The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

Lust for Life – Prolific science fiction scribe Samuel Delany shares his passions in The Polymath

Posted by invizweb on July 10, 2008

Sam Adams wrote for Philadelphia City Paper:

One of Delany’s most enduring ideas is the importance of cities, and particularly the interactions between people of different social and economic backgrounds that living in the city facilitates. In Times Square Red, he writes, “Life is at its most rewarding, productive and pleasant when large numbers of people understand, appreciate and seek out interclass contact and communication conducted in a mode of goodwill.”

That these thoughts appear in a book whose first half is dedicated to Delany’s memories of cruising movie theaters in Times Square’s glory days is no accident. The ability to reach out and touch someone across the lines that usually keep the classes separate is, he says, “one of the most important things about gay sex, particularly in its aspect of public sex.” In The Polymath, he recalls taking a break from his writing routine to have sex with a New York City garbage man in a darkened movie theater — not the kind of thing you can imagine James Joyce doing on his lunch hour.

By Delany’s estimate, he would have sex with as many as 10 or 15 men in the course of a normal day, while still logging a full day’s work at the typewriter. He puts his lifetime total at something on the order of 50,000 partners. “I don’t know whether it resolves any particular conflicts,” he says. “You learn a lot about different people, different groups — and it’s a lot of fun.” Although he does not practice safe sex, he has remained HIV-negative, in part because he engages only in nonpenetrative sex.

Now that Delany is, as he puts it, “notably closer to 70 than I am to 60,” the opportunities are less. “When all is said and done, sex is still a young man’s or a young woman’s game. It would be nice if there was a little more of it available for us older folks, but we make do.”

Delany’s long-term project of changing the discourse is all about giving his readers, and his students, the tools to facilitate such interactions, sexual or otherwise.

Read more.

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