. . . Delany

. . .

And while the Hotsy Totsy Club is highfiving and backslapping itself, perhaps we might as well admit that Ray and Christina will be committing their soon-to-be-finished horror film, The Ichthyoid Syndrome ("The Persona of my time!" -- Camille Paglia), to the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery as of September 22, 1999. Be there or be elsewhere.

. . .

From Samuel R. Delany's new book, 1984: Selected Letters

"Thoroughly enjoyed your descriptions of B- A-, though I'm sure you're aware of all the myriad ways academia passively encourages hysterical women -- especially if they truly are intelligent -- and actively discourages level-headed ones, the latter usually by simply saying, truthfully, there are a whole lot of situations other than this one where you'd probably be happier. Underneath the ire that such odd and odious behavior as Ms. A-'s produces in her colleagues, somehow men -- and the overwhelming majority of her colleagues are, certainly, men -- find themselves being protective of this sort of twit. I've had more than one academic woman tell me, with some indignation, that if she tries to play the game by male rules, going entirely on good fellowship and intellectual competence [of course you and I know that someone was just kidding her about those being the male rules! - RD], she's totally ignored -- until one day she decides to get hysterical in a departmental meeting and flees the room in tears from a too-intense reaction to the wallpaper texture or something; whereupon she suddenly finds herself co-chairman of some juicy interinstitutional symposium.

"Somehow university women seldom reap the fruit of prestige and advancement unless the men of these same institutions can feel that they are giving it, graciously, to bright but fragile emotional paraplegics -- otherwise, zilch.... I recently saw a T-shirt that declared, sensibly enough: 'If Reason and Understanding Fail, Bitch!' Well, social evolution being what it is, if you have a situation where reason and understanding aren't given much of a listen, eventually you end up with a small but unprecedented number of bitches."

Although Mr. Delany doesn't specifically address the question, this also explains why so many successful and purportedly feminist women in academia are so horridly rude to their female students and colleagues: people who are convinced that they're being victimized on all sides and are barely able to hold it together -- and are also being rewarded for their loudly expressed convictions -- are very unlikely to give any time, energy, or even sympathy to anyone else in objectively similar circumstances: they're seen as unworthy rivals for attention, not as comrades. Besides, how could someone who feels so barely able to hold it together possibly view (and responsibly behave) themselves as a success?

. . .

The Hero with a Thousand Pages

And a related note on Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren, courtesy of Michael Richard on the rec.arts.books newsgroup:

"I was just thinking this would make a great Survivor/BigBrother kind of tv show. Go rent out some burned out city like Grozny, or maybe get a better deal with Kisangani, stuff it full of cameras, and sell tickets to get inside."
Back in the late '70s, me and my college friends used to discuss our dream cast for a movie version of Dhalgren -- Donny Osmond as the Kid, Marie Osmond as Lanya, Mason Reese as Denny, Charles Nelson Reilly as Bunny, and Sammy Davis Jr. as George Harrison -- but I gotta admit, this miniseries idea beats it.
Mason Reese

. . .

I could not love reindeer so much, loved I not Donner more.
I don't remember just how I picked up this recipe from NYC's own Santa Claus, Samuel R. Delany, but now you're picking it up from me....

Delany family eggnog

Quart of bourbon + one cup of sugar, left overnight.
Beat 18 eggs till smooth but not foamy and dribble into bourbon.
Whip a quart of heavy cream and fold it in.

Treat Yourself

. . .


Today Samuel R. Delany is 60 years old.

Delany more than any other writer of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century is truly dedicated to and efficacious in building better American citizens, and so this should really be a national holiday and Delany himself subsidized as a national treasure -- with a PBS documentary series, and statues in every city, and appropriate selections publicly taught at each grade level -- it's not like he would stop writing; on the contrary, he would be able to write much more -- but the USA doesn't tend to do such things, so I recommend in default that everyone who reads this go to their nearest bookstore and buy as many Samuel R. Delany books as they can afford and, should they be a Hollywood producer, also buy a good many Samuel R. Delany film rights, and that way maybe he would still be able to write much more. (ATTN Will Smith's agent: The Motion of Light in Water is the EPIC SAGA of a GENERATION shown via the TRUE STORY of a GENIUS who TRIUMPHANTLY OVERCOMES a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN! OSCAR OSCAR OSCAR)

I wanted to find a good summation statement from Delany's out-of-print work to stick here, but even when pressed he tends not to waste time summing up his own work, so here's what I wrote for The Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors, although editorial requirements forced me to sorely constrict myself on the nonfiction and the mainstream fiction and actually pretty much on everything:

An ambitious autodidact in the grand tradition, Samuel R. Delany has been called the "most individual of America's individualist writers." For four decades and in a half-dozen genres, Delany has outraged and comforted readers with formally innovative, determinedly eclectic, and uniquely heartfelt work.

