Real Mothers, a Faggot Uncle, and the Name of the Father: Samuel R. Delany's Feminist Revisions of the Story of SF

The stories a discipline or genre tells about itself reflect its values and anxieties as well as determine the shapes and even limits of its future. Four particularly vexed nodes of controversy pervade the stories that writers, critics, and fans tell about science fiction, surfacing constantly in its discourse at cons, in print publications, and online, particularly in the sf blogosphere. These four points of controversy include a preoccupation with the question of sf’s legitimacy; an obsession with establishing a monolithic definition of set texts for patrolling the genre’s border; the search for a definitive story of sf’s origins and lineage; and the failure to integrate the work of women into the genre’s narratives about itself. Over the years, Samuel R. Delany has weighed in on all four; but to date, his analyses bearing on them have not been significantly heeded, perhaps because doing so would entail a radically different way of thinking and talking about the genre. In this paper I will discuss these points of controversy and then examine Delany’s insights into them and his outline for a radically different story of sf that would lay these issues to eternal rest.

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