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Samuel Ray Delany, Jr.

Born April 1, 1942 (1942-04-01) (age 67)
New York City, New York
Occupation writer, editor, professor, literary critic
Nationality United States
Genres Science fiction, Fantasy, Autobiography, Creative nonfiction, Erotic literature, Literary criticism
Literary movement New Wave, Postmodernism

Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. (born April 1, 1942, New York City) is an American author, professor and literary critic. His work includes a number of novels, many in the science fiction genre, as well as memoir, criticism, and nonfiction essays on sexuality and society.

His science fiction novels include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection (winners of the Nebula Award for 1966[1] and 1967[2] 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 into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2002. Since January 2001 he has been a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia.


Life and career

Samuel R. Delany, also known as "Chip"[3], though this is a sobriquet and not part of his actual name, was born to a prominent black family 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 successful 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 the 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.

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 lasted twelve years, and they had a daughter, Iva Hacker-Delany (b. 1974), who spent a decade working in theater in New York City and is currently in medical school.[4][5]

Delany has identified as a gay man since adolescence.[6]

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. 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,[7] 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 and Hacker moved to San Francisco, and again to London, before returning to New York. It was during that time that Delany began working with sexual themes 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.

His 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). 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 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 as he then turned his attention to mainstream literature, pornography, and non-fiction, the latter mostly in the form of literary criticism, interviews, and memoirs.

Delany has published several autobiographical/semi-autobiographical accounts of his life as a black, gay, and highly dyslexic writer, including his Hugo award winning autobiography, The Motion of Light in Water.

Since 1988, Delany has been a professor at several universities. He spent 11 years as a professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts at 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. He has had several visiting guest professorships before, and during, these same years; he has also published several books of criticism, interviews, and essays. In one of his non-fiction books, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999), he 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, Delany was the subject of a documentary film, The Polymath, or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. 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.[8]

His papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.[9]

Delany's name is one of the most misspelled in science fiction, with over 60 different spellings in reviews.[10] His publisher Doubleday even misspelled his name on the title page of his book Driftglass, as did the organizers of the 16th Balticon where Delany was guest of honor.


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.[11]

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 forthcoming 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 queer studies.

Selected bibliography



Name Published ISBN Notes
The Jewels of Aptor 1962
Captives of the Flame 1963 republished as the more definitive Out of the Dead City[12]
included in omnibus edition: The Fall of the Towers
The Towers of Toron 1964 included in omnibus edition: The Fall of the Towers
City of a Thousand Suns 1965 included in omnibus edition: The Fall of the Towers
The Ballad of Beta-2 1965
Empire Star 1966 (novella)
Babel-17 1966 Nebula Award winner, 1966;[1]
Hugo Award nominee, 1967[2]
The Einstein Intersection 1967 Nebula Award winner, 1967[2]
Hugo Award nominee, 1968[13]
Nova 1968 ISBN 0-553-10031-9 Hugo Award nominee, 1969[14]
The Tides of Lust 1973 later reprinted under Delany's preferred title Equinox
(1994), ISBN 1-56333-157-8
Dhalgren 1975 ISBN 0-553-14861-3 Nebula Award nominee, 1975;[15]
Locus Award nominee, 1976[16]
Triton 1976 ISBN 0-553-12680-6 also published as Trouble on Triton;
Nebula Award nominee, 1976[16]
Empire 1978 ISBN 0-425-03900-5 with Howard Chaykin a "visual novel"
published by Byron Preiss / Berkley Windhover
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand 1984 ISBN 0-553-05053-2 Locus Award nominee, 1985;[17]
Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 1987[18]
They Fly at Çiron 1993
The Mad Man 1994 ISBN 1-56333-193-4
Hogg 1995 ISBN 0-932511-91-0
Phallos (novella) 2004 ISBN 0-917453-41-7
Dark Reflections 2007 ISBN 0-786719-47-8 Lambda Award nominee, 2007;[19]
Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders (Forthcoming)

