Samuel R. Delany
|Born||Samuel Ray Delany Jr.|
April 1, 1942
Harlem, New York City, U.S.
|Pen name||K. Leslie Steiner, S. L. Kermit|
|Education||City College of New York|
|Genre||Science fiction, fantasy, autobiography, creative nonfiction, erotic literature, literary criticism|
|Subject||Science fiction, lesbian and gay studies, eroticism|
|Literary movement||New Wave, Afrofuturism|
|Notable works||Babel-17, Hogg, The Einstein Intersection, Nova, Dhalgren, The Motion of Light in Water, Dark Reflections|
|Spouse||Marilyn Hacker (1961–80)|
|Partner||Dennis Rickett (1991–present)|
Samuel R. "Chip" Delany (//, duh-LAY-nee; born April 1, 1942) is an American writer and literary critic. His work includes fiction (especially science fiction), memoir, criticism, and essays on science fiction, literature, sexuality, and society. His fiction includes Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection (winners of the Nebula Award for 1966 and 1967, respectively); Nova, Dhalgren, the Return to Nevèrÿon series, and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. His nonfiction includes Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, About Writing, and eight books of essays. He has won four Nebula awards and two Hugo Awards, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002.
From January 1975 to May 2015, he was a professor of English, Comparative Literature, and/or Creative Writing at SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Albany, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Temple University.
In 1997 he won the Kessler Award, and in 2010 he won the third J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction from the academic Eaton Science Fiction Conference at UCR Libraries. The Science Fiction Writers of America named him its 30th SFWA Grand Master in 2013, and in 2016, he was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Delany received the 2021 Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.
Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. was born on April 1, 1942, and raised in Harlem. His mother, Margaret Carey (Boyd) Delany (1916–1995), was a clerk in the New York Public Library system. His father, Samuel Ray Delany Sr. (1906–1960), ran the Levy & Delany Funeral Home on 7th Avenue in Harlem, from 1938 until 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 was born into an accomplished and ambitious family. His grandfather, Henry Beard Delany (1858—1928), was born into slavery, but after emancipation became educated, a priest and the first black bishop of the Episcopal Church. Civil rights pioneers Sadie and Bessie Delany were among his paternal aunts. (He drew from their lives as the basis for characters Elsie and Corry in "Atlantis: Model 1924", the opening novella in his semi-autobiographical collection Atlantis: Three Tales.) Other notable family members include his aunt, Harlem Renaissance poet Clarissa Scott Delany, and his uncle, judge Hubert Thomas Delany.
Delany attended the private Dalton School and, from 1951 through 1956, spent summers at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, New York. He studied at the merit-based 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's first published short story, "Salt", appeared in Dynamo, Bronx Science's literary magazine, in 1960.
Delany's father died from lung cancer in October 1960. The following year, in August 1961, Delany married poet/translator Marilyn Hacker, and the couple settled in New York's East Village neighborhood at 629 East 5th Street. Hacker was working as an assistant editor at Ace Books, and her intervention helped Delany become a published science fiction author by the age of 20. He had finished writing that first novel (The Jewels of Aptor, published in 1962) while 19, shortly after dropping out of the City College of New York after one semester.
His next work was the trilogy The Fall of the Towers, followed by The Ballad of Beta-2 and Babel-17; he described his writing in this period, and his marriage to Hacker, in his memoir The Motion of Light in Water. In 1966, while Hacker remained in New York, Delany took a five-month trip to France, England, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. During this period, he wrote The Einstein Intersection. He drew on these locales in several works, including Nova and the short stories "Aye, and Gomorrah" and "Dog in a Fisherman's Net". These works received critical praise: Algis Budrys called Delany a genius and poet and listed him with J. G. Ballard, Brian W. Aldiss, and Roger Zelazny as "an earthshaking new kind" of writer, while Judith Merril labeled him "TNT (The New Thing)". Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966 and 1967, respectively.
"The Star-Pit", Delany's first professional short story, was published by Frederick Pohl in the February 1967 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow, and he placed three more in other magazines that year. In 1968, he published four more short stories (including "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones", winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1970) and Nova. This was published by Doubleday, marking Delany's departure from Ace; it was his last science fiction novel until Dhalgren in 1975.
