By James Sallis
Song stories, American stories, pop culture
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Additional info for Ash of Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany
Armed with this language system, we can, like Rydra Wong, begin to tell right from wrong, begin to right a wrong (Hardesty 69), indeed begin to change the world. At one point early in the novel, Rydra complains to Markus T'mwarba that she feels dissatisfied as a poet because to this point she has simply been expressing the unarticulated ideas of others. "Now," she says, "I have things to say that are all my own. They're not what other people have said before, put in an original way. And they're not just contradictions of what other people have said, which amounts to the same thing.
These are the figures our lives make against the sky, he says again and again. Now consider, think, see, how painfully those figures must change as the sky above them, the worlds around them, change. David Samuelson remarks in one of the essays herein that Delany's "ultimate goal as a writer seems to be to bring about a recognition of the power of language to decenter the role of conventions in life as well as in fiction," another marker of that central revolutionary urge. In both its use of language (that is, in the sensual surface of the writing itself) and its sexual preoccupations Delany's work is sensual in a way little speculative fiction is; at the same time it is, again, unusually given to intellection.
Elsewhere, in his own voice, in a passage marvelously paralleling the novel's own structure and language, Delany notes: Anyone who finds it helpful may approach Dhalgren, without fear of misreading the text because of the approach (though there is, alas, no way to insure a "proper" reading: it may have none) as (and in) an attempt to explore and respond to a small sector of the grammar of the language of human signs. The novel tries to focus on the grammar of that language, Delany continues, by a science-fictional reorganization of the ways in which these signs are produced and reproduced.