Kathy Acker described his fiction as "a conversation between you and Samuel Delany about the possibilities of being human." Unlike many exploiters of "transgression," Delany seems driven by the desire to honestly communicate previously unspoken human experience; even his grungiest material is surprisingly warm in tone. As William Gibson wrote, "I remember being simply and frequently grateful to Delany for so powerfully confirming that certain states had ever been experienced at all, by anyone."

Delany's early work exuberantly cross-bred space opera conventions with linguistic theory, female starship commanders, sexual triads, sword-wielding Orphic avatars, artist-criminals, pop culture, and the emotional complexities of sadomasochism. This phase ended in 1968 with the publication of his super-science swashbuckler Nova and the writing of his first pornographic novel, the Grand Guignol fantasy Equinox.

After a long silence, Delany re-emerged in the mid-1970s with three startling novels: Hogg (unpublished until 1995), a clear-eyed depiction of professional rapists and sexual exploitation of children, and perhaps the most effectively offensive work in American literature; Dhalgren, the portrait of a bisexual drifter in a late 1960s city, and a massive hybrid of era-summarizing ambition, hyper-naturalist technique, science fictional motifs, poetics, urban gangs, and structuralist theory; and Trouble on Triton, an "ambiguous heterotopia" which seamlessly blends interplanetary warfare, Jamesian character-determined prose, and feminist satire while describing a blond hetero hero's imagined victories and true defeats.

An early devotee of poststructuralist and feminist theory, Delany published in 1979 the first volume of his archeological fantasy series Return to Nevèrÿon, a "Child's Garden of Semiotics" (complete with slave revolts,women warriors, dragons, bondage, an alternative Genesis, and the invention of writing) that was to occupy him on and off through the next ten years. The disarmingly straightforward approach of the series contrasted with 1984's rococo Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, a tragedy of intercultural-interspecies communication and sexuality which remains to date Delany's last science fiction novel.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Delany devoted himself to criticism, autobiography, and studies of interracial and interclass urban relations. Often the strains are intertwined, as in The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction in the East Village, a beautiful and moving account of the early 1960s. The effect of AIDS on the sexual cultures and industries of Manhattan became a focal point in Delany's writing with the fantasy-journalism layering of "The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals," and continuing in his pornographic mystery The Mad Man (in which a young African-American scholar finds true love with a homeless redneck and true satisfaction with a considerably wider range of partners), and in a forthcoming book on Times Square.

. . .

Grin & plummet

  That's what I've always felt about nervous breakdowns, if you're not really whacked out, or schizophrenic; basically, you're making a decision that is so hard that you need the excuse of neurosis. I think nervous breakdowns were much more common in the late '50s and early '60s, and the world is more hip about those things today, so that people can make decisions without claiming that excuse. But it works both ways; it was a great advantage having nervous breakdowns.
-- Thomas M. Disch

Possibly related: Samuel R. Delany's mild dismay when noting that depression is often a sign that one's life should change in some drastic fashion, and that the blanket prescription of antidepressives some-subset-of-often delays that necessary change, some-further-subset indefinitely.

Not entirely unrelated: This present mental institution's third (of a projected five) anniversary approaches.

. . .

Non serviam

Since Kraft-Ebbing first entered the adjectives "sadistic" and "masochistic" into play, the world has persistently confused the practices of S&M or B&D with the very convenient metaphors to be drawn from such practices. Whether arising through ignorance or willful laziness, this confusion results in bigotry, misdirection (e.g., "Hitler was evil because he was kinky"), and lots of really awful movies.

