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Samuel R. Delany

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Samuel R. Delany
OccupationWriter, editor, professor, literary critic
ParentsSamuel Delany, Sr. and Margaret Delany
SpouseMarilyn Hacker
Domestic partnerDennis Rickett

Samuel Ray Delany, Jr.; born April 1, 1942), also known as "Chip",[1] is an American author, professor and literary critic. His work includes novels (many in the science fiction genre), as well as memoir, criticism, and essays on sexual orientation and society.

His science fiction novels include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection (winners of the Nebula Award for 1966[2] and 1967[3] respectively), Nova, Dhalgren, and the Return to Nevèrÿon series. After winning four Nebula awards and two Hugo awards over the course of his career, Delany was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002. Since January 2001 he has been a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he is Director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program.

Life and career Edit

Samuel Delany, nicknamed "Chip",[4] was born on April 1, 1942, and raised in Harlem. His mother, Margaret Carey Boyd Delany, was a library clerk in the New York Public Library system. His father, Samuel Ray Delany, Senior, ran a Harlem undertaking establishment, Levy & Delany Funeral Home, on 7th Avenue, between 1938 and his death in 1960. The family lived in the top two floors of a three-story private house between five- and six-story Harlem apartment buildings. Delany's aunts were Sadie and Bessie Delany; he used some of their adventures as the basis for the adventures of his characters Elsie and Corry in the opening novella "Atlantis: Model 1924" in his book of semi-autobiographical stories Atlantis: Three Tales. His grandfather was Bishop Henry Beard Delany,the first Black Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Delany attended the Dalton School and the Bronx High School of Science, during which he was selected to attend Camp Rising Sun, the Louis August Jonas Foundation's international summer scholarship program. Delany and poet Marilyn Hacker met on their first day together in high school in September 1956, and were married five years later in August 1961. Their marriage (which alternatively encompassed periods of cohabitation and separation, experiments in polyamory, and extramarital affairs with men and women conducted by both parties) endured for fourteen years; in 1974, they had a daughter, Iva Hacker-Delany, who spent a decade working in theater in New York City and recently graduated from medical school.[5][6] Delany and Hacker permanently separated in 1975 and divorced in 1980.

Since 1991, Delany has been in a committed nonexclusive relationship with Dennis Rickett, previously a homeless book vendor; their courtship is chronicled in the graphic memoir Bread and Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York (2000), a collaboration between the writer and artist Mia Wolff. Rickett and Delany currently reside in the walk-up apartment on New York's Upper West Side that he has maintained since 1975.

Delany has identified as a gay man since adolescence,[7] though his complicated marriage with Hacker (who was aware of Delany's orientation and has identified as a lesbian since their divorce) has led some authors to classify him as bisexual.[8]

Upon marrying and the near-concurrent death of Delany's father from lung cancer, he and Hacker settled in New York's East Village, Manhattan neighborhood. Due to the intervention of Hacker (then employed as an assistant editor at Ace Books), Delany was a published science fiction author by the age of 20, though he actually finished writing that first novel (The Jewels of Aptor) while still only 19 years old, shortly after dropping out of the City College of New York after one semester. He published nine well-regarded science fiction novels between 1962 and 1968, as well as two prize-winning short stories (collected in Driftglass (1971) and later in Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories (2002). In 1966, with Hacker remaining in New York, Delany took an extended trip to Europe,[9] spending several months in Turkey and Greece. These locales found their way into several pieces of his work at that time, including the novel Nova and the short stories "Aye, and Gomorrah" and "Dog in a Fisherman's Net".

After returning from Europe, Delany played and lived communally for six months on the Lower East Side with the Heavenly Breakfast, a folk-rock band that later metamorphosed into the Central Park Sheiks; a memoir of his experiences with the band and communal life was eventually published as Heavenly Breakfast (1979). Between 1962 and 1967, eight of Delany's novels and four short stories were published at a rapid clip; after four short stories (including the critically lauded "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones") and Nova were published to wide acclaim (the latter by Doubleday, marking Delany's departure from Ace) in 1968 alone, an extended interregnum in publication commenced until the release of Dhalgren (1975), abated only by two short stories, two comic book scripts, and a minor erotic novel, The Tides of Lust (1973). On New Year's Eve in 1968, Delany and Hacker moved to San Francisco, and again to London in the interim, before Delany returned to New York in the summer of 1971 as a resident of the Albert Hotel in Greenwich Village; from December 1972 to December 1974, Delany and Hacker cohabited in Marylebone, London. In 1972, Delany was a visiting writer at Wesleyan University's Center for the Humanities. During this period, he began working with sexual themes in earnest and wrote two pornographic works, one of which (Hogg) was considered to be completely unpublishable due to the nature of its content. It would, in fact, be twenty years from the time Delany finished writing the novel before it saw print.

