Noticed on the Delany Yahoo! Group, which I should read more often:
A Sense of Wonder: Samuel R. Delany, Race, Identity, and Difference, by Jeffrey Allen Tucker
In-depth study places a major American writer in the African-American tradition.
Samuel R. Delany is one of today’s most interesting writers. African-American and gay, Delany crosses boundaries—generic (science fiction, memoir, theory, pornography) and academic (literary studies, cultural studies, African-American studies, gay and lesbian studies). Critics both black and white have read Delany as a writer who downplays his racial identity in order to aspire to universal values. In contrast, A Sense of Wonder shows how Delany’s works participate in African-American cultural traditions.
Was thinking about the man earlier because (fasten your seat belts, this gets involved) David Moles posted a quote from him in a thread at Kathryn Cramer's blog which was linked from that discussion at Making Light about Poppy Z. Brite and the LiveJournal kids:
And if a writer thinks his or her work has been misinterpreted, I think by far the best response is Chip Delany’s short, sweet “That’s an interesting reading.”
I'm so going to be using that one.
Damn shame I'll have to use it, but what can you do?
Update: Further down in the list is a pointer to Racial Realities and Amazing Alternatives: Studying the Works of Samuel R. Delany by Jeffrey Allen Tucker, Ph.D., an essay that the book might be built on. Or something.
An uncle, inquiring as to the nature of my graduate research asked me, "So just what are you doing up there at Princeton?" When I explained that I was writing on the first major African-American SF writer, my uncle replied, "Oh no, we (meaning African Americans) don’t do that. We leave that kind of stuff (SF) for white folks." I had no idea as to how to reply and let the matter drop, but his words indicated that for many people--black as well as white--science fiction and African-American culture are mutually exclusive. However, such assumptions seem odd given that the narrative of African-American history resembles something by H.G. Wells or George Lucas. Consider: A group of beings is invaded by an alien race, captured, and taken across vast distances to a "New World," where they are enslaved and later liberated following a near-apocalyptic war. Both past and recent black experiences have had all-too-fantastic features, as Mark Dery writes in a preface to an interview with Delany:African Americans, in a very real sense, are the descendants of alien abductees; they inhabit a sci-fi nightmare in which unseen but no less impassable force fields of intolerance frustrate their movements; official histories undo what has been done; and technology is too often brought to bear on black bodies (branding, forced sterilization, the Tuskegee experiment, and tasers come readily to mind).
What makes the perceived split between black and SF cultures even more puzzling is the presence of SF themes in Black musical culture: The straight-outta-Saturn jazz of Sun Ra, Parliament/Funkadelic’s cosmic slop of rocking funk, and Afrika Bambataa’s interplanetary search for the perfect beat are some of the noteworthy examples of black music’s incorporation of futuristic and fantastic elements. And there is anecdotal evidence that black participation in SF conventions and consumption of SF merchandise has increased in recent years. So how does one account for the imagined gap between Black culture and SF?
Said essay was "[r]eprinted with kind permission from Ohio University College of Arts and Sciences Forum V. 15, Spring 1998." Things have changed a bit since then.