The happy ending of Samuel R. Delany's Hogg comes when the young protagonist untangles sexual degradation from its philosophical and political associations; if the ending doesn't seem all that happy, that says more about our narrative expectations than about the wisdom of his choice. But such untangling seems unlikely to spread: confusion is too useful for instigating self-righteousness on the one hand (upraised to strike) and self-promotion on the other hand (chained to the bed).

Those aggrandizing misconceptions have helped disseminate bondage gear through pop culture as an all-purpose marker for "perversion," and even for the sexual impulse itself. From my quiet cove here in the Vanilla Straits, they seem reminiscent of the monotheist publicity agents for Satan, a figure of no great appeal or import until he's positioned as the solitary alternative to an omniscient omnipotent God.

I suppose that's why they call it "demonizing."

. . .

Juliet O'Keefe derives a better world:

My favourite definition [of love] is still from Delany, as found in The Spike's fuck-off letter to Bron: When you love someone, you want to help them any way you can. I'm just kind of fond of that, as it takes ego and obligation out of the equation.

And bhikku derives a greener:

When Thurber was asked, 'What do you believe?' he said, 'I believe in the sudden deep greenness of spring.'

. . .

Return to Nevèrÿon in a Long Black Limousine

Dr. Justine Larbalestier reminisces:

I went back and had a look at the first entry and there's the one about your misunderstanding Elvis' "Won't you wear my ring around your neck" the exact same way I had misunderstood it. (Actually how else could you misunderstand it?) I remembered us discussing that misunderstanding. I always liked the next line: "To tell the world I'm yours, by heck" not just cause of the fab "neck" "heck" rhyme but because the slave collar around the neck was indicating ownership not *being* owned.

+ + +

Our Motto

That is, if Mr. Delany doesn't mind sharing it:

"I assume that of the 280 million people in the United States, there must be 150,000 who are concerned with the same things I am. I have no desire to convert. I don't like to preach, and I don't like being preached to. I like to believe that we are civilized people."

That little laugh again. "But sometimes I have odd notions on what is and isn't civilized."

. . .


I'm very pleased to announce a new (and nomenclaturally significant) addition to our Bellona Times Repress: a short biography of Samuel R. Delany by his pseudonymous third-person researcher, K. Leslie Steiner. My thanks go to Josh Lukin for bringing the document to my attention, and to Delany for permission to post it.

Elsewhere, the never-out-of-style Lisa Maira brings news of cultural rebirth:

The web is cool again. The orginal Mr. Edible Starchy Tuber Head is back.

That eminent researcher, writer, and producer Chris Albertson handles intros for the Boy! What a Girl combo:

Cast includes musicians Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis (tenor sax), Beryl Booker (piano), John Collins (guitar), and John Simmons (bass).


Renfrew Q. Hobblewort, a man either of or four or thirty-four days ahead of his time, wishes us all:

Happy 40th anniversary of the Velvets' Summit High debut gig! - RQH

Isn't it nice? We're number one and so forth.

Speaking of mysteries, another reader has reviewed the entirety of our web-published career and sums it up like so:


We regret any inconvenience.

2005-11-21 - Another piece of Delany history just went up: his 1967 radio drama, The Star-Pit. Enjoy!

. . .

Nothing Personal, 4a

John Rastell reminds me that alienation and appropriation are near-synonyms:

Alienation, is as much to say, as to make a thing an other mans, to alter or put the possession of lande or other thinge from one man to another.
- An Exposition of Certaine Difficult and Obscure Wordes and Termes
of the Lawes of this Realme
, 1579

Alice Notley reminds herself of one occasion and me of another.

Once, in London, I got so tired on
New Year's Eve, Chip Delany cooked
the leg of lamb for me, & still I
got so tired I was just me
now in America no matter
what. And Chip said, So
what? If your friends are
heroes, then of course the
years aren't. America
is where the Block is but we don't
care so we just live there, because
that's where they get to have us,
us heroes of the non-book part
So Bless your heart & try to
get into the book too, if you
want to.

(This is the middle stanza of five. I wish I felt comfortable quoting them all. They're nicely linked, and the end of the last one would strengthen the illusion that I know what I'm talking about. But the collection is readily available, and she's fucking lazy unskilled and deserves your money.)


Josh comments:

As the years go by, I get less and less excited by the fact that America is where Block is: the only work of his that I return to is that song on Dave Van Ronk's second album.


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.