician.
   Delany, the madman.                 Some of these terms ("madman",
   Delany, the mulatto.                "hippie", "queer"...) probably
   Delany, the queer.                  seem too negative: they call up
   Delany, the hippie.                 stereotypes with associations
                                       that don't match reality.
  This is largely about Delany,           
  the science fiction writer.                                         
                                       The same can be said of the       
                                       term "science fiction writer".      
                                                                         
                                                                     

Delany hit the scene in the late
sixties, cranking SF novels in
his teens and picking up Nebula         
awards in his early twenties.        Just about everything Delany       
Back then he and Zelazny were        has done is great by me, except   
often compared, though as the        for the Neveryon books, which I 
seventies went by they diverged:     must concede I just may not    
Zelazny went low brow and Delany     understand ("A Child's Garden    
went high brow.                      of Semiotics"?).               
                                                     
The later novel "Star's In My    
Pockets Like Grains of Sand", is 
a beautiful job of detailing     
hypothetical future cultures.    

Everything is complex, ambiguity                                  
abounds, and nothing is ever                                      
explained away in a pat little      One of the thing's it's            
lecture.  The exact opposite of     about is interspecies homosexual 
the simple-minded crap that         orgies.  There's supposedly a 
usually passes as SF.               sequel written that Delany has 
                                    decided not to publish immediately, 
                                    on the theory that it would be 
                                    irresponsible to do so before the 
                                    Aids issue is resolved... 
 
 
                                               AIDSMYTHS
               
"Babel-17":
An SF novel working with the            This is an amazingly cohesive kitchen
idea that language is the medium        sink of a novel...  it's jammed with
of thought.    EXCEPTION                an impressive amount of sheer Stuff,
                                        but still there are resonances that
Poet/linguist/starship captain          echo between all the different
Rydra Wong is called upon by the        events, the different premises.
military to decipher a "code" --        Maybe *the* central theme is
really a new language -- called         communication between different
"Babel-17".  Babel-17 is a tight,       cultures. Or the importance of
logical, language designed for          empathy, seeing things from the other
efficiency of thought, but it           person's side.
turns out to be intentionally
crippled in one particular way.
                                    (All in all, it sounds like the
                                    perfect novel for H.Harper to read, no?
                                    I thought so, too.)

Some pieces of the Stuff:

Two prospective pilots wrestle
in a ring in a crowded bar, to       Rydra follows the action
show off their reflexes to           by watching the body
potential captains that may want     language of someone who
to hire them.                        understands the fighting
                                     better than she does.
The crowd is very blue collar,
the interstellar transport
underclass necessary for the
existence of the over class....
Elaborate cosmetic surgery                  It took about twenty years
transforms them into a colorful             before the cyberpunks caught 
array of monstrosities.                     up with Delany on this. 
                                                                   
                                                 MONSTERS
One of the necessary components of
a starship crew is three people,
the "triple": the eyes, ears, and
nose of the ship.  For the triple
to work, there must be a tight
emotional/sexual connection
between the three.  Rydra finds a
broken triple: two men mourning
the loss of a woman.  To replace           Rydra plays a clever trick in
her, Rydra makes a trip to the             selecting a woman who knows no
"morgue" where she selects a woman         language understood by the two
in cryogenic storage.  The woman           men, on the theory that by the
she chooses is another remnant of          time they've learned to
a broken triple who had herself            understand each other they'll
frozen in grief when the two               have learned to love each
others with her died.                      other.
                                       
                                    At the beginning of the novel,    
                                    Rydra is frustrated about an  
                                    inability to let someone know    
                                    that she likes him:            
                                    A communication problem that    
                                    acts as a barrier to love.    
                                                              
So, this is a really great book.
There are other Delany books that are
great in a similar way:
"The Einstein Intersection";  "Nova";
The stories in "Driftglass".

One that's great in a different way -- 
"Dhalgren":                            
                                          DHALGREN

A long piece of prose, detailing
the wanderings of a partially
amnesiac character through a
surrealistic, post-disaster city
that almost looks like it's
going to make sense in a few
places.                             TOADKEEPER
   
The Toadkeeper had to explain        
to me what this book really is: a    
device for frustrating the                This book *could* have been awful
expectations of a typical SF              and unreadable, except that Delany
reader.  Things repeatedly look           took exceptional care to produce
like they're about to be                  perfect crystalline prose and
"explained" but it never happens.         throughly detailed characters.
So this is a piece of meta-fiction.          
                                          An SF critic named Darryl          
   It was intensely                       Schweitzer used to like to         
   popular with college                   complain that this book is a       
   students, I presume                    "non-functional word pattern".     
   because they like to                                                      
   read about people                      That's ridiculous: the words work    
   aimlessly wandering                    beautifully at conveying the       
   around.  The return                    detailed texture of existance.   
   of Kerouac.                                                         
                                               It has a non-functional  
                                               *plot* perhaps, in that 
                                               it doesn't function as a
One of the things that goes on:                story.  But there are 
three characters fall                          other prose forms 
into a menage et trios.  Once                  besides stories. 
again, two men and a woman. 
 
