Ash of Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany by James Sallis

By James Sallis

Track experiences, American stories, pop culture

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Samuel R. Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand" copyright © 1986, 1996 Russell Blackford, originally appeared in Australian Science Fiction Review, Second Series, Vol. 1, No. 4, September 1986. Reprinted (with minor revisions) by permission of the author. "The Politics of Desire in Delany's Triton and Tides of Lust" copyright © 1984 Robert Elliot Fox, originally appeared in Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer 1984. Reprinted by permission of the author and Black American Literature Forum (now African American Review).

Alternate-society SF poses a wide assortment of questions, including the following: What constitutes a good or bad society? What is Page 4 the proper relation between the individual and the community? To what extent are freedom and order mutually antagonistic? What are the main determinants of "social reality"? What is the function of particular social institutions? What is the relation between language and social order? These fictions, many of which figure as science fiction classics, mediate the proper relation between Self and Society, in general eliciting a normative reading, the establishment of a framework of value.

While we might acknowledge Meyer's objections, we could counter that Whorfianism supplies a valuable corrective to an instrumentalist view of language that underlies certain misconceptions, such as the ideas that the language of science is neutral and universal (see Sefler) or that perception is itself unmediated by language (see Eco). Perhaps we should see Delany's adoption of Whorfianism as a strategic move, one meant to foreground Page 8 language, to stress its instrumentality in our perception of reality, while at the same time showcasing the possibilities of SF's invented languages.

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