Samuel R. Delany is among a group of authors who revivified the utopian imagination in science fiction during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This article discusses Delany’s novella “We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line” (1968). It revisits scholarship on Delany and on utopia to offer theoretical and historical perspectives concerning how this text, which has been lauded by reviewers but overlooked by scholars, represents an early contribution to the then-nascent genre of the “critical utopia,” one that bears many of the genre’s hallmarks and prefigures later works. “We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ” narrates a mid-twenty-first-century clash between two fully articulated utopian visions. This article details how the tension between these diametrically opposed “worlds” foments critical scrutiny of both in order to gesture toward a utopian horizon beyond them. It also demonstrates how Delany’s novella performs a critical utopian intervention in the cultural politics of its present. Through the “play of worlds” in the narrative’s “possible future” Delany advances evenhanded critiques of both sides of the 1960s “culture war” while retaining the decade’s utopian zeitgeist, a desire for an impossible “something else” beyond the culture/counterculture dichotomy.


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pp. 184-215
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