Weeks after Delany's return, he and Hacker began to live separately. Delany played and lived communally for five months on the Lower East Side with the Heavenly Breakfast, a folk-rock band whose other members were Susan Schweers, Steven Greenbaum (aka Wiseman), and Bert Lee (later a founding member of the Central Park Sheiks). Delany wrote a memoir of his experiences with the band and communal life, which was eventually published as Heavenly Breakfast (1979). After he and Hacker briefly came together again, she moved to San Francisco. On New Year's Eve in 1968, Delany joined her; they then moved to London. In the summer of 1971 Delany returned to New York, where he lived at the Albert Hotel in Greenwich Village.
In 1972, Delany directed a short film entitled The Orchid (originally titled The Science Fiction Film in the Latter Twentieth Century), produced by Barbara Wise. Shot in 16mm with color and sound, the production also employed David Wise, Adolfas Mekas, and was scored by John Herbert McDowell. That November, Delany was a visiting writer at Wesleyan University's Center for the Humanities.
That year, Delany wrote two issues of the comic book Wonder Woman, during a controversial period when the lead character abandoned her superpowers and became a secret agent. Delany scripted issues #202 and #203 of the series. He was initially supposed to write a six-issue story arc that would culminate in a battle over an abortion clinic, but the story arc was canceled after Gloria Steinem led a lobbying effort protesting the removal of Wonder Woman's powers, a change predating Delany's involvement. Scholar Ann Matsuuchi concluded that Steinem's feedback was "conveniently used as an excuse" by DC management.
From December 1972 to December 1974, Delany and Hacker lived in Marylebone, London. During this period, Delany began working with sexual themes in earnest and wrote two pornographic works, Equinox (originally published as The Tides of Lust), and Hogg, which was unpublishable at the time due to its transgressive content; it did not find print until 1995.
Delany's eleventh novel, 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). It sold more than one million copies. After a lengthy exchange of letters with Leslie Fiedler, Delany returned to the United States at Fiedler's behest to teach at the University at Buffalo as Visiting Butler Professor of English for the spring 1975 semester. That summer he returned to New York City.
Though he published 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 criticism. Beginning with The Jewel-Hinged Jaw (1977), a collection of critical essays that applied then-nascent literary theory to science fiction studies, he published several books of criticism, interviews, and essays. He was also a visiting fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1977 and the University at Albany in 1978. His main literary project through the late 1970s and 1980s was Return to Nevèrÿon, a four-volume series of sword and sorcery tales.
In 1987, Delany was a visiting fellow at Cornell University. The next year, he became a professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He held this post for 11 years, before spending a year and a half as an English professor at the University at Buffalo.
Delany's works in the 1990s included They Fly at Çiron, a re-written and expanded version of an unpublished short story he had written in 1962, and his last novel in either the science fiction or fantasy genres for many years. He also published his novel The Mad Man and several essay collections, including Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999), a pair of essays in which Delany drew on personal experience to examine the relationship between the effort to redevelop Times Square and the public sex lives of working-class men in New York City. Delany received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle in 1993; he has described this as the award of which he is proudest.
After an invited stay at the artist's community Yaddo, he moved to the English Department of Temple University in January 2001, where he taught until his retirement in April 2015. 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, and in 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.
In 2010, Delany was one of five judges (along with Andrei Codrescu, Sabina Murray, Joanna Scott and Carolyn See) for the National Book Awards fiction category.
His science fiction novel Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders was published by Magnus Books on his birthday in 2012. In 2013 he received the Brudner Prize from Yale University, for his contributions to gay literature. The same year, his comic book writer friend and planned literary executor, Robert Morales, passed away. He served as Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago during the winter quarter of 2014. In 2015, the year Delany retired from teaching at Temple University, the Caribbean Philosophical Association awarded him its Nicolás Guillén Lifetime Achievement Award.
Since 2018, his archive has been housed at the Beinecke Library at Yale, where it is currently being organized. Till then, his papers were housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
As a child, Delany envied children with nicknames. He took one for himself on the first day of a new summer camp, Camp Woodland, at the age of 11, by answering "Everybody calls me Chip!" when asked his name. Decades later, Frederik Pohl called him "a person who is never addressed by his friends as Sam, Samuel or any other variant of the name his parents gave him."
Delany's name is one of the most misspelled in science fiction, having been misspelled on over 60 occasions in reviews. His publisher Doubleday misspelled his name on the title page of Driftglass, as did the organizers of Balticon in 1982 where Delany was guest of honor.
Delany has identified as gay since adolescence. However, some observers have described him as bisexual due to his complicated 19-year marriage with poet/translator Marilyn Hacker, who was aware of Delany's orientation and has identified as a lesbian since their divorce.
In 1991, he entered 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 (1999), a collaboration with the writer and artist Mia Wolff.
Delany is an atheist.
