Posts tagged ‘Samuel R. Delany’


Detail: Cover by Ean Taylor for 'The Way the Future Was' (1983 Granada edition)


Fred’s death was reported and mourned all over the world. Here are excerpts from just a small selection of the remembrances from fans, friends and the media.

  • “Grand master passes through the final Gateway.” —Simon Sharwood, The Register.

  • “On Monday, September 2nd, 2013, one of the last remaining great figures in the science fiction genre passed away. Frederik Pohl was 93 years old, with a long and distinguished career writing, selling and editing science-fiction stories.” —Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews.

  • “Like some magnificent sequoia, he was both a vibrant, majestic, respirating presence and a token of a distant, almost unimaginable past. He was given a Grandmaster Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America twenty years ago, but that tribute hardly begins to do justice to his immense accomplishments.” —Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble Review.

  • “Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (Nov. 26, 1919 – Sept. 2, 2013) was almost a living artifact of a bygone era in science fiction, as well as one of the genre’s most fertile and perennially refreshed talents. Born in the immediate aftermath of World War I, he died in the epoch of Google Glass and the Large Hadron Collider, without ever losing his imaginative spontaneity or intellectual curiosity, or his ability to upset and disturb the genre consensus.” —Paul St John Mackintosh, TeleRead.

  • “弗雷德里克·波尔是为数不多的可以担当起“科幻小说大师”头衔的科幻作家.” —The Beijing News.

  • “Frederik Pohl was a science-fiction author of extraordinary longevity and accomplishment. In hundreds of stories between 1940 and 2010, and dozens of longer works from 1953, he became the sharpest and most precise satirist in the science-fiction world. Kurt Vonnegut may have created greater myths of the awfulness of America, and Philip K Dick may have had a profounder understanding of the human costs of living in a unreal world; but Pohl — from experience garnered in the field of advertising — knew exactly how to describe the consumerist world that began to come into being after the Second World War.” —John Clute, The Independent (UK).

  • “In all, he published more than 60 novels. His most lauded effort was Jem: The Making of a Utopia (1979), which remains the only science fiction title to have won the National Book Award.” —The Independent (Eire).

  • “La ciencia ficción tiene nombres que cualquier que se diga fanático tiene que saber. Uno de ellos es Frederik Pohl, y si su nombre no te suena, en este artículo te contamos por qué este hombre que acaba de pasar a la inmortalidad a los 93 años contribuyó a que cientos de miles se hagan fanáticos de este género.” —Nico Varonas, Neoteo.

  • “Described as prickly and stubborn (he was married five times and divorced four), Pohl resisted the Internet for years, according to family and friends, but in 2009 launched a blog called ‘The Way the Future Blogs.’ Like much of his writing throughout his life, it was funny, skeptical and perceptive and it won a Hugo Award.” —Ben Steelman, Star News Online.

  • “科幻黄金时代硕果仅存的科幻大师之一的Frederik Pohl于9月2日因呼吸困难(respiratory distress)去世,享年93岁。Frederik Pohl以科幻期刊编辑和作家的双重身份闻名,他在60年代作为科幻期刊的编辑连续多年获得雨果奖,之后又以作家身份获得了多次雨果奖和星云奖。” —Chinese Writers Network.

  • “A stickler for detail, Pohl was determined to get as much science correct as possible in his books. His research took him all over the world and he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, when he published the final novel in the Heechee saga, he apologised to his readers for having suggested, in Gateway, that aliens might have taken refuge in a black hole. With the physics of black holes having been more fully understood in the intervening years, Pohl acknowledged that nothing and no one could exist within a black hole.” —The Telegraph.

  • “Avec un coup d’avance et l’humour noir qui caractérise son style, son œuvre dé voile , pour l’humanité, un avenir inquiétant en partie advenu: omniprésence de l’informatique, montée du terrorisme, raréfaction des ressources, pollution, surpopulation, crise du logement, fanatisme religieux. . . . Après Jack Vance et Richard Matheson , c’est la troisième figure majeure de la SF américaine qui s’éteint cette année.” —Macha Séry, Le Monde.

  • “Despite being 93, he worked to ‘Safeguard Humanity’ to the end.” —Eric Klien, Lifeboat Foundation.

