Monday, January 9, 2017

Vintage Science Fiction Month

We are once again back in Vintage Science Fiction Month, and I have started several and finished one vintage SF work already. Vintage is defined as published in 1979 or before.

  • The Bloody Sun and The Shattered Chain by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
  • The Faded Sun: Kesrith by C.J. Cherryh
  • Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delany
Brief Review: What if Conan the Barbarian were a gay leatherman? I last read Samuel R. Delany's Tales of Neveryon (1979) within a year of two of its publication. I have reread parts of the first story, "The Tale of Gorgik" several times (at least in part) but this was my first time in about 35 years rereading the entire book.

The book is a set of linked stories, and it is implied that the stories happen somewhere in ancient Central/South Asia of our own Earth's prehistory. While the story features dragons, in most other respects, it is a swords and sandals novel without other explicit fantastic elements.

Gorgik, the protagonist of the first story, starts the narrative as a slave, and ends as the leader of a slave revolt. Other stories focus on female protagonists, and some of the protagonists and characters cross paths with each other in successive stories.

Tales of Neveryon can be considered anthropological SF, as the stories explore:
  • The mysteries of commodity chains, as embodied in children's songs about the bouncing balls that appear and disappear over the course of each year in the port city of Neveryona.
  • The gendering of creation myths, the creation of gender, and the mystery of why men's genitalia are more vulnerable than those of women.
  • The uncomfortable connections between slavery and sexuality. Or, the gayest daddy leatherman Conan you've ever seen!
Tales of Neveryon was very much worth rereading. As it was the first in a series of novels (including the first AIDS novel), I intend to read the rest of Delany's Neveryon series over the course of the year.

Gameable? This is Fate SF, so we're going to ask that question!  Tales of Neveryon has its Gorgik the Liberator, and Everway has its Tales of the Gorgeous Liberator!  Anyone seeking to create game worlds that take culture  and political economy seriously can take a lot of inspiration from this book, and the subsequent ones in the series.

I also found a passage in the book that is very suggestive of Tekumel. The connection might even be real, considering that both Delany and Barker taught at the University of Minnesota:

Outlook: January is a busy month, with the North Country Gaylaxians' discussion both Tales of Neveryon and Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang in the first half of the month, and the Second Foundation Reading Group discussing Nisi Shawl's Everfair towards the end of the month. But chances are good that I will finish at least The Faded Sun: Kesrith before February arrives.

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