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Shorter Views

Queer Thoughts & the Politics of the Paraliterary

Samuel R. Delany

Publication Year: 1999

In Shorter Views, Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Samuel R. Delany brings his remarkable intellectual powers to bear on a wide range of topics. Whether he is exploring the deeply felt issues of identity, race, and sexuality, untangling the intricacies of literary theory, or the writing process itself, Delany is one of the most lucid and insightful writers of our time. These essays cluster around topics related to queer theory on the one hand, and on the other, questions concerning the paraliterary genres: science fiction, pornography, comics, and more. Readers new to Delany's work will find this collection of shorter pieces an especially good introduction, while those already familiar with his writing will appreciate having these essays between two covers for the first time.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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pp. v-vi

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Preface: On Creativity and Academic Writing

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pp. vii-xii

For twenty-five years I've taught more creative writing classes than any other sort—I've been asked to teach more creative writing classes than any other sort. Creative writing is also the class that has given me the most pause. When I arrive at a new university, some form of the following conversation almost always occurs: ...

Part One: Some Queer Thoughts

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1 The Rhetoric of Sex/The Discourse of Desire

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pp. 3-40

In the two dozen years between 1488 and 1512, Leonardo da Vinci produced a series of fascinating anatomical drawings that strike the modern viewer as highly realistic and rich with the texture and look of the bodies whose dissections he observed or, no doubt, took part in, as he drew from life—or more accurately, from death ...

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2 Street Talk/Straight Talk

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pp. 41-57

Discourse—an order of response, a mode of understanding, for which various rhetorical features may function as symptoms. Yet rhetoric is never wholly coextensive with discourse. Discourse and rhetoric control one another, yes—but precisely because of that control, neither is wholly at one with the other. ...

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3 On the Unspeakable

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pp. 58-66

It is an area, a topic, a trope impossible to speak of outside (it is at once evil and extralinguistic) that range, equally difficult to describe, to define: "The Everyday." (It is at once banal and representationally difficult.) Both are terribly localized. Both are wholly and socially bounded. The division between everyday and unspeakable, ...

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4 Coming/Out

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pp. 67-97

In the twenty-seven years since the 1969 Stonewall riots, "coming out" has acquired extraordinary significance in the gay community—so much significance that many of us might even say coming out "defines" the difference between being gay and an older, pre-gay notion of being homosexual. ...

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5 A Bend in the Road

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pp. 98-110

Why do I feel, in line with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's definition (provisional description?) of postcolonialism ("Postcolonialism represents the failure of recolonization"), that if what I have to say this morning bears any relation at all to questions of postcolonialism or postcoloniality, as we have undertaken them in their multiplicity during yesterday's two panels, ...

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6 The "Gay" Writer/"Gay Writing" . . . ?

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pp. 111-114

It's too easy to reduce the problem of "the gay writer" to the split between those gay writers (like myself) who, on the one hand, feel that all art is political one way or the other and that all they write is from a gay position—and, in my case, from a black and a male position as well—and those writers who, on the other hand, feel that all they write is fundamentally apolitical, ...

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7 The Black Leather in Color Interview

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pp. 115-122

When you started writing science fiction, it was still basically a white, male heterosexual preserve. As a gay, black man, how did you feel about being the odd man out? Do you think it may have changed the way your career progressed in anyway? Why does it still seem to be a community of white guys?...

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8 The Thomas L. Long Interview

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pp. 123-138

In general, what I hope at least part of my work performs—or helps to perform—is a necessary deformation of an older, pre-AIDS discourse, which privileged sexual reticence, into a discourse that foregrounds detailed sexual honesty, imagination, and articulation. ...

Part Two: The Politics of the Paraliterary

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9 Neither the First Word nor the Last on Deconstruction, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and Semiotics for SF Readers

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pp. 141-185

. . . to dissolve the introductory problem, to search out a common vocabulary among the debates' discussants, to pinpoint common ideas or presuppositions they share, to locate common centers for argument, or to describe the general rubric of language-as-model-for-all-meaning processes that many of the dialogues have taken place ...

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10 The Para*doxa Interview: Inside and Outside the Canon

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pp. 186-217

The use of the word "canon" that has excited so many of us to so much polemic recently is a metaphorical extension of the notion of canon as the list of books approved as part of the Bible or the list of saints approved of and canonized by the Church. As, in his ovular essay, "What is an Author?" (1969), ...

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11 The Politics of Paraliterary Criticism

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pp. 218-270

Bright, good-looking, well-read, and socially skilled, Jerry (that was not his name; but that's what we'll call him) was a senior at Columbia University when, in the early seventies, he entered my circle of friends and colleagues, where he was soon a well-liked young man. ...

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12 Zelazny/Varley/Gibson—and Quality

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pp. 271-291

This essay grows largely from my efforts over the last four years to develop, teach, and refine a course called "Introduction to Science Fiction" at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The notion behind the course is simply that, today, in 1992, science fiction is such a broad field that the idea of "introducing" it ...

