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Worlds Without End Blog

Stories for Chip: Fellow Writers Salute Samuel R. Delany Posted at 8:29 AM by Charles Dee Mitchell

charlesdee

Stories for ChipStories for Chip is a collection of fiction and essays in honor of Samuel R. Delany. Two ways of approaching this review suggest themselves.

1. Since I have read only two Delany novels and would place neither on my favorite list, I could humbly remove myself from making further comment.
2. I could consider my relative lack of first hand experience of Delany’s work as a plus when it comes to considering the stories anthologized here strictly on their own merits.

Obviously I am going to go with the second option, but I need to say something more about the first.

I read Nova and The Einstein Intersection about four years ago.  Nova I didn’t particularly like for reasons I no longer clearly remember. Einstein entertained and intrigued me, although I remember not quite “getting” the end. Looking at other reader reviews, I saw that I was not alone in that response. Looking recently at a range of reader reviews I see that Delany can be a polarizing author. Encomia are balanced out by disparaging comments from those who find the work opaque or over-written. This is especially true when it comes to Delany’s big books, Dahlgren and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. In one of his letters, Philip K. Dick, an author I think very highly of, reports throwing his copy of Dahlgren across the room before he was a hundred pages into it. In some cases, readers are put off by Delany’s content. These negative, sometimes angry responses, combined with what I’ve read in this new book, have actually renewed my interest in going back to Delany.

I have also read a third Delany novel. When I was in the book business, a small gay publishing house needed to remainder a few hundred copies of Hogg, one of Delany’s forays into pornography. I bought them and sold them for between $10 and $50 as their number decreased. I also read it. I can’t take the time to be shocked, but it is a variety of violent, transgressive pornography that leaves me puzzled about both its purpose and its audience. But a recent edition of the Los Angeles Review of Books ran an article on Hogg, “Uses of Displeasure: Literary Value and Affective Disgust,” by Liz Janssen. Again, the jury is split.

Portrait of Samuel R. Delany by Duncan Long

Portrait of Samuel R. Delany by Duncan Long

Stories for Chip is not a collection of pastiches. The writers have apparently been chosen because they work under Delany’s influence and address his themes. I have to say “apparently” because the book comes with essentially no editorial content, and it is badly needed. This situation was worsened by the advance ebook I received from Net Galley. The Table of Contents listed a Contributors page, but it was nowhere to be found. And the transcription was the worst I have ever encountered. Words were run together, sometimesuptotheextentofanentire sentence. A couple of stories with particularly dense or playful language were unreadable.

There is a lot of very good stuff here, and even the absence of the Contributors section worked to my advantage. I knew only a fraction of these writers, and several of those only by name. Most of the stories occasioned a trip to Google, where I found information and links I would not have in the couple of sentences the book itself might have contained.

The contributors are an international, multiethnic roster whose interest in Delany shows in their attention to race and gender and the pleasure they take in language. The book was funded by an Indiegogo campaign, and the publisher’s website had an open call for submissions. Somehow I doubt that Junot Diaz, Nalo Hopksinson, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick and a few of the others answered an open call. And then there is Thomas Disch, who died in 2008. As I said above, more editorial content is badly needed, but finally that can’t take away from the enjoyment of the 30 stories and four critical essays included.

A few personal favorites, specifically from authors I did not know:

Claude Lalumiere: “Empathy Evolving as a Quantum of Eight-Dimensional Perception.” A misanthropic human time traveler finds himself millions of years in the future. Octopi are the dominant species, and if they don’t eat you they absorb you. This sets off a change of incarnations over the eons, in one of which the cephalopod/human entity may become God.

Anil Menon: “Clarity.” A professor of computer science in India finds himself living inside one of the theoretical models he and his co-workers consider thought experiments.

Geentajali Dighe: “The Last Dying Man.” According to Hinduism, the world destroys and recreates itself in cycles involving millions of years. And yet it has to happen sometime. A man and his daughter in Mumbai find themselves dealing with the day-to-day reality of the transition.

Weslyan University Press keeps in print around 1,500 pages of Delany’s critical and theoretical writing, and he prompts a fair amount of critical writing from others. There are several essays here, but Walida Imarisha’s very personal account of her engagement with both the man and his writing best conveys the significance Delany has had on writers of color. “So long seen as the lone Black voice in commercial science fiction Delany held that space for all the fantastical dreamers of color who came after him.” She goes on to propose that she and other writers become “walking science fiction…living, breathing embodiments of the most daring futures our ancestors were able to imagine.”

She is not asking anyone to sign onto her vision, but reading Stories for Chip you see that vision in action.

Book Giveaway: Babel-17 by Grand Master Samuel R. Delany Posted at 8:36 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Open Road Integrated MediaAfter posting about this weekend’s Damon Knight Grand Master Award ceremony yesterday we talked to the fine folks at Open Road.  We decided what better way to celebrate the occasion than by hosting a giveaway?  Up for grabs are 5 digital copies of Delany’s seminal work Babel-17 and all you have to do for your chance to win is re-tweet the tweet below or leave a comment here in the blog.  Do both and double your chances!

The contest will run until next Friday the 23rd and is open world-wide to US and Canadian residents only.  Next Friday we’ll put all the names into a hat and randomly draw 5 winners.  Easy peasy.


Babel-17In a war-riven world, why will saving humanity require… a poet?

At twenty-six, Rydra Wong is the most popular poet in the five settled galaxies. Almost telepathically perceptive, she has written poems that capture the mood of mankind after two decades of savage war. Since the invasion, Earth has endured famine, plague, and cannibalism—but its greatest catastrophe will be Babel-17.

Sabotage threatens to undermine the war effort, and the military calls in Rydra. Random attacks lay waste to warships, weapons factories, and munitions dumps, and all are tied together by strings of sound, broadcast over the radio before and after each accident. In that gibberish Rydra recognizes a coherent message, with all of the beauty, persuasive power, and order that only language possesses. To save humanity, she will master this strange tongue. But the more she learns, the more she is tempted to join the other side . . .

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Samuel R. Delany including rare images from his early career.


Babel-17, winner of the Nebula Award for best novel of the year, is a fascinating tale of a famous poet bent on deciphering a secret language that is the key to the enemy’s deadly force, a task that requires she travel with a splendidly improbable crew to the site of the next attack. For the first time, Babel-17 is published as the author intended with the short novel Empire Star, the tale of Comet Jo, a simple-minded teen thrust into a complex galaxy when he’s entrusted to carry a vital message to a distant world. Spellbinding and smart, both novels are testimony to Delany’s vast and singular talent.

Samuel R. DelanyAbout the Author:

Samuel R. Delany published his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, at the age of twenty. Throughout his storied career, he has received four Nebula Awards and two Hugo Awards. He was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002. Delany’s works also extend into memoir, criticism, and essays on sexuality and society. He is currently a professor of English and creative writing at Temple University in Philadelphia, as well as the former director of its graduate creative writing program.

Delany has been named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master for 2013 by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Our thanks to Open Road for the great contest! Check out their list of Delany titles and many other authors on their site.   Good luck to everyone and please help us spread the word about the contest.  Don’t forget to check back here next Friday to see if you’ve won!