Return to Nevèrÿon series

Name Published ISBN Notes
Tales of Nevèrÿon 1979 ISBN 0-553-12333-5 Locus Award nominee, 1980;[20]
Neveryóna 1983 ISBN 0-553-01434-X novel
Flight from Nevèrÿon 1985 ISBN 0-553-24856-1 novellas
The Bridge of Lost Desire 1987 ISBN 0-87795-931-5 novellas
revised as Return to Nevèrÿon (1994), ISBN 0-8195-6278-5

List of Short Stories

Story Publication Date (YYYY/MM/DD) Driftglass (1971) Distant Stars (1981, illustrated), ISBN 0-553-01336-X The Complete Nebula Award-Winning Fiction (1983), ISBN 0-553-25610-6 Driftglass/Starshards (1993), ISBN 0-586-21422-4 Atlantis: Three Tales (1995), ISBN 0-8195-5283-6 Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories (2003), ISBN 0-375-70671-2
"The Star Pit" Yes Yes Yes
"Dog in a Fisherman’s Net" Yes Yes Yes
"Corona" Yes Yes Yes Yes
"Aye, and Gomorrah..." Yes Yes Yes Yes
"Driftglass" Yes Yes Yes
"We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line" Yes Yes Yes Yes
"Cage of Brass" Yes Yes Yes
"High Weir" Yes Yes Yes
"Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
"Night and the Loves of Joe Dicostanzo" Yes Yes Yes
"Prismatica" Yes Yes
"Empire Star" Yes
"Omegahelm" Yes Yes
"Ruins" Yes Yes
"Among the Blobs" Yes Yes
"Citre et Trans" Yes Yes
"Erik, Gwen, and D.H. Lawrence’s Esthetic of Unrectified Feeling" Yes Yes
"Atlantis: Model 1924" Yes
"Tapestry" Yes
"The Desert of Time"
"In The Valley of the Nest of Spiders"



Critical works

Memoirs and letters

  • Heavenly Breakfast (1979, a memoir of a New York City commune during the so-called Summer of Love), ISBN 0-553-12796-9
  • The Motion of Light in Water (1988, a memoir of his experiences as a young gay science fiction writer; winner of the Hugo Award), ISBN 0-87795-947-1
  • Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999, a discussion of changes in social and sexual interaction in New York's Times Square), ISBN 0-8147-1919-8
  • Bread & Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York (1999, an autobiographical comic drawn by Mia Wolff with an introduction by Alan Moore), ISBN 1-890451-02-9
  • 1984: Selected Letters (2000, with an introduction by Kenneth R. James), ISBN 0-9665998-1-0



Delany wrote two issues of the comic book Wonder Woman in 1972, during a controversial period in the publication's history when the lead character abandoned her superpowers and became a secret agent.[21] Delany scripted issues #202 and #203 of the series.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b "1966 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  2. ^ a b c "1967 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  3. ^ Agapakis, Marina (November 2005). "Delany comments on gay life, AIDS". The Dartmouth. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  4. ^ See Marilyn Hacker's entry.
  5. ^ The New Ensemble Theatre Co. (TNE) program for Romeo and Juliet, 1998
  6. ^ Delany, Samuel R. "Coming/Out". In Shorter Views (Wesleyan University Press, 1999).
  7. ^ Samuel Delany - The Motion of Light In Water
  8. ^
  9. ^ The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center web page listing collections for Samuel R. Delany
  10. ^ Bravard, Robert S.; Peplow, Michael (Summer, 1984). "Through a Glass Darkly: Bibliographing Samuel R. Delany". Black American Literature Forum 18  (2, Science Fiction Issue): 69–75. 
  11. ^ Samuel Delany - Shorter Views - Ch 13 "Pornography and Censorship"
  12. ^ The Fall of the Towers mass market paperback, introduction
  13. ^ "1968 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  14. ^ "1969 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  15. ^ "1975 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  16. ^ a b "1976 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  17. ^ "1985 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  18. ^ "1987 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  19. ^ "Previous Lammy Award Winners". 
  20. ^ "1980 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  21. ^
  22. ^


  • Bardour, Douglas. Worlds Out Of Worlds: 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 Peplow, Michael W. Through a Glass Darkly: Bibliographing Samuel R. Delany in Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 18, No. 2.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

What I look for in a friend is someone who's different from me. The more different the person is, the more I'll learn from him. The more he'll come up with surprising takes on ideas and things and situations.

