His science fiction novels include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection (winners of the Nebula Award for 1966 and 1967 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. Between 1988 and 1999 he was a professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Between 1999 and 2000 he was a professor of English at SUNY Buffalo. 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.
Samuel Delany 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.
Samuel R. Delany, 1987, by Robert Giard
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitalDelany 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 recently graduated from medical school.
Delany has identified as a gay man since adolescence, though some authors have classified him as bisexual.
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  and later in Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories ). In 1966, with Hacker remaining in New York, Delany took an extended trip to Europe, 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 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, 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.
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.
His papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
Delany's name is one of the most misspelled in science fiction, with over 60 different spellings in reviews. 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.
Samuel Delany’s science fiction books—there are many of them—have always been sort of impenetrable to me, though my friends who read a lot of speculative fiction swear by him. The Delany that I’ve most loved is The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1960-1965, a memoir of the author’s early 20s, when he was an emerging writer in the Village (sorry, back in NYC again), cruising for sex with men while carrying on a close relationship with the (not yet lesbian) poet Marilyn Hacker. The prose is very direct, almost conversational, and so loaded up with everyday details that you feel like you’re living life alongside of him, making your way through the world, unsure what the future holds. Bonus reading: Hacker, quite the love-poet herself, wrote a breathtaking, structurally rigorous poetic sequence called Taking Notice. --K.M. Soehnlein
Delaney was the first Science Fiction writer to so naturally include Gay and Bisexual characters in his many excellent stories, novels, and novellas so that you knew with certainty that we’d all be around in whatever future there was. In his late novel, Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand, he breathes new life into a piece of genre with iconic characters and a story revolving around an intense homoerotic sexual compulsion. Don’t worry if can’t follow every word or phrase. Just go with the prose and you are promised a terrific journey. --Felice PicanoFurther Readings:
Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders by Samuel R. Delany
Paperback: 625 pages
Publisher: Magnus Books (April 10, 2012)
Amazon: Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
Like his legendary Hogg, The Mad Man, and the million-seller Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany’s major new novel Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders—explicit, poetic, philosophical, and, yes, shocking—propels readers into a gay sexual culture unknown to most urban gay men and women, a network of rural gay relations—with the twist that this one is supported by the homophile Kyle Foundation, started in the early 1980s by a black multi-millionaire, Robert Kyle III, to improve the lives of black gay men.
In 2007, days before his seventeenth birthday, Eric Jeffers’ stepfather brings him to live with his mother, who works as a waitress in the foundering tourist town of Diamond Harbor on the Georgia coast. In the local truck stop restroom, on his first day, Eric meets nineteen-year-old Morgan Haskell, as well as half a dozen other gay men who live and work in the area. The boys become a couple, and for the next twenty years labor as garbage men along the coast, sharing their lives and their lovers, learning to negotiate a committed open relationship. For a decade they manage a rural movie theater that shows pornographic films and encourages gay activity among the audience. Finally, they become handymen for a burgeoning lesbian art colony on nearby Gillead Island, as America moves twenty years, forty years, sixty years into a future fascinating, glorious, and—sometimes—terrifying.
Dark Reflections by Samuel R. Delany
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Running Press (April 13, 2007)
Amazon: Dark Reflections
Arnold Hawley, a gay, African–American poet, has lived in NYC for most of his life. Dark Reflections traces Hawley's life in three sections — in reverse order. Part one: Hawley, at 50 years old, wins the an award for his sixth book of poems. Part two explores Hawley's unhappy marriage, while the final section recalls his college days. Dark Reflections, moving back and forth in time, creates an extraordinary meditation on social attitudes, loneliness, and life's triumphs.
The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1960-1965 by Samuel R. Delany
Paperback: 519 pages
Publisher: Masquerade Books (June 1993)
Amazon: The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1960-1965
A very moving, intensely fascinating literary biography from an extrao rdinary writer. Thoroughly admirable candor and luminous stylistic precis ion; the artist as a young man and a memorable picture of an age. -- William Gibson
Lucidly and vividly told. -- Library Journal
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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