  • Continue reading ‘Obituaries and Tributes to Frederik Pohl’ »

Blonde Dr. Betty

Blonde Dr. Betty

Visiting the SFWA suite at MidAmeriCon seemed worth a try, so we tried it. Unfortunately giving it a try meant quite a lot of walking, which meant a lot of competition for body space as the eager mobs of fans, famished for PARTYPARTYPARTY! wandered the halls, now a crawling mass of fan flesh. It was prime room-party time.

And, I discovered, I was getting tired. The corridor we were walking in had a little bay that looked down into the lobby, far below. It had chairs that were just being vacated by a few fans, their sore feet healed, charging on to the next room party. I took action. I didn’t say anything about wanting to rest my own feet for a moment. I just grabbed a vacant chair and, looking grateful, so did Professor Hull. Leaning over to rub her toes, she looked up at me curiously. “Tell me more about what you do at Bantam. Delany’s book. Is it a big success?

I laughed. “Big enough. I’m Bantam’s wonder child this week. I paid peanuts for it, and it’s selling its head off. Just under six hundred thousand copies last I heard, and it might go over a million.”

“Delany,” she mused. “Yes, I know some of his work. If the administration lets me keep my sci-fi — ”

I gave my throat a meaningful clearing.

She didn’t fail to understand my meaning. “Oh, right,” she said apologetically, “I didn’t mean to say sci-fi, I mean science fiction. If the administration lets me keep my science fiction class, maybe I should teach it next semester. I’ll get a copy and read it real fast.”

I laughed. “That I don’t think you can do. It’s a long one, way more than twice as big as his Ace novels. And it’s not much like his other books. But I think I put a couple of copies in my bag. If I find them, I’ll put one in my pocket tomorrow and if I see you it’s yours.”

“Thanks,” she said, sounding as though she meant it. But she was rubbing her feet again. Then, looking at her watch. “Oh,” she said. “Look at the time. Listen, Frederik, how would you like to try a different kind of room party? Mary Badami — she’s my roommate — and I agreed to have our own party tomorrow. Not a lot of liquor but tea or coffee and soft drinks, and Mary’s making some food. I have to help her pretty son now, but then when the party starts tomorrow you’ll know a lot of the people — some will be the ones we ate dinner with, and I heard you mention Marty Greenberg and Joe Olander….”

I said, “Can we sit down there now? I’m in!”

Continue reading ‘Arrival, Part 4: The Party Plan’ »

The characteristics of Samuel R. “Chip” Delany’s novel Dhalgren. were that it was long, it was densely written, it was a hard read and it was highly, not to say obsessively, erotic. It appeared to be set in the fairly near future, and it certainly took place in an America that did not seem to be the same country that the rest of us lived in. Was it science fiction? For sure it was not any kind of science fiction that anyone else was writing.

But it didn’t fit in any other category, either, and if, as Bantam Books’ science-fiction editor, I chose to publish it, who was authorized to question my decision?

The answer to that question is, “Nobody.” But that is not to say that that question didn’t cross a few minds.

It was a Bantam custom to Xerox multiple copies of every new accepted manuscript as it was signed, and as those copies began to circulate, I began to have one particular conversation, over and over, every time I chose to come in to the office. One of my colleagues would stop me in a hallway, placatory smile on his or her face, and say something like, “You know, Fred, I certainly would never dream of questioning your editorial decisions, you know that. But I was just wondering — well, why, exactly, did you buy that book?”

I finally figured out an answer that satisfied them. I said, “Because it’s the first book that told me anything I didn’t know about sex since Story of O.”

It was not, by the way, any of the boss editors who asked me that question. If any of them had reservations about my sanity, they kept them to themselves. I suppose that if the book had turned out to be a disastrous flop I would have had to face some unenjoyable conversations.

But it didn’t.

Continue reading ‘Chip Delany, Part 2: The Miracle of Dhalgren’ »

Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany is a highly intelligent man who comes of a highly intelligent and educated family. His grandfather, Henry Beard Delany, was an educator and the first elected African-American bishop in the Episcopal church, while his two aunts, Sadie and Bessie Delany, achieved national fame in the ’90s, when both were already over a hundred years old, as the co-authors (with Amy Hill Hearth) of the memoir Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, which stayed six months on the New York Times bestseller list and landed them both in The Guinness Book of World Records as the country’s oldest authors.