Delany wrote two issues of the comic book Wonder Woman in 1972,[10] during a controversial period in the publication's history when the lead character abandoned her superpowers and became a secret agent.[11] Delany scripted issues #202 and #203 of the series.[12] Delany was initially supposed to write a six-issue story arc, which would culminate in a battle over an abortion clinic, but the story arc ended up canceled after Gloria Steinem complained that Wonder Woman was no longer wearing her traditional costume, a change predating Delany's involvement. Scholar Ann Matsuuchi concluded that Steinem's feedback was "conveniently used as an excuse" by DC management.[13]

Delany's eleventh and most popular novel, the million-plus-selling Dhalgren, was published in 1975 to both literary acclaim (from both inside and outside the science fiction community) and derision (mostly from within the community). Upon its publication, Delany returned to the United States at the behest of Leslie Fiedler to teach at the University at Buffalo as Butler Professor of English in the spring of 1975, preceding his permanent return to New York City that summer. Though he wrote two more major science fiction novels (Triton and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand) in the decade following Dhalgren, Delany began to work in fantasy and science fiction despite criticism for several years. His main literary project through the late 1970s and 1980s was the Return to Nevèrÿon series, the overall title of the four volumes and also the title of the fourth and final book. Following the publication of the Return to Nevèrÿon series, Delany published one more fantasy novel. Released in 1993, They Fly at Çiron is a re-written and expanded version of an unpublished short story Delany wrote in 1962. This would be Delany's last novel in either the science fiction or fantasy genres for many years.

Although he does not possess a degree, Delany has been a professor at several universities since 1988. Following further visiting fellowships at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (1977), the University at Albany (1978), and Cornell University (1987), he spent 11 years as a professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a year and a half as an English professor at the University at Buffalo, then moved to the English Department of Temple University in 2001, where he has been teaching since. Beginning with The Jewel-Hinged Jaw (1977), a collection of critical essays that applied then-nascent literary theory to science fiction studies, he has also published several books of criticism, interviews, and essays. In the memoir Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999), Delany draws on personal experience to examine the relationship between the effort to redevelop Times Square and the public sex lives of working-class men, gay and straight, in New York City.

In 2007, his novel Dark Reflections was a winner of the Stonewall Book Award. That same year Delany was the subject of a documentary film, The Polymath, or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman, directed by Fred Barney Taylor. The film debuted on April 25 at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. The following year, 2008, it tied for Jury Award for Best Documentary at the International Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Also in 2007, Delany was the April "calendar boy" in the "Legends of the Village" calendar put out by Village Care of New York.[14]

In 2010, Delany was one of the five judges (along with Andrei Codrescu, Sabina Murray, Joanna Scott, and Carolyn See) for the National Book Awards fiction category.[15]

His papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.[16]

Delany's name is one of the most misspelled in science fiction, with over 60 different spellings in reviews.[17] His publisher Doubleday even misspelled his name on the title page of his book Driftglass, as did the organizers of Balticon in 1982 where Delany was guest of honor.

Themes Edit

Recurring themes in Delany's work include mythology, memory, language, and perception. Class, position in society, and the ability to move from one social stratum to another are motifs that were touched on in his earlier work and became more significant in his later fiction and non-fiction, both. Many of Delany's later (mid-1980s and beyond) works have bodies of water (mostly oceans and rivers) as a common theme, as mentioned by Delany in The Polymath. Though not a theme, coffee, more than any other beverage, is mentioned significantly and often in many of Delany's fictions.

Writing itself (both prose and poetry) is also a repeated theme: several of his characters — Geo in The Jewels of Aptor, Vol Nonik in The Fall of the Towers, Rydra Wong in Babel-17, Ni Ty Lee in Empire Star, Katin Crawford in Nova, the Kid, Ernest Newboy, and William in Dhalgren, Arnold Hawley in Dark Reflections, John Marr and Timothy Hasler in The Mad Man, and Osudh in Phallos — are writers or poets of some sort.

Delany also makes use of repeated imagery: several characters (Hogg, the Kid, and the sensory-syrynx player, the Mouse, in Nova) are known for wearing only one shoe; and nail biting along with rough, calloused (and sometimes veiny) hands are characteristics given to individuals in a number of his fictions. Names are sometimes reused: "Bellona" is the name of a city in both Dhalgren and Trouble on Triton, "Denny" is a character in both Dhalgren and Hogg (which were written almost concurrently despite being published two decades apart), and the name "Hawk" is used for four different characters in three separate stories – Hogg, and the novellas "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" and "The Einstein Intersection."

Jewels, reflection, and refraction — not just the imagery but reflection and refraction of text and concepts — are also strong themes and metaphors in Delany’s work: Titles such as The Jewels of Aptor, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones", Driftglass, and Dark Reflections along with the optic chain of prisms, mirrors, and lenses worn by several characters in Dhalgren are a few examples of this. Reflection and refraction in narrative are explored in Dhalgren and take center stage in his Return to Nevèrÿon series.

