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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 he's done
Back then he and Zelazny were is great by me, except for the
often compared, though as the Neveryon books, which I must
seventies went by they diverged: concede I just may not
Zelazny went low brow and Delany understand ("A Child's Garden
went high brow. of Semiotics"?).
His last novel was _Star's In My
Pockets Like Grains of Sand_, a
beautiful job of detailing
hypothetical future cultures.
Everything is complex, ambiguity
abounds, and nothing is ever explained
away in a pat little lecture. The One of the thing's it's
exact opposite of the simple-minded about is interspecies homosexual
crap that usually passes as SF. orgies. There's supposedly a
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...
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 up
array of monstrosities. with Delany on this.
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
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 get across to
someone 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 the same way:
_The Einstein Intersection_; _Nova_;
The stories in _Driftglass_.
One that's great in a different way:
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
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
Schweitzer used to like to
It was intensely popular with complain that this book is a
college students, I presume because "non-functional word pattern".
they like to read about people
aimlessly wandering around. That's ridiculous: the words work
The return of Kerouac. beautifully at conveying the
detailed texture of existance.
It has a non-functional *plot*
perhaps, in that it doesn't
One of the things that goes on: function as a story. But there are
three characters fall other prose forms besides stories.
into a menage et trios. Once
again, two men and a woman.
The way this happens is strangely (I had a girl friend who found this
symmetric: each pair of people meet upsetting: It seemed to her as
and sleep together before the three though *all* of the character's had
of them join together. betrayed each other. Her ideal
would be to have three people
The way this triple ends: a spontaneously drawn to each other
disaster of sorts strikes the city at the same time...)
and in the emergency the main
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
"It just wasn't my thing."
Recently Delany published an
autobiography, covering the early
60s: _The Motion of Light in
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 book of
them and a male lover of his. hers: a bit disappointing,
closer to autobiographical
sketches than poems.
Pieces of all these
experiences can be (It's funny that she's become a
seen throughout a lesbian... there is no
lot of Delany's hint of this in _The Motion
work. Most of Light in Water_, but
directly with somehow it doesn't come as
_Dhalgren_: 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
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
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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