“Captives of the Flame” and “Jewels of Aptor”
by Samuel Delaney
“I was a young black man, light-skinned enough so that four out of five people who met me, of whatever race, assumed I was white. I was a homosexual who now knew he could function heterosexually. And I was a young writer whose early attempts had already gotten him a handful of prizes…. So, I thought, you are neither black nor white.You are neither male nor female.And you are that most ambiguous of citizens, the writer. There was something at once very satisfying and very sad, placing myself at this pivotal suspension. It seemed, in the park at dawn, a kind of revelation–a kind of center, formed of a play of ambiguities, from which I might move in any direction. ”
-The Motion Of Light In Water: Sex And Science Fiction Writing In The East Village-
The subject of this weeks’ Free Reading is a particularly revered author here at Fresh Pulp Magazine. Samuel R. Delany, the 30th Grandmaster of Science Fiction (so named by SFWA) is one of the most prolific, thought provoking, and talented writers of his day (scifi or otherwise). He won his first Nebula Awards in 1966 and 1967 (He was nominated for a Hugo both those years, the first to win consecutively at that time, and was nominated in 1968 for another Hugo. He won again in 1975 both a Nebula and a Locus. Story has it that he was rejected in 1967 by John C. Campbell (some say for reasons of race or sexual orientation), and Campbell was insensed at Delanys’ windfall that year. We have been unable to confirm this but we believe it was also the first time and African American ever won the Hugo. Delany would win many more awards and honors over his fifty year career including being named the 30th Grandmaster by SFWA. Despite having only one year of college, Delany would also continue on to be a university professor at such places as Cornell, Amherst, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Simply by virtue of being himself, unapologetically, Delany has been an activist. He was a young, black, gay, writer whose identity came forth very clearly in many of his works. Though, it seems, he made no attempts to marry the occupation of activism with the occupation of being a Science Fiction writer as some are given to do these days. Dahlgren (not featured here), is of particular interest concerning matters of identity and he weaves a tale around it with rare expertise. A little later in his career he would focus some of his attention on matters specfically identity. Delany was among the first to explore such issues in such honest terms forcing many of his peers not only to examine issues of race but also issues of sexuality, and more importantly the juxtaposition of race and sexuality. Some of his works may not be for the shy or faint of heart, but they are meant for those who wish to be forthright in their storytelling and explorations of said topics.
Today we offer two books, one taking place in distant post apocalypse Earth. “Captives of the Flame”, is an excellent scifi caper that has all the trappings of intrigue, and subterfuge, kidnapped princes and mysterious supervillains. Some might find the subject matter and the writing style very “golden agey”, but I find this did not detract from the story or its telling in any way. “The Jewels of Aptor” is about a small group sent to retrieve a powerful jewel for their sovereign. As the story unfolds we find that all is not as it seems, in particular the point of the mission as well as its morality. Neither are terribly long reads but boths are great stories. If you enjoy these, I highly recommend Delanys’ other works including “Triton”, Babel-17″ and of course, “Dahlegren”.
Here are the links to the files. One is a mobi file which should accomodate most e-readers. The other link is a pdf.