Delany is also a long-out-of-the-closet bisexual, as well as being an articulate and pleasant companion in informal gatherings; a college professor whose major worry is that he keeps getting promoted, thus giving him less and less time with those he cares most about, his students; a highly esteemed writer of science fiction; and, finally, a person who is never addressed by his friends as Sam, Samuel or any other variant of the name his parents gave him.

The reason for this is that he wanted it that way. As a child, young Delany was deeply envious of friends and schoolmates who had nicknames, which he did not. His chance to remedy this came on his first day at summer camp, at around age twelve, when another camper asked him what he was called. He saw his opportunity and took it. “They mostly call me ‘Chip,'” he said, and to his friends he has been Chip Delany ever since.

In 1971 1961, he married the poet Marilyn Hacker. It was not because of any over-arching romance between the two of them, and there was nothing about “forsaking all others” in the marriage vows. It was an open, not to say wide-open, marriage, with both Chip and Marilyn having frequent extra-marital affairs with partners of both genders. What both Chip and Marilyn wanted was the comfort of living in a family, and in 1974, they completed it by having a baby daughter, Iva Hacker-Delany, who grew up to be a director in New York’s theatrical community before going on to become an emergency physician.

At the time. they were living in London, where Marilyn was working as an antiquarian book-dealer. In that same period Betty Anne and I happened to also be living in London, where Betty Anne was teaching a one-semester course to college students, and I made up my mind to drop in on the Delanys one day to say hello.

That day was a while in coming. Although I love London, I am not really very good at getting around in its maze of short and unplanned streets, so unlike sensible New York’s numbered ones, and I kept putting it off. Then one day, after running some other errand, I realized that I was close to the Delany flat and on impulse headed for their door. My timing was poor. Both Chip and Marilyn were off on other errands, but I did get a chance to meet the baby and her sitter.

Having a child in a foreign country gave Chip and Marilyn a completely unexpected problem. The law, as they knew, is straightforward. A child born of two American citizens is entitled to American citizenship — and an American passport — regardless of where he or she happens to get born, so the Delanys filed Iva’s application and returned to their flat to await delivery of her passport. It, however, didn’t come. Instead they got a note to say that the application had been turned down.

When, in consternation, Chip and Marilyn begged the American consul for an explanation it wasn’t helpful. It was the baby’s name that made all the trouble, the clerk said. If they had named her Iva Delany, or Iva Hacker, or even Iva Hacker Delany there would have been no problem. But what they had recklessly done was throw in a game-altering hyphen between the surnames of her two parents, and “Hacker-Delany,” as anyone could plainly see, was a new name, not borne by either parent, and thus incapable of conferring citizenship on the child.

For a time their chances of ever getting home again looked bleak. But then they were lucky enough to find a higher-up State Department official who was not a certifiable moron. He swept all those finely split hairs aside and ordered the issuance of a passport to Iva Hacker-Delany and the family got thankfully back to New York. (Chip and Marilyn divorced a few years later, but remained the best of friends anyhow.)

Apart from an occasional bumping into each other at some science-fiction event I didn’t see much of Chip for a while. While I was still editing If and Galaxy I did my best to get some short stories from him for the magazines, with only limited success. Chip’s most comfortable length was the Ace Books novel of maybe 60,000 words or, for an Ace Double, somewhat less. Indeed, my old Futurian pal, Donald Wollheim, Ace’s editor, had been Samuel R. Delany’s principal publisher, with novels like The Jewels of Aptor.

By then, I had landed a dream job as science-fiction editor for the independent paperback giant, Bantam Books — didn’t have to come in to the office except when I felt like it, had total freedom to publish any property I chose without needing to get anyone’s permission or approval, or even without needing anyone’s okay to offer as high or as low an advance and royalties as I chose. It was the very model of the position that any ink-stained editorial wretch would have given his eyeteeth to be offered.

It did occur to me that it might be nice to add an occasional Delany novel to my list, especially when I noticed that Donald had almost stopped bringing out new Delany titles of his own. But I already had enough irons in the fire to keep me busy, so I didn’t do much more than wish that some such might drop in my lap.

Then, without warning Chip’s agent sent me the manuscript of an unpublished, and uncharacteristically long, Delany novel. It was called Dhalgren.

(The conclusion of the Delany story, covering the Dhalgren miracle, pretty soon.)

Related posts:
Chip Delany,
Part 2