The way this happens is strangely          (I had a girl friend who found 
symmetric: each pair of people meet        this upsetting: It seemed to 
and sleep together before the three        her as though *all* of the 
of them join together.                     character's had betrayed each 
                                           other.  Her ideal would be to 
The way this triple ends: a                have three people spontaneously 
disaster of sorts strikes the city         drawn to each other at the same
and in the emergency the main              time...)                       
characters are separated.                                                     

                         

                          Some permutations are discussed...
                          a gang bang, men on women is shown,
                          the converse situation, women on men
                          happens off stage.

                          More interestingly, there's an
                          example of a triple that doesn't
                          work out: The two male main
                          characters first have sex with a
                          different woman, but
                          she regrets it in the morning
                          for reasons she won't try to
			  explain.

                                    "It just wasn't my thing."



Delany also published an autobiography, 
covering the early 60s: 
"The Motion of Light in Water" 

He got married to a girl from
his high school: Marilyn            Some of the best things in the
Hacker.  He was gay.  They          book are the excerpts of Marilyn
both knew it.  He talks about       Hacker's poetry.
a menage et trios that                           
developed with the two of                     I looked at a recent            
them and a male lover of his.                 book of hers: a bit           
                                              disappointing, closer         
                                              to autobiographical  
    Pieces of all these                       sketches than poems. 
    experiences can be                                                     
    seen throughout a                         (It's funny that she's 
    lot of Delany's                           become a lesbian...  there 
    work.  Most                               is no hint of this in "The 
    directly with                             Motion of Light in Water", 
    "Dhalgren":                               but somehow it doesn't come
                                              as that big a surpise.)    
                                                                  
            "I've always wondered if
            three people can kiss at
            the same time."         
     


The way this particular group
breaks up:  One day the man
decides he must leave -- maybe
temporarily? -- to visit his
ex-wife.

He runs into a problem with the
law (his ex has been writing bad         In this case, it's not just
checks, the cops think he was            external factors - death, disaster,
doing it... because he had a             the law -- that split up the
history similar crimes).                 triple.  There's an internal
He ends up in jail.                      component.  What made him decide to
                                         leave?



              Delany laments the lack of permanence
              in non-standard relationships.

              He doesn't speculate about why they aren't.



"The Heavenly Breakfast" is
another autobiography, this one
structured like a novel,
covering the "winter of love":
the winter of 1968.

At that time Delany was living in
a commune: a large group of
people living in an apartment
with just a kitchen, living
room and bathroom, all without
doors.  They were all in a band
called "The Heavenly Breakfast",
though the bills were paid mostly
by drug dealing.

One scene: Delany sits at the
kitchen table, writing in a note
book.  Two women get up to go into
the main room to have sex with each
other.  A guy who had been hanging
around the commune off and on looks
at Delany and says something like
"Should I follow them?"  Delany
shrugs and says that that's up to
him to decide.  The guy goes into
the other room, but a little while
later comes back.  He says
something about how they kept doing
things to each other even after he
joined them.  Evidently his fantasy
was to have the two of them focused
on him?  He leaves, and after that
isn't seen around very much.

The commune itself eventually
breaks up: Delany says this is
because their common purpose           I'm not sure I believe this exactly...
disappeared with the                   it seems like an attempt to blame it
disappearance of the small music       on outside pressures.  Why not
studios in New York that their         continue to live together if it worked
ambitions centered around.             for them?




"Tides of Lust" is Delany's first                 Delany defends pornography,
(intentionally) pornographic novel.               as an uncoventional,
                                                  repressed art form,
There's a scene where a young                     that lacks approval
woman enthusiastically                            from the intelligentsia.
enters an orgy room: no lights,                   He presents a list of
no windows, full of people of                     "good" pornographers in
various inclinations and no                       "The Jewell-Hinged Jaw":
inhibitions.  She quickly                         I naively tried to look
freaks for some reason and                        them up in the Stanford
leaves immediately.  The moral                    Library.  You can find
is that there's often a big                       critical books *about*
difference between fantasies                      them, but not the books
and realities....                                 themselves.

       And with Delany himself?  Has he ever noticed the
       differences between his fictional relationships,
       and the reality?  I presume so, but I've never seen
       him discuss it...


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