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13 Pornography and Censorship

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pp. 292-297

In the interview, Auden went on to decry the pornographic. He felt that physical arousal distracted the reader from any rich and complex aesthetic response; thus, Auden felt, the pornographic was to be avoided by the serious writer. It's a reasonable argument and, in this age where license and repression are forever trading names and places, ...

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14 The Making of Hogg

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pp. 298-310

In the paraliterary field—e.g., science fiction, comic books, pornography— the relationship between creation and publication is so very different from the relation that obtains in the literary precincts, it might help, in understanding the book's publication problems, ...

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15 The Phil Leggiere Interview: Reading The Mad Man

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pp. 311-314

In your critical analysis of the subversive qualities of science fiction as a genre, you've emphasized the distinct challenges the language of science fiction (with its built-in conceptual conflict between habitual linguistic frames of reference of the reader's "present" world and those to be inferred in the narrative) offers. ...

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16 The Second Science-Fiction Studies Interview: Of Trouble on Triton and Other Matters

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pp. 315-350

In Futurological Congress, Lem seems to be suggesting that SF is generated from neologisms. How do you react to that proposition? Did Triton, for example, in any way arise from the term-concept, "un-licensed sector," say? ...

Part Three: Some Writing /Some Writers

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17 Antonia Byatt's Possession: A Romance

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pp. 353-358

Here is a novel of jade, jet, and apricot, in which a number of bathrooms are wondrously described. A fantasy? Not exactly. But two of its major characters, a mid-Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash (who, in the world of the novel, had some fame in his day, though his reputation in ours has fallen into the purely academic), ...

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18 Neil Gaiman, I, II, and III

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pp. 359-372

Neil Caiman's hair is long and dark, his face stark against it, with the stubborn pallor of many Englishmen who stay up late. Sunglasses hide his hazel eyes; and under his leather jacket, he's wearing a black T-shirt. Like an ex-punker turned family man, his bearing is poised between comfort and calculation. ...

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19 A Tribute to Judith Merril

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pp. 373-376

The first works by Judy I read—and they wholly conquered me—were Gunner Cade (1952) and Outpost Mars (1952), which Judy wrote in collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth under their collaborative pseudonym, Cyril Judd. Brutal and authority-fixated Cade's transformation, as he learns compassion, ...

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20 Michael Perkins's Evil Companions

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pp. 377-383

Evil Companions is a meticulous miracle of language and observation— an energetic and idiosyncratic vision of the interface between sex, pain, and the quotidian day-to-day of what, at the time it was written, would have been called "bohemian life": the lives of young writers, poets, actors, and people who liked their company, ...

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21 Now It's Time for Dale Peck

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pp. 384-387

In a hundred-sixty-one chapters distributed among seventeen characters, fourteen of whom speak in first person, Now It's Time to Say Good-bye (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1998), Dale Peck's third novel, describes a racially split Kansas town, by the end of which description, with lynchings and retributive murders, ...

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22 Othello in Brooklyn

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pp. 388-395

Certainly the ultimate compliment to this small but energetic and inventive production of Othello, which played through February at the Triangle Theater at Brooklyn's Long Island University, was paid it by my voluble thirteen-year-old. ...

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23 A Prefatory Notice to Vincent Czyz's Adrift in a Vanishing City

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pp. 396-398

Like every one of the last three dozen MFA theses I've read, Adrift in a Vanishing City (Rutherford: Voyant Publishing, 1998) is neither a novel nor, really, a collection of stand-alone stories. Familiar characters— Zirque (rhymes with Jerk), Blue Jean, the Duke of Pallucca—disappear or are abandoned, reappear or are revisited tale to tale. ...

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24 Under the Volcano with Susan Sontag

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pp. 399-407

"I looked out the window. Two of the engines were on fire on one wing. Then the pilot announced, 'We're going to make a crash landing.' He was going to dump the fuel. . . . You felt this animal terror. People were screaming; some people were in the aisles praying; two tried to assault the captain's cabin—get into where the pilot, ...

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25 Some Remarks on Narrative and Technology or: Poetry and Truth

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pp. 408-430

It is customary to say, in a presentation such as this, that the following remarks are not systematic. They are not. But I would like to specify here—and narrativize — the nature of their asystematicity: I suspect many readers will see all sorts of relationships among them, some interesting, some troubling. ...

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Appendix: Some Notes for the Intermediate and Advanced Creative Writing Student

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pp. 431-457

You write simply, we might add, so that your hypostasized intelligent other can more quickly catch you out when you write down idiocies— and, if that intelligence is imbued with enough generosity, so that it can bracket those idiocies and go quickly to what's interesting among the suggestions in your work. ...


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pp. 461-464

E-ISBN-13: 9780819571977
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819563682

Page Count: 476
Publication Year: 1999

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Subject Headings

  • Science fiction, American -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Politics and literature.
  • Delany, Samuel R. -- Authorship.
  • Homosexuality and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Gay men's writings, American -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
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