Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Samuel Ray Delany, Jr., was born into an upper-middle-class family in the Harlem district of New York City on April 1, 1942. His father had come to New York from North Carolina and, in the period before Delany’s birth, had established a successful career as a funeral director. Delany’s mother, the former Margaret Carey Boyd, was a library clerk with a long-standing interest in literature. In the late 1920’s, she had been a friend of several authors in the literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
The prosperity of Delany’s family allowed the young Samuel to attend a number of prestigious schools. Having graduated from the private Dalton School, Delany enrolled at the Bronx High School of Science. There, a reading disorder which had troubled Delany throughout his early schooling was diagnosed as dyslexia. Despite his handicap, Delany was already making progress toward a literary career. While he was still in his early teens, he wrote several novels (none of them published) and served as coeditor of the Dynamo, his high school’s literary review. Delany’s early work won for him several local awards, and he was encouraged to continue with his literary pursuits.
Delany accepted his homosexuality. Nevertheless, on August 24, 1961, he married his former coeditor on the Dynamo, Marilyn Hacker. During that same year, he began taking courses at the City College of New York and became poetry editor of the...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Delany’s central characters are usually individuals whose quests for knowledge leads them to greater self-discovery. Frequently, this insight involves a realization that the very means that one uses to achieve understanding (for example, language and folklore) may actually be limiting in terms of what one is able to understand.
On the level of sociology, Delany’s novels display a compassionate understanding for individuals who deviate from the norm. By presenting worlds that are exaggerations or distortions of the world known to Delany and his readers, he illustrates how illusory or arbitrary most societal norms really are and suggests that, if seen from a slightly altered perspective, each individual is “different” in some way.
Delany is constantly aware of the conventions and structures of both science fiction and fantasy and constantly questions and distorts them in an attempt to make them evident to the reader. His broad-ranging academic interests manage to inform his work without becoming obtrusive or ever talking down to his reader.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Samuel Ray Delany, Jr., was born April 1, 1942, into a middle-class, professional family (two uncles were well-known judges in New York City) in Harlem, New York. His father, Samuel Ray Delany, Sr., was a funeral director, and his mother, Margaret Carey Delaney (née Boyd), was a clerk in a local library. At summer camp one year, he chose the nickname “Chip” for himself and has been called that ever since.
Delany’s early education took place at Dalton, an exclusive, primarily white school on the East Side. He then attended the Bronx High School of Science, where the average intelligence quotient of the students was 140. Although his scores in most subjects were excellent (particularly in math), Delaney’s school career was often made more difficult by what would much later be diagnosed as dyslexia. His parents had forced him to become right-handed, and, partially as a result, Delany had immense difficulty with spelling, with a particular propensity for writing words backward. A broken and jumbled mishmash of misspellings, his writing was opaque even to him once he had forgotten the intended meaning of the words. His parents always encouraged him to write, however, because they had been told by a tutor that if Delany wrote as much as possible his spelling would have to improve. His mother read to him constantly, and his father even read aloud Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), chapter by chapter.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Samuel Ray Delany, Jr., was born in Harlem in New York City on April 1, 1942, to an upper-middle-class black family. His father was a prominent Harlem funeral director and was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Delany attended the prestigious Dalton School, noted for its progressive curriculum and eccentric teachers and staff. Tensions with his father and a learning disability that would later be diagnosed as dyslexia marred Delany’s childhood and teenage years somewhat, but he found compensation in his interests in theater, science, gymnastics, and—most especially—writing.
After graduating from Dalton in 1956, Delany attended the Bronx High School of Science, where he was encouraged in his writing by some of his teachers and by a fellow student and aspiring poet, Marilyn Hacker. After high school graduation in 1960, Delany received a fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, where he met Robert Frost and other professional writers. Delany enrolled in City College of New York but dropped out in 1961. He continued to write, supporting himself as a folksinger in Greenwich Village clubs and cafés. On August 24, 1961, he and Marilyn Hacker were married.
Although their marriage of more than thirteen years was open and loosely structured—the couple often lived apart—Hacker and Delany were highly influential on each other as he developed his fiction and she her poetry. It...
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Samuel Delaney’s early science fiction is remarkable for its vivid imagination, its pyrotechnic style, and its interest in linguistic science. Several essays collected in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw began an analysis of the distinctive ways in which meaning is generated in texts that refer to imaginary worlds. This analysis is a central preoccupation of his academic writing and played a vital part in shaping his later fiction. The Einstein Intersection is the first of his novels that makes the creator visible within the text and that links the process of fictional creation to his parallel life experiences.
The increasing openness of the science-fiction field allowed Delany to move on to an explicit and very elaborate examination of homosexual identity in Dhalgren. The intense introspective analysis of Dhalgren is inverted in Triton, which extrapolates the personal into the political with flamboyance in its analysis of a future “heterotopia” in which all kinds of sexual identities are readily accommodated and available for sampling.
Delany began to subject his life to an unusually candid and thoughtful analysis. The primary product of this analysis is The Motion of Light in Water, a detailed autobiographical account of his life between 1957 and 1965. The semiautobiographical novella Heavenly Breakfast deals with an experiment in communal living in the late 1960’s. “Citre et...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
In his remarkably candid account of his early life, The Motion of Light in Water, which was awarded the Hugo Award in 1989, Samuel Ray Delany describes himself as “a black man, a gay man, a writer.” Delany came to be acclaimed and respected as a writer of science fiction and as one of the most intelligent and demanding critics of the genre.
He was born in New York City to Margaret Cary Boyd Delany and Samuel Ray Delany, a prominent Harlem undertaker with whom, as he describes in The Motion of Light in Water, Delany had a distant and uneasy relationship. He attended the prestigious private Dalton School and the Bronx High School of Science, where he was a popular and bright student, though he had difficulties that he later learned stemmed from dyslexia. Some of Delany’s happiest times as a boy were spent during his summers from 1951 to 1956 at Camp Woodland. There he read science fiction, studied music, and first began to write.
At the Bronx High School of Science Delany met and became close to Marilyn Hacker, a young poet. He began writing in earnest and after graduation in 1960 received a fellowship to the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, where he met Robert Frost and other writers. He later attended the City College of New York but withdrew after one year, choosing to forgo the middle-class lifestyle in which he had grown up for a bohemian existence in the East Village of New York City.
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Samuel Delany writes stories that challenge adults and younger readers to think deeply about both the complex ideas presented in his writings and about how these ideas may apply to their own real-life experiences. In The Star Pit, he creates a complex star-faring society in which children are usually raised with multiple fathers and mothers in "procreation groups"; in spite of the potential for ample nurturing that such groups would seem to offer, children and young adults tend to be neglected and are frequently abused. He works out the unusual social structure, as well as addressing concerns particularly important to young readers, and it makes for absorbing reading.
Samuel R. Delany was born in Harlem, New York—then a Mecca for African-American writers, artists, and musicians—on April 1, 1942. Although life in Harlem acquainted him with poverty, his father owned a successful funeral parlor, and the family lived as part of the upper middle-class. Delaney attended the Bronx High School of Science, whose graduates typically went to college, but he only went to college for one semester. He published his first science fiction novel at the age of twenty in 1962, although The Jewels of Aptor was bowdlerized and not printed in its entirety until 1968. The problem Ace Books had with the novel was not so much objectionable content as thematic and linguistic complexity, both common traits of Delany's fiction. By the mid-1960s he was already...
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