Samuel R. Delany

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Samuel R. Delany

Postby halegraphics on Tuesday, 09 December 2008, 10:55 am

I am surprised to see no mention of Samuel R. Delany on these pages. The author of a number of important and award-winning books in the 1960s, such as Babel-17, Nova, and The Einstein Intersection, he continued to refine his unique sensibility (as a gay man of color) in the 70s and 80s, through such monuments as Dhalgren and the Neveryon series. I myself can report that his 1984 novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is one of the few books that truly changed my life when I first read it 20 years ago. He is also a well-respected theorist of the genre.
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Re: Samuel R. Delany

Postby DavidTate on Tuesday, 09 December 2008, 1:13 pm

Ah, yes, Delany.

I will open with full disclosure: I have tried to like Delany, and failed. I thought Nova was decent-but-pretentious, but Babel-17 was even more pretentious, not as interesting (though it should have been more, given my interests), and chock-full-o-hubris. (I mean, it's one thing to have a character who is ostensibly the greatest poet of her age; it's another entirely to show the reader some of her poems.) Oh, and he gets basic linguistics wrong -- repeatedly -- even though it's central to the plot.

At that point, I gave up on Delany. I seem to be allergic. Everything of his that I have read came across to me as "I am trying to show you how clever I am, and succeeding only in annoying you while stepping on my own tongue". I realize that this is very much a minority opinion, especially among self-described readers of 'literary' science fiction. Since I enjoy works by other black writers, other gay writers, other experimental writers, other critics/theorists about SF, and even some other pretentious writers, I have to conclude that the problem is Delany himself. At least for me.
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Re: Samuel R. Delany

Postby owlcroft on Thursday, 11 December 2008, 6:39 am

I'll second David's motion. I, too, tried very hard to like Delaney, even re-reading more than one work. I just can't do it. There is no doubt that when he tries, he can write well in the sense of stringing words together and even of portraying people and places with some depth. But there really is altogether too much "look at me writing" in all of his work; and in much of it, he isn't really even trying in the sense I meant above. Neveryon is likely his best, though I am scarcely fully read in his oeuvre any more (I did go through it all as it was issued, about a century ago, or so it feels).
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