Following the 1968 publication of Nova, there was not only a large gap in Delany's published work (after releasing eight novels and a novella between 1962 and 1968, Delany's published output virtually stops until 1973), there was also a notable addition to the themes found in the stories published after that time. It was at this point that Delany began dealing with sexual themes to an extent rarely equaled in serious writing. Dhalgren and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand include several sexually explicit passages, and several of his books such as Equinox(originally published as The Tides of Lust, a title that Delany does not endorse), The Mad Man, Hogg and, Phallos can be considered pornography, a label Delany himself endorses.[18]

Novels such as Trouble on Triton and the thousand-plus pages making up his four-volume Return to Nevèrÿon series explored in detail how sexuality and sexual attitudes relate to the socioeconomic underpinnings of a primitive — or, in Trouble on Triton's case, futuristic — society. Even in works with no science fiction or fantasy content to speak of, such as Atlantis: Three Tales, The Mad Man, and Hogg, Delany pursued these questions by creating vivid pictures of New York City, now in the Jazz Age, now in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic, private schools in the 1950s, Greece and Europe in the 1960s, and — in Hogg — generalized small-town America. Phallos details the quest for happiness and security by a gay man from the island of Syracuse in the second-century reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Dark Reflections is a contemporary novel, dealing with themes of repression, old age, and the writer's unrewarded life.

The Mad Man, Phallos, and Dark Reflections are linked in minor ways. The beast mentioned at the beginning of The Mad Man graces the cover of Phallos. In Dark Reflections we learn that novel's protagonist, Arnold Hawley, was the actual anonymous author of the fictive Phallos (the non-existent novel of the same name that Delany's novella "quotes from" and discusses at length). Additionally, Delany's 2012 novel Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders contains several scenes with a statue of the beast from The Mad Man. Finally, the encapsulating "outer frame" story of Phallos is that of one Adrian Rome, whose life partner is someone named Shoat Rumblin. Shoat Rumblin is the name of yet another of Delany's forthcoming works, an excerpt of which appeared in Volume 24, Number 2 of "Callaloo".

Delany has also published several books of literary criticism, with an emphasis on issues in science fiction and other paraliterary genres, comparative literature, and LGBT studies.

References Edit

  1. Pohl, Frederick. Chip Delany. The Way The Future Blogs. Retrieved on [[20 November 2010 "a person who is never addressed by his friends as Sam, Samuel or any other variant of the name his parents gave him. The reason for this is that he wanted it that way. As a child, young Delany was deeply envious of friends and schoolmates who had nicknames, which he did not. His chance to remedy this came on his first day at summer camp, at around age twelve, when another camper asked him what he was called. He saw his opportunity and took it. “They mostly call me ‘Chip’”, he said, and to his friends he has been Chip Delany ever since."]].
  2. 1966 Award Winners & Nominees. Worlds Without End. Retrieved on 4 July 2009.
  3. 1967 Award Winners & Nominees. Worlds Without End. Retrieved on 4 July 2009.
  4. Marina Agapakis (November 2005). Delany comments on gay life, AIDS. The Dartmouth. Retrieved on 12 February 2007.
  5. See Marilyn Hacker's entry.
  6. The New Ensemble Theatre Co. (TNE) program for Romeo and Juliet, 1998. The New Ensemble Theatre Company, Inc.. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.
  7. Delany, Samuel R. "Coming/Out". In Shorter Views (Wesleyan University Press, 1999).
  8. Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath. Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook; Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999; pp. 115-116.
  9. Samuel Delany – The Motion of Light In Water
  10. Wonder Woman #202 (Sept.-Oct. 1972) and Wonder Woman #203 (Nov.-Dec. 1972) at the Grand Comics Database
  11. Delany, Samuel R.. Dhalgren. Retrieved on 19 March 2011.
  12. Wonder Woman, series 1, issues #199-#264, March 1972 - February 1980. www.wonderland-site.com. Retrieved on 19 March 2011.
  13. Matsuuchi, Ann. "Wonder Woman Wears Pants: Wonder Woman, Feminism and the 1972 “Women’s Lib” Issue" COLLOQUY text theory critique 24 (2012)
  14. A legendary night for Village Care. www.thevillager.com (November 22–28, 2006). Retrieved on 19 March 2011.
  15. 2010 National Book Awards web page. www.nationalbook.org (Wednesday, 17 November 2010). Retrieved on 5 January 2011.
  16. The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center web page listing collections for Samuel R. Delany. Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. Retrieved on 19 March 2011.
  17. Bravard and Peplow 1984, pp. 69–75.
  18. Samuel Delany – Shorter Views – Ch 13 "Pornography and Censorship"
Citations
  • Barbour, Douglas. Worlds Out Of Words: The SF Novels of Samuel R. Delany. Frome, Somerset, UK: Bran's Head Books Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-905220-13-7.
  • Bravard, Robert S. and Michael W. Peplow. "Through a Glass Darkly: Bibliographing Samuel R. Delany" in Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer 1984.

External links Edit

By Delany


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