Samuel R. Delany (born 1 April 1942) is an award-winning science fiction author. He has written works that have garnered substantial critical acclaim, including the novels Nova, The Einstein Intersection, Hogg, and Dhalgren. He is a professor of Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at Temple University, and is also known in the academic world as a literary critic.



  • To speak the unspeakable without the proper rhetorical flourish or introduction; to muff that flourish, either by accident, misjudgment, or simple ignorance; to choose the wrong flourish or not choose any (i.e., to choose the flourish called "the literal") is to perform the unspeakable.
    • On the Unspeakable, Avant-Pop, p. 150
  • I read the NAMBLA (Bulletin) fairly regularly and I think it is one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I've ever found. I think before you start judging what NAMBLA is about, expose yourself to it and see what it is really about. What the issues they are really talking about, and deal with what's really there rather than this demonized notion of guys running about trying to screw little boys. I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
    • Queer Desires Forum
  • At a certain point I came to the conclusion that one of the murderous aspects of the AIDS crisis was that people were used to not talking about sexual experiences in detail. Gay sex for instance does not cause AIDS. There are certain acts that transmit a virus and there are certain other acts that don’t transmit a virus. If you don’t talk about what goes on in sexuality, so that you know what particular acts you’re dealing with, then I think you're, possibly in an indirect way but never-the-less in a very real way, contributing to an atmosphere of ignorance which the result is people die.
    • Spoken Arts interview on WBFO 88.7, 20th April 2000.
  • One would almost think that they [straight white males] felt empowered to take anything the society produced, no matter how marginal, and utilize it for their own ends -- dare we say "exploit it"? -- certainly to take advantage of it as long as it's around. And could this possibly be an effect of discourse? Perhaps it might even be one we on the margins might reasonably appropriate to our profit... or perhaps some of us already have.
    • The Rhetoric of Sex, The Discourse of Desire

Equinox (1973)

Originally published as The Tides of Lust
  • It is a magic book. Words mean things. When you put them together they speak. Yes, sometimes they flatten out and nothing they say is real, and that is one kind of magic. But sometimes a vision will rip up from them and shriek and clank wings clear as the sweat smudge on the paper under your thumb. And that is another kind. (p. 163)
  • We have done a tiny bit to free the darkies in this country. But the devil is still very much our slave. (p. 60)
  • Always remember the objects you are working with. When you make a bridge, remember you are putting steel on stone and dirt. ... Some day you will write poems to a little girl: marks with ink on paper. ... When you are making love, you are moving flesh against flesh. That is the basis of all magic. (p. 30)
  • Yeah, nigger, you better grin. Niggers can't smile in this book. (p. 87)

The Mad Man (1994)

  • What I look for in a friend is someone who's different from me. The more different the person is, the more I'll learn from him. The more he'll come up with surprising takes on ideas and things and situations. (p. 239)
  • But it's always intriguing to discover the ways in which desire fuels the systems of the world. (p. 257)
  • Honesty is the best policy; a policy is, after all, a strategy for living in the polis — in the city ... (p. 78) [ellipses in original]

Hogg (1995)

  • Men hate bitches the way white men hate niggers. ... Long as they do like we say they're suppose to do, everything always looks fine. But let one of them get even a little, teeny, weeny bit out of line, then you watch what happens — we wanna kill. We may not kill, but we wanna kill. Well, if I was a bitch and knew what I know 'cause I ain't one, I'd get out there and start killin' first. (p. 82)
  • "I think I ain't never met a normal, I mean normal, man who wasn't crazy! Loon crazy, take 'em off and put 'em away crazy, which is what they would do if there wasn't so many of them. Every normal man — I mean sexually normal, now — man I ever met figures the whole thing runs between two points: What he wants, and what he thinks should be. Every thought in his head is directed to fixing a rule-straight line between them, and he calls that line: What Is. ... On the other hand, every faggot or panty-sucker, or whip jockey, or SM freak, or baby-fucker, or even a motherfucker like me, we know —" and his hands came down like he was pushing something away: "We know, man, that there is what we want, there is what should be, and there is what is: and don't none of them got anything to do with each other unless —" The bartender was shaking his head." — unless we make it," Hogg went on anyway. (p. 121)

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