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REVIEW: Samuel R. Delany’s Memoir ‘The Motion Of Light In Water’

The Motion Of Light In Water

I wish I could say that I discovered Samuel R. Delany as a book-hungry teen, like I did with so many of the other sci-fi legends. I wish I could say that I’ve been reading his books for years, or that I’ve always given him due credit as one of the fathers of modern speculative fiction, or that I’ve been lobbying for an HBO adaptation of Dhalgren. But the truth is, I’d barely heard of Samuel R. Delany before I picked up a battered, third-hand copy of his memoir, The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village.

I think it was the subtitle that hooked me. That, and the cover: a grainy photo of a young, shirtless Delany, holding a guitar, with a rainbow gradient filter layered on top. To a modern reader, it looks more like a Tinder photo than a book cover, but it sets the stage well. This is a book about Delany coming to terms with himself as a young, black, gay science fiction author in the late ’50s and early ’60s, when that intersection of identities was all too rare. It’s a time capsule, a portrait of the American ’50s as they actually were—not just milkshakes and poodle skirts, but police raids and experimental theatre and crossing state lines to obtain an interracial marriage certificate.

And it’s a must read for every young artist out there.

Delany, you see, started writing straight out of high school. By the age of 22, he had published four novels (and written five). Each birthday spurred him on to write more and write faster.

By Charlotte Ahlin – Full Story at Bustle


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3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Samuel R. Delany’s Memoir ‘The Motion Of Light In Water’”

  1. In 2013, I took part in a week-long writers retreat with Lambda Literary. The leader of the fiction section was Samuel R. Delany. The gentleman with the long white beard seems a lifetime removed from the cover photo but perhaps even more intriguing. We were to bring a writing project to class, preferably a novel. I started work on my first book, “Chronicles of Spartak: Rising Son,” several months in advance to have it ready. Man oh man was he tough and shredded most of us. It was a week of tough love, great insights, wit , comaraderie and sometimes shocking storytelling from our distinguished leader. I treasure the experience and think it helped shape my writing. A “Dahlgren” television series sound great.

  2. Wow, what an amazing article! I remember first reading ‘Pockets of Stars Like Grains of Sand’. Afterwards, I read ‘Dahlgren’ and everything else I could find. He was one of the richest literary experiences I’ve ever had. Thank you for writing this about him!

  3. I did discover Delany as a book-hungry teen. One of the local stores on my way home carried paperbacks for sale, and to my intense delight, many were science fiction and fantasy. I spent my lunch money when I’d run out of allowance, and one of the books I bought was “Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.” I fell head over heels in love with his words, his sheer gorgeous use of prose as poem. I went on to devour more of his work, and your article reminds me of the excitement that filled me when I discovered this incredible man and his work. Thank you!


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