Recurring themes in Delany's work include mythology, memory, language, sexuality, 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 both his later fiction and non-fiction. 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 (or Kidd) in Dhalgren, and the sensory-syrynx player, the Mouse, in Nova; Roger in "We .. move on a rigorous line") are known for wearing only one shoe; and nail biting along with rough, calloused (and sometimes veiny) hands as characteristics are given to individuals in a number of his fictions. Names are sometimes reused: "Bellona" is the name of a city in both Dhalgren and Triton, "Denny" is a character in both Dhalgren and Hogg (which were written almost concurrently despite being published two decades apart; and there is a Danny in "We ... move on a rigorous line"), and the name "Hawk" is used for five different characters in four separate stories – Hogg, the story "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" and the novel The Einstein Intersection, and the short story "Cage of Brass", where a character called Pig also appears.
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; as in "We (...) move on a rigorous line" a ring is nearly obsessively described at every twist and turn of the plot. 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, his published output virtually stopped 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 uses.
Novels such as 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 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 and other American cities, now in the Jazz Age, now in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic, New York private schools in the 1950s, as well as 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.
Writer and academic C. Riley Snorton has addressed Triton's thematic engagement with gender, sexual, and racial difference and how their accommodations are instrumentalized in the state and institutional maintenance of social relations. Despite the novel's infinite number of subject positions and identities available through technological intervention, Snorton argues that Delany's proliferation of identities "take place within the context of increasing technologically determined biocentrism, where bodies are shaped into categories-cum-cartographies of (human) life, as determined by socially agreed-upon and scientifically mapped genetic routes." Triton questions social and political imperatives towards anti-normativity insofar that these projects do not challenge but actually reify the constrictive categories of the human. In his book Afro-Fabulations, Tavia Nyong'o makes a similar argument in his analysis of The Einstein Intersection. Citing Delany as a Queer theorist, Nyong'o highlights the novella's "extended study of the enduring power of norms, written during the precise moment – 'the 1960s' – when antinormative, anti-systemic movements in the United States and worldwide were at their peak." Like Triton, The Einstein Intersection features characters that exist across a range of differences across gender, sexuality, and ability. This proliferation of identities "takes place within a concerted effort to sustain a gendered social order and to deliver a stable reproductive futurity through language" in the Lo society's caging of the non-functional "kages" who are denied language and care. Both Nyong'o and Snorton connect Delany's work with Sylvia Wynter's "genres of being human", underscoring Delany's sustained thematic engagement with difference, normativity, and their potential subversions or reifications, and placing him as an important interlocutor in the fields of Queer theory and Black studies.
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.
Delany has also published seven books of literary criticism, with an emphasis on issues in science fiction and other paraliterary genres, comparative literature, and Queer studies. He has commented that he believes that to omit the sexual practices that he portrays in his writing would limit the dialogue children and adults can have about it themselves, and that this lack of knowledge can be fatal.
In 2022, Delany was featured in the PBS television documentary series Articulate.
|The Jewels of Aptor||1962||Published as Ace-Double F-173 together with Second Ending by James White|
|Captives of the Flame||1963||Published as Ace-Double F-199 together with The Psionic Menace by John Brunner, republished as the more definitive Out of the Dead City |
included in omnibus edition: The Fall of the Towers
|The Towers of Toron||1964||Published as Ace-Double F-261 together with The Lunar Eye by Robert Moore Williams, included in omnibus edition: The Fall of the Towers|
|City of a Thousand Suns||1965||Published by Ace Books as F-322, included in omnibus edition: The Fall of the Towers|
|The Ballad of Beta-2||1965||Published as Ace-Double M-121 together with Alpha Yes, Terra No! by Emil Petaja; Nebula Award nominee, 1965 |
|Empire Star||1966||Published as Ace-Double M-139 together with The Tree Lord of Imeten by Tom Purdom|
|Babel-17||1966||Published by Ace Books as F-388, Nebula Award winner, 1966;|
