The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Matthew Cheney Interviews Samuel R. Delany

  (Samuel R. Delany, as photographed by Kyle Cassidy, whose books are also available on Amazon.)

I had one of the truly revelatory experiences of my teen years when I read Samuel R. Delany's The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction. In terms of the ways you can consciously work on your style and alter your approach to writing fiction, that book has had as much influence on my fiction as anything else I read as a beginning writer--and it surely permeated my subscious as well. For one thing, Delany's essays were the first I'd read that approached non-realist fiction (genre fiction, if you prefer) in a serious fashion and confirmed that I wasn't wrong in thinking of what I was doing as part of a continuum of literature. For another, his views on how we read seemed to me like an articulation, amplification, and extension of what I'd always thought in my heart but never been able to express.

Now Wesleyan University Press has released a new edition of The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, complete with words of praise from Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz, revisions and expansions of the original essays, and a new introduction by Matthew Cheney. Cheney is a columnist for Strange Horizons, a widely published fiction writer, and a former World Fantasy Award finalist for his cross-genre literary blog The Mumpsimus. Given Cheney's involvement in this new edition, I thought it appropriate for him to not only give Omnivoracious readers more context on Delany, but also to interview Delany. You'll find the fascinating results below the cut. - Jeff


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Comments (11)

That's amazing, You are Superman, aren't you ?

Posted by: Black Cow | Tuesday February 19, 2013 at 6:41 PM

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Posted by: do follow bookmarking sites | Thursday December 20, 2012 at 8:47 PM

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Posted by: master resale rights | Wednesday April 18, 2012 at 9:31 PM

s novella was completed in 1993. In it Bessie and Sadie appear as “Corey” and “Elsie,” along with younger versions of a number of Delany’s other paternal aunts and uncles. Though it was published in the midst of the excitement over Having Our Say, Delany refused to let any publicity suggest a relation between the two books. This may, indeed, have slowed the growth of appreciation for Delany’s novella. There are a number of places where the books touch on the same or similar family stories.

Posted by: Lindsay | Friday April 6, 2012 at 8:43 PM

Among science fiction readers, Return to Nevèrÿon (which consists of Tales of Nevèrÿon [1978: five stories]; Neveryóna, or:
The Tale of Signs and Cities [1982: novel]; Flight from Nevèrÿon [1985: two stories and a short novel]; and Return to Nevèrÿon [first published as The Bridge of Lost Desire (1987: two novellas and a reprise of the opening story)]), was as controversial as Dhalgren, if not more so. In the midst of the series, even though the mass-market paperback sale for each of the separate volumes was in the two- and three-hundred-thousand range — quite respectable for a mass-market book — for a couple of years Delany was effectively blacklisted by the then largest American bookstore chain, Dalton Books, along with Barbara Hambly and Tanith Lee, two other fantasy writers whose works dealt, as did Delany’s, with gay material.

Posted by: Alisa | Friday April 6, 2012 at 8:40 PM

Useful information like this one must be kept and maintained so I will put this one on my bookmark list! Thanks for this wonderful post and hoping to post more of this!

Posted by: 5 star hotels in Goa | Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 5:10 PM

wow that is quite a collection..nice post

Posted by: full length tv shows | Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 7:02 PM

That is quite a collection of books to own. I don't think I'd be able to read that many books in my entire lifetime.

Posted by: Elliptical Machine | Friday July 22, 2011 at 7:24 AM

When I was into my twenties and had been a publishing writer for half a dozen years, that’s not whom I saw roaming the halls of convention hotels by the hundreds.

Posted by: ClubPenguin | Monday March 28, 2011 at 11:13 PM

When this was first published in 1977, there was very little first-rate critical analysis of science fiction, or even much analysis of any degree of excellence. Delany, as part and parcel of his young career as a science fiction writer, who by the time of this book had already published several novels, from fair to outstanding in quality. This work is significant in that it helped raise the consciousness level of sf within the hallowed halls of academia while at the same time raised the bar for working sf writers, forcing them to really look at both the how and why of what they were writing.
This is not a book for the faint of heart whose eyes glaze over at the first polysyllabic word, as this work is absolutely replete with them. Nor is it a book for the average fan of sf, who just wants his sense of wonder tickled and doesn't care to investigate just how this sense of wonder is created and refined. But for those willing to work a little bit while reading this, some of what is here is quite illuminating.
But throughout this work, you can get a sense of the passion Delany has for excellence in the arts, and why such analysis is both important and can help future work be all the better. Much of sf today has been colored and influenced both by his own works of fiction, and by his insights into what makes science fiction so essentially different from mundane works, insights that are well presented in this work.

Posted by: cd | Saturday September 26, 2009 at 4:06 AM

Great interview, Matthew - unorthodox in some ways, which seems fitting. I am also much impressed by Mr. Delaney's modest collection of books:) and makes me feel a whole lot better about the state of my study.

Posted by: Clare Dudman | Tuesday August 25, 2009 at 7:31 AM

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