Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rocket Summer*

A little break from Saturday grant writing

It's been an unusual summer in many ways. My Muse hasn't entirely left me, but she's been recharging. The early summer was all about reading the planetary romance short stories of Leigh Brackett: 500 pages or more worth of stories, and well worth the time investment. The late summer has been all about rereading many early works of my favorite SF author, Samuel R. Delany. In the last two months, I read Nova and Babel-17 for the first time in 30+ years, reread the Einstein Intersection (which I first read about 8-10 years ago), and Fall of the Towers trilogy.

Many times in the past I tried to read the Fall of the Towers, but had never made any headway. This time I was able to get far enough into the first book for the entire trilogy to click. I read it in a week. My friend Bruce Baugh shared a wonderful insight into this trilogy, describing it as a Green Lantern Corps comic series in novel form. But less violent. I think the comparison is apt.

It is worth pointing out that this trilogy does have a rape scene which drives future elements of the story. In fact, one member of the Second Foundation reading group - one of the three or four other hardcore Delany fans I have met in Minnesota - stated that she had no interest in reading the book again because of a horrific scene that she still remembers. I think it has to be this one.

Like Octavia Butler, Delany does not shy away from depicting brutality; still I am glad that rape is not a recurrent theme or plot driver in most of his work.

It's also striking how fresh Delany's 1960s work feels upon (re)reading them today; they have aged very well.

Going forward into September, there are a few things I am reading. The Second Foundation will be discussing the works of Joan Slonczewski, so I am going to try to read at least one of her novels (either A Door Into Ocean or The Wall Around Eden). I've met Slonczewski; she's a biologist with the gift of bio-gab.) The Empire Reading Group will take on China Mieville's latest short story collection, Three Moments of an Explosion. This is an exciting and potentially dangerous moment for the latter group; we have been reading together for something like 12 years or so, but everything we have read heretofore has been non-fiction: books like Tony Negri's Empire (after which the group is named), radical and/or feminist science studies, feminist and LGBTQ theory, and history.

However I am also reading a few other things and have a bit more energy at the moment around those projects:

  • Rereading Samuel R. Delany's Tales of Neveryon
  • Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem
  • Greg Stafford and Jeff Richard's revised edition of King of Sartar
*Thanks to my friend Scott Martin for dropping this title in a thread in G+.

Stay tuned next week for an exciting new project here at FATE SF!


  1. As I have been moving towards Fate as an ideal system for an SF game, I decided to pick up some loose ends in my science fiction readings. And what you you know, I dug up some up some Delany! The Fall of The Towers was the one I settled on. The thing I find striking is the unusual choice of scenes. The emphasis is so different that much modern SF. Is there anyone doing now what he was doing then? Part of me thinks that it was the absence of movies or video games that gives it that feel. Which leads me to the obvious second question, how would you invoke Delany flavor in an SF game? It seems that it would be adjacent in style to some of Varley' early stuff with its take on sexuality and gender. So what's your take?

    1. Hi George: Thanks for stopping by, and my apologies for being so late to post your comment! I am not sure who is doing Delany-like SF these days, although some clues might be found in the tribute anthology "Something for Chip".

      I am reading a fantasy (technically SF since FTL and genomics get brief mentions, but fantasy in feel) by Kai Ashante Wilson, who is one of the authors in the anthology. The book of Kai's which I am reading and enjoying a lot is called "The Sorcerer of Wildeeps."

      It's an interesting question how you would invoke Delany in an SF game. I think part of the answer is to keep the focus on the working stiffs: mechanics, engineers, pilots. That is often Delany's focus. Both Traveller and Diaspora bring some of that.