Tag Archives: Samuel R. Delany

Let ’em talk

Samuel R. Delany on writing science fiction: “I had nothing else to do, and it was fun.”

Wells Tower on nature and revision: “A male moose will jump into the lake with the idea that a female moose is on the other side, and then he’ll get to the other side . . .” 

George Scialabba on conservatism: “It may be a delusion, as Conquest repeats endlessly, to imagine that state power can ever create a just society. But one reason some people are perennially tempted to try is that private power is generally so comfortable with unjust ones.”   (From Scialabba’s new book.)

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The black pages

Via GalleyCat I found this interesting call to literary missionary activity: buying books by black authors for white people.

So: Attention, lit-mart shoppers! I would suggest John Edgar Wideman for those ambitious readers who don’t mind tackling somebody whose reputation for demanding modernist writing is well-earned. Wideman goes in for stream-of-consciousness narrations and abrupt shifts in viewpoint that require some athleticism from his readers — think The Sound and the Fury, or the trickier passages in Ulysses — but his work is well worth the effort. His affecting memoir Brothers and Keepers might be a good introduction, followed by Philadelphia Fire, a novel loosely derived from the 1985 confrontation between the Philadelphia police and an eccentric back-to-nature cult called MOVE.

While I’m at it, let me give a shout out to Wesley Brown, who isn’t as prolific as I’d like him to be. I read his first novel, Tragic Magic, after taking his creative writing class at Rutgers University, and he was one of the first people I interviewed for a series of author profiles written for a Central Jersey print. The story follows a young Vietnam-era radical and conscientious objector who has just done a stretch in prison and is back on the street, trying to make sense of his life, women, masculinity and the dangerous cross-currents of life as a black man in the early 1970s. The prose plays in your head like a private performance of the greatest jazz group ever assembled: a Thelonious Monk melody line here, a Charlie Parker solo there, voices orchestrated by Duke Ellington and a stormy Charles Mingus bass line driving the whole thing forward. The more ambitious followup, Darktown Strutters, makes play with the rise of Jim Crow as it blends fictional and historical characters. Brown is sometimes compared with Ishmael Reed, and the comparison flatters both writers.

I would also recommend Mat Johnson’s graphic novel Incognegro, a gripping blend of historical fiction and noir that was one of the best things I’ve read this year. Next I’ll want to read Johnson’s The Great Negro Plot: An Urban Historical.

During a recent spate of recreational ricochet reading — funny how books that have been on your shelves for decades suddenly seem to demand you take them down for another look — I also renewed acquaintances with two Seventies-vintage science fiction authors: Samuel R. Delany, whose story collection Aye, And Gomorrah presents this often demanding writer in his most accessible guises, and Octavia Butler, whose celebrated novel Kindred uses SF devices to ring several intriguing, sometimes appalling changes on the nature of racism and the psychological (and physical) wounds it inflicts on everyone it touches.

And no list such as this would be complete without a pitch for friend, colleague and blogbud Charles H. Johnson, whose two poetry collections are more than worth your while. Unlike some of the writers mentioned here, Johnson has some excellent work posted on the Intertubes, so I’ll just  let his words do the talking.

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Friday finds

Caustic Cover Critic offers a beautiful roundup of Geoff Grandfield’s noir cover designs and illustrations for various editions of Graham Greene’s “entertainments” and other books. Personally, I think the black and white interior illustrations (such as the one above, which I assume is from The Power and the Glory) are the best of the bunch. Grandfield’s work on these Raymond Chandler special editions is also nothing to sneeze at.     

Show of hands, please. How many people remember Welsh artist Kit Williams and his Masquerade challenge? For some reason, the Great Minneapolis Octopus Hunt reminded me of the search for the golden hare. 

The perfect vacation destination for the typographer in your family.

Michael Swanwick’s post about the power of words has gotten me re-reading Samuel R. Delany’s short stories. Which goes to prove his point.

Liz and Dick, Kurt and Courtney, Brad and Angelina . . . Sylvia and Ted?

Apparently the Federation of Light did not make its scheduled appearance in the skies. Wow . . . didn’t see that one not coming. (Maybe this was the Federation that Blossom Goodchild had in mind.) Anyway, we all know that flying saucers came here a few decades ago.

The news that Paul Krugman had won the Nobel Prize in economics had heads exploding the length and breadth of right-wing punditry and blogitry. Here’s your chance to pick the winner from “the five most impressive spontaneous human combustions” tracked in the wingersphere.  

An international team is preparing to study the Gamburtsevs, a puzzling mountain range buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice. “You can almost think about it as exploring another planet – but on Earth,” said Dr Fausto Ferraccioli from the British Antarctic Survey. “This region is a complete enigma. It’s in the middle of the continent. Most mountain ranges are on the edges of continents, and we really can’t understand what these mountains are doing in the centre.” I can think of at least one explanation.

Now that music writer Alex Ross has won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, you’ll want to listen to excerpts from some of the music he describes in his book The Rest Is Noise

What is generative music? And why am I not surprised that Brian Eno is involved with it? The Guardian article is worth reading simply for the news that when Music for Airports, Eno’s first collection of ambient music, was finally played in an airport, “people complained of nameless, gnawing anxieties – not what one needs moments before boarding an aeroplane.”

From the Roman Empire to the steps of a bankrupt Icelandic bank — follow the verbs.

What would you rather do: Attend a Baltimore City Language Arts professional development session, or get poked in the eye with a flaming stick? You want some time to think it over? I understand.

There have been two recent films based on the poem Beowulf. The good professor reviews the one you ought to see.

In memoriam, Neal Hefti: composer of television themes that, once heard, cannot be forgotten.

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