The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The primary setting of this novel is Triton, one of many settled moons in the solar system. It has a society seemingly free of gender roles and sexual prejudices. The main character, Bron Helstrom, thinks he fits in but eventually realizes that he does not. He then tries to find his place in this society.

The novel begins with Bron returning home from his job as a metalogician and looking through the crowd of people to see if anyone else is as reasonably happy as he is. He visits a government ego booth, but it malfunctions, so he decides to walk home through the unlicensed area, a part of the city of Tethys deliberately set aside by urban planners to fall outside the laws of society. On his way, he meets a woman who takes him to a microtheater production. Microtheater is presented to only one person at a time. Bron is enthralled with the performance and with the woman, the Spike, who created and directed it.

He returns to his co-op, one set up to house males without regard to sexual orientation. The Spike is still on his mind. He tries to explain his feelings toward her to Lawrence, an elderly homosexual man who is his friend, but he fails. He tries to forget the woman but is drawn back to her the next day by his new assistant at work. He has a brief affair with the Spike, but she leaves Tethys.

Because of an impending war between the moons and the Earth/Mars alliance, Bron is laid off from his job. His friend Sam, a government...

(The entire section is 486 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Blackford, Russell. “Jewels in Junk City: To Read Triton.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 16 (Fall, 1996): 142-147. Blackford examines the inconsistencies in Delany’s novel, noting that readers are sometimes jarred by Delany’s rapid shifts of scene, internal interruptions in plot, and characters who depend on unreliable information. However, Blackford asserts that the reader can overcome these distractions by focusing on the playful tone of the novel.

Delany, Samuel. “On Triton and Other Matters: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany.” Interview by Robert M. Philmus, Renee Lallier, and Robert Copp. Science-Fiction Studies 17 (November, 1990): 295-324. A wide-ranging interview in which Delany discusses a variety of topics, including the influence of the theory of quantum uncertainty on contemporary literature; the ways in which American science fiction shaped the Vietnam War; the search for the literary origins of science fiction; and the writing of his novel, Triton.

Massé, Michelle. “ All You Have to Do Is Know What You Want’: Individual Expectations in Triton.” In Coordinates: Placing Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Eric S. Rabkin, Robert Scholes, and George E. Slusser. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. Examines the role of desire in Delany’s novel Triton (1976), which like many of Delany’s novels has a strong sexual theme. Triton is similar to Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand in use of technology to adapt people’s thinking; in Triton, people can voluntarily change their sexual preferences as well as their sexuality.

Sallis, James, ed. Ash of Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996. An interesting collection of critical essays by various scholars that address specific aspects of Delany’s fiction. Includes an essay on Triton, as well as a selected bibliography.

Sallis, James. “Samuel R. Delany: An Introduction.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 16 (Fall, 1996): 90-96. Offers brief background information on Delany’s life and career. Discusses Delany’s reputation as a major critical voice in science fiction, as well as the unifying factors in his work, including central characters as storytellers, revolutions with real consequences, and sexual concerns. Sallis also takes note of Delany’s thoughts on the points Blackford makes in the essay cited above.