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Zer Netmouse
April 7th, 2009
10:55 pm

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Pam Noles: Shame

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From:netmouse
Date:April 8th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
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I don't believe I read any books by Delany until this year. I started with his autobiography. Now I have also read The Jewels of Aptor. There is nothing on that vintage Ace cover (a pale blond woman hovering over a pile of skulls) to suggest to me that a) the book is hard SF and not fantasy, b) one of the main characters is brown, and another is black, or c) the author is black.

(the Gollancz (2000) edition isn't much better. At least the person on the cover is not pale-skinned, and it comes across as hard SF, but the scene on the cover never happens in the postapocalyptic novel.)

I don't know why I'd never read any Delany novels before. I certainly knew the name. I'd read some of his short stories. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand has been recommended to me multiple times. But I also don't know if I could have told you before fairly recently that he is african-american. I'm just saying, I don't think that "read something by Samuel R. Delany" and "found a black science fiction writer" are necessarily synonymous so far as personal experience.
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From:dd_b
Date:April 8th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
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Closer to the time of publication, SF was the default, fantasy hardly existed, so that wasn't going to be confusing to people reading that edition new.

I probably didn't know Delany was black when I first read him. At some point I learned it, and it didn't much matter in a lot of ways, hence I don't remember exactly when :-). Maybe an author photo, or something somebody mentioned in an introduction (Ellison or Asimov most likely), or maybe a photo in Locus (I don't remember when they started running photos at all often).

Delany was one of the seriously hot young SF authors; Driftglass probably summarizes that period best (collection, and one of my favorites). He kind of moved on out of the SF mainstream, and I suspect he's far less read in SF now than he was then.

It's certainly possible to know of an author for a long time, and even read them for a long time, and not know much about them; one could easily not know race or even sex (I understand there were people who thought Andre Norton was male, in fact that may be why she wrote SF under that name; but it never occurred to me, I pegged the name as female at first glance).

On the other hand, if one cared a lot about it, the information was out there to be found; I found it even without caring a lot, just stumbled over it (but I was very interested in SF in general, and in authors in general, so the bits of information did stick when I hit them). And Nalo Hopkinson says she did care a lot about it.

People who care a lot about the race of people in books should have learned by now not to rely on the cover illustrations for information!


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