Hugo Award nominee, 1967
|The Einstein Intersection||1967||Published by Ace Books as F-427, Nebula Award winner, 1967|
Hugo Award nominee, 1968
|Nova||1968||0-553-10031-9||Hugo Award nominee, 1969|
|The Tides of Lust||1973||0-86130-016-5||Published by Lancer Books as #71344, later reprinted under Delany's preferred title Equinox (1994), 1-56333-157-8.|
|Dhalgren||1975||0-553-14861-3||Nebula Award nominee, 1975|
Locus Award nominee, 1976
|Triton||1976||0-553-12680-6||Republished as Trouble on Triton in 1996 by Wesleyan University Press|
Nebula Award nominee, 1976
|Empire||1978||0-425-03900-5||With Howard Chaykin|
Published by Byron Preiss/Berkley Windhover
|Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand||1984||0-553-05053-2||Locus Award nominee, 1985|
Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 1987
|They Fly at Çiron||1993||0-9633637-1-9|
|The Mad Man||1994||1-56333-193-4|
|Dark Reflections||2007||0-7867-1947-8||Stonewall Book Award winner, 2008|
Lambda Award nominee, 2007
|Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders||2012||978-1-59350-203-4||Chapter 90 was inadvertently left out by the publisher, and was later published in Sensitive Skin magazine Since then Delany has self-published a corrected edition on Amazon with a new cover by Mia Wolff, the missing chapter, and many cosmetic corrections.|
|The Atheist in the Attic||2018||978-1-62963-440-1||Novella; includes essay "Racism and Science Fiction", "'Discourse in an Older Sense': Outspoken Interview", and Bibliography|
|Shoat Rumblin: His Sensations and Ideas||2020||979-8654278791|
|Big Joe||2021||Illustrated by Drake Carr and Sabrina Bockler. Published by Inpatient Press|
Lamdba Award winner, LGBTQ Erotica, 2022
|This Short Day of Frost and Sun||2022—||Serially published in The Georgia Review from Summer 2022|
Main article: Return to Nevèrÿon (series)
|Tales of Nevèrÿon||1979||0-553-12333-5||Locus Award nominee, 1980; National Book Award for Science Fiction finalist, 1980|
|Flight from Nevèrÿon||1985||0-553-24856-1||Novellas|
|The Bridge of Lost Desire||1987||0-87795-931-5||Novellas|
Revised as Return to Nevèrÿon (1994), 0-8195-6278-5
|Distant Stars (1981), illustrated, 0-553-01336-X||The Complete Nebula Award-Winning Fiction (1983), 0-553-25610-6||Driftglass/
/Starshards (1993), 0-586-21422-4
|Atlantis: Three Tales (1995), 0-8195-5283-6||Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories (2003), 0-375-70671-2|
|"Salt"||1960 in Dynamo|
|"The Star Pit"||Feb 1967 in Worlds of Tomorrow||Hugo (nom)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Dog in a Fisherman's Net"||May 1971 in Quark/3, Marilyn Hacker, Samuel R. Delany (ed.)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Corona"||Oct 1967 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Aye, and Gomorrah..."||Oct 1967 in Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison (ed.)||Hugo (nom), Nebula (win)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Driftglass"||Jun 1967 in If||Nebula (nom)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"We, in Some Strange Power's Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line"||May 1968 as "Lines of Power", The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction||Hugo (nom), Nebula (nom)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Cage of Brass"||Jun 1968 in If||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"High Weir"||Oct 1968 in If||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones"||Dec 1968 in New Worlds Michael Moorcock and James Sallis (eds.)||Hugo (win), Nebula (win)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Tapestry"||Apr 1970 in New American Review 9 (under the title "The Unicorn Tapestry")||Yes|
|"Night and the Loves of Joe Dicostanzo"||Nov 1970 in Alchemy and Academe, Anne McCaffrey (ed.)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Prismatica"||Oct 1977 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction||Hugo (nom)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Empire Star"||1966 as an Ace Double||Yes|
|"Omegahelm"||1981 in Distant Stars||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Ruins"||1981 in Distant Stars||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|"Among the Blobs"||1988 in Mississippi Review 47/48||Yes||Yes|
|"The Desert of Time"||May 1992 in Omni|
|"Citre et Trans"||1993 in Driftglass/Starshards||Yes||Yes|
|"Erik, Gwen, and D.H. Lawrence's Esthetic of Unrectified Feeling"||1993 in Driftglass/Starshards||Yes||Yes|
|"Atlantis: Model 1924"||1995 in Atlantis: Three Tales||Yes|
|"The Spendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities"||1996 in Review of Contemporary Fiction;
repr. 2021 in Out of the Ruins ed. by Preston Grassmann
|"In The Valley of the Nest of Spiders"||2007 in Black Clock|
|"The Hermit of Houston"||Sep 2017 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction||Locus (win)|
|"To the Fordham"||Dec 6, 2019 in Boston Review|
|"The Wyrm"||Jan 10, 2022 in The Baffler|
|"First Trip to Brewster"||Nov 2022 in Astra Magazine|
delany starboard wine.