(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