On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at the Penn Book Center, author Alex Smith will host a discussion with pioneering science-fiction author Samuel Delany. The cofounder of Metropolarity collective and creator of Laser Life, the city’s first queer science-fiction reading series, Smith is a central figure in the city’s queer sci-fi, punk, and Afrofuturist scenes. Delany, whose work dates back to the early 1960s, has had a deep, formative influence on Smith as a writer.
“I found Delany's work in the used-book section of a specialty comic shop in my hometown of Greenville, North Caroina. The person working the desk was insistent that I, an aspiring writer, read certain books, and he casually handed me a copy of Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, a book by Delany. I flipped to the back of the book and saw the face of a cherubic Black man and was immensely intrigued,” Smith tells BSR.
“I never really read sci-fi literature as a kid, mostly was into comics and cartoons and movies and toys—this is still today my biggest influence. I had started reading Black speculative fiction, magical realism, and postmodernism, stuff from Ishmael Reed, Percival Everett, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Victor LaValle, Paul Beatty, et al., and that was really influencing my writing. Sam's work is astonishing, imaginative right up to the point of a sort of controlled lunacy, filled with vivid and otherworldly characters who say and do super-weird things. As a queer Black writer of science fiction, Delany's work has been essential.”
With Delany’s prolific bibliography and the sharp, imaginative prose found in Smith’s recent book Arkdust, both Smith and Delany’s work press against the limits of our imagination and use of the science fiction form as a means of carving out the promise of a new social reality. Focusing on race, economic class, gender, and sexuality, both writers’ work casts fiction as a form of futurist praxis. A conversation between these two giants will surely explore new frontiers and shed light on some unheralded corners of the Black literary tradition.
Samuel Delany and Alex Smith in Conversation happens Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at 6pm at the Penn Book Center, 130 South 34th Street.