Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

To open this brilliant and intricate work is to enter a fully realized alternate universe where everything, even language, is disquietingly familiar yet also alien--everything, that is, except the workings of the human heart.

On the surface, Delany begins with a story of lost and found love. Korga, a mind-altered laborer called a “rat,” is the only survivor of a planet-wide catastrophe; his rescuers not only repair his body but also inbue him with the ancient knowledge of a long-dead master. Marq Dyeth is a galactic diplomat from a planet where humans and the native species, evelmi, live in amicable closeness. To gain access to Rat’s newfound knowledge, the galactic rulers determine that he and Marq are each other’s “perfect erotic object” and place him under Marq’s tutelage. The resulting relationship is a brief and intense one, quickly terminated when it is realized that Rat’s knowledge and presence could bring down the entire society.

Delany, long known for his imaginative craftsmanship, simply demolishes readers’ most cherished prejudices, including the concept of gender, sexual taboos, the family unit, and the structure of entire societies. Even the formalities of a diplomatic dinner party are exploded in a fantastic scene at once hilarious and subtly disturbing. Over all flow Delany’s lyrical words, rising finally to a moving epilogue on the intensity of human experience. Readers will return to their mundane world forever changed by Delany’s vision of a brave, new universe. A sequel, THE SPLENDOR AND MISERY OF BODIES, OF CITIES, is planned and eagerly anticipated.


Bartter, Martha A. “The (Science Fiction) Reader and the Quantum Paradigm: Problems in Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.” Science-Fiction Studies 17 (November, 1990): 325–340. Suggests that Delany’s fiction reflects a worldview representative of quantum physics, as opposed to Newtonian or...

(The entire section is 813 words.)