|The Paula Gordon Show|
Everyone has the same Big Problem, according to science
fiction legend Samuel Delany. Everyone now has to pay attention to everything
and to review everyone else’s truth-claims about everything. That
leaves us all feeling burned out by the amount of information demanding
our attention, a problem Mr. Delany has seen in the arts, science and
Reminding us of the power of everyday life, Mr. Delany
places himself firmly in the tradition of Jane Austen and amplifies with
examples. He quotes Blanche McCrary Boyd on writing. He gives a sketch
of his famous novel, Dhalgren. He describes both its
origins and why he thinks there is renewed interest in it. A variety of
kinds of communities are considered.
Mr. Delany connects the characters and actions in Dhalgren to a current longing for community. He remembers how The Sixties appeared to him as he wrote Dhalgren and how the novel came about. He reminds us of the powerful changes unleashed in that time, describing how much has truly changed in the intervening decades. He relates those larger changes to what has occurred in the academic community. The once-dominant role of "work" is considered in the context of the overwhelming responses Mr. Delany got to Dhalgren. He labels himself and describes his approach as a writer in society. He tells how quality is created and evaluated in written works.
The genesis of sci-fi is discussed (with special thanks to Schenectady) as Mr. Delaney gives examples of how a story unfolds. Crediting his poetic friend George Stanley, Mr. Delaney elaborates on the epigram from Dhalgren, "You have confused the true and the real." The political role of this pursuit is considered. Mr. Delany distinguishes "truth" from "truth-claims" and explains how important this distinction is now. He asserts that art is the place where we can say anything, disturbed when journalism asserts poor truth-claims. The importance of patterns in human thought is suggested.
Continuing with the malleability of patterns, Mr. Delany
suggests the difficulty in distinguishing among often "undecidable"
claims. The conversation turns to the role of science in science fiction.
Mr. Delany objects to circumstances when science is turned into religion.
He talks about being both an insider and an outsider and considers where
the relative centers of both coincide. He describes the vast amount of
overlap among individuals' diverse "identities" and describes
the impact of belonging to many "language communities." The
possibility of dialogue, he maintains, is what allows the possibility
of change. He elaborates. Spoken and written language are compared.
Mr. Delaney tells how impressed he is with the effectiveness
of today's science. He suggests an appropriate relationship between engineering
and science, science and technology. Having been a literary child prodigy,
Mr. Delany compares how differently older and younger people think and
express their thoughts. He works to overturn the general wisdom about
wisdom. He objects to the abuse of technology, the result of separating
it from the science he considers "aestheticized technology."
Science needs more narrative, it is agreed, then Mr. Delany assures us
that "the big problem" is everyone's need to pay more attention
It was our very real pleasure to welcome the versatile and charming Mr. Delany to our program.
Esther Levine of "Book Atlanta" was her usual helpful self in bringing this program to pass and, as always, we thank her for her on-going interest in connecting us with interesting people.