(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, 1957-1965 is an account of the late adolescence and early adulthood of one of the finest science-fiction writers to emerge in the 1960’s. Samuel Delany was the first black writer to rise to eminence in the genre and was one of the first writers to take advantage of the decline of censorship in the investigation of sexual identities. This memoir stops short of the period when he became a literary pioneer, but it examines in great detail the personal experiences that were later to feed that work. Its primary concern is the awakening of the author’s homosexual identity, augmented—and slightly confused—by his early marriage to Marilyn Hacker, a white poet, and their setting up home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The memoir describes—but not in strictly chronological order—Delany’s unsteady emergence from the educational hothouse of the Bronx High School of Science into the “real world” of work and marriage. It contemplates, with slightly self-demeaning but sympathetic fascination, his early and precocious adventures in science-fiction writing and the gradual forging of his highly distinctive literary voice. It ends, after an astonishing profusion of erotic encounters, with his setting forth from the city of his birth to cross the Atlantic and explore the Old World, modestly recapitulating the kind of experiential quest pursued by all the heroes...

(The entire section is 416 words.)