AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts comparative literature professor and renowned science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany will deliver a Distinguished Faculty Lecture Wed. April 15 at 4 p.m. in Memorial Hall. The event concludes this year’s series of four Distinguished Faculty Lectures, and is free and open to the public. Following the lecture, Delany will be presented with the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest campus honor bestowed on individuals who have rendered exemplary and extraordinary service to the University. The lecture and presentation will be followed by a reception.
A favorite of both science fiction fans and serious literary critics, Delany has been compared to experimental writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon, and James Joyce. Before joining the University in 1988, he had already established himself as one of the premiere writers of science fiction in the country, having published dozens of novels, the first when he was only 20 years old. He later went on to win the two most cherished awards in the science fiction genre, the Hugo (twice) and the Nebula (four times). He also has won the annual World Science Fiction Achievement Award for the best non-fiction book of the year and the best novella of the year.
Though Delany’s oeuvre fell on hard times during the downsizing of the publishing industry in the 1980s, more recently there has been a resurgence of interest in his work from academic presses. In 1996, Wesleyan University Press brought back several of Delany’s most celebrated works, including "Dhalgren," which reportedly sold a million copies in paperback after its original publication in 1974. Wesleyan, aware of Delany’s unusual position as a gay black science fiction writer, also published a collection of his essays on race, culture, and sexuality.
Delany’s experiences outside of the world of science fiction are unique and varied. The scion of a distinguished Harlem family, his aunts are the Delany sisters of the book and play "Having Our Say." In the 1960s and ’70s, he was a member of the "free love and wild jazz" scene of downtown New York, and in the 1980s he helped found a group known as Gay Fathers of the Upper West Side. He also served a brief stint writing "Wonder Woman" stories for DC Comics during a period in the 1970s when the comic company was trying to make Wonder Woman "relevant." For example, one of Delany’s Wonder Woman stories had the heroine matching wits with a corrupt chain of supermarket moguls trying to squelch a woman’s food cooperative.