Samuel Ray Delany, Jr.
(born April 1
, New York City
) is an award-winning American science fiction author
. He has written works that have garnered substantial critical acclaim, including the novels Babel-17
, The Einstein Intersection
(winners of the Nebula Award for 1966 and 1967 respectively), Nova
, and the Return to Nevèrÿon
series. Since January 2001 he has been a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University
in Philadelphia. He is widely known in the academic
world as a literary critic
Samuel Delany, also known as "Chip," was born to a prominent black
family on April 1
, 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
; Delany 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 largely autobiographical stories Atlantis: Three Tales
. It has been erroneously rumored that Delany was the illegitimate son of Philip K. Dick
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 in high school, and were married in 1961. Their marriage lasted nineteen 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. Delany has identified as a gay man since adolescence.
Delany was a published science fiction author by the age of 20. He published nine well-regarded science fiction novels between 1962 and 1968, as well as several prize-winning short stories (collected in Driftglass  and more recently in Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories ). His eleventh and most popular novel, Dhalgren, was published in 1975. 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.
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. Also in 2007, he was the April "calendar boy" in the "Legends of the Village" calendar put out by Village Care of New York.
His papers are currently 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.
Recurring themes in Delany's work include mythology
, 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. 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
(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", and Driftglass 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 equalled 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 term Delany himself endorses. 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.
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.
- The Jewels of Aptor (1962)
- The Fall of the Towers, originally published as three separate novels:
- The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965)
- Empire Star (novella) (1966)
- Babel-17 (1966, Nebula Award)
- The Einstein Intersection (1967, Nebula Award)
- Nova (1968), ISBN 0-553-10031-9
- 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
- Triton (1976), ISBN 0-553-12680-6, also published as Trouble on Triton
- Empire with Howard Chaykin (1978) a "visual novel" published by Byron Preiss.
- Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984), ISBN 0-553-05053-2
- 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
- Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, (Forthcoming, Fall 2008)
Return to Nevèrÿon series
Short story collections
(The current definitive short story collections for Samuel Delany are Atlantis: Three Tales and Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories, which, combined, contain all of the short stories from the other collections listed, as well as some additional material.)
- The Jewel-hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (Dragon Press, 1977)
- The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction (Dragon Press, 1978)
- Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (Dragon Press, 1984)
- Wagner/Artaud: A Play of 19th and 20th Century Critical Fictions (Ansatz Press, 1988)
- The Straits of Messina (1989), ISBN 0-934933-04-9
- Silent Interviews (1995), ISBN 0-8195-6280-7
- Longer Views (1996, with an introduction by Kenneth R. James), ISBN 0-8195-6293-9
- Shorter Views (1999), ISBN 0-8195-6369-2
- About Writing (2005), ISBN 0-8195-6716-7
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
- The Adventures of Alyx, by Joanna Russ
- Black Gay Man by Robert Reid-Pharr
- Burning Sky, Selected Stories, by Rachel Polack
- The Cosmic Rape, by Theodore Sturgeon
- Microcosmic God, by Theodore Sturgeon
- Glory Road, by Robert Heinlein
- Masters of the Pit, by Michael Moorcock
- Nebula Winners 13, edited by Samuel R. Delany
- The Sandman: A Game of You, by Neil Gaiman
- Shade: An Anthology of Fiction by Gay Men of African Descent, edited by Charles Rowell and Bruce Morrow
- Three Short Novels, by Geoff Ryman
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. Delany scripted issues #202 and #203 of the series.
- 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.