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Samuel R. Delany

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Born into a distinguished Harlem family, Samuel R. Delany was a success at nineteen, changing the tone, the content, and the very shape of modern science fiction with his acclaimed novels and stories that bridged the apparent gap between science and fantasy to explore gay sexuality, racial and class consciousness, and the limits of imagination and memory. His vast body of work includes memoir, comics, space adventure, mainstream novels, homosexual erotica, and literary criticism of a high order. Until his recent retirement he was a professor of English and creative writing at Temple University.

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The Atheist in the Attic
Author: Samuel R. Delany
Publisher: PM Press / Outspoken Authors
ISBN: 978-1-62963-440-1
Published: 02/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 7.5x5
Page count: 128
Subjects: Fiction

The title novella, “The Atheist in the Attic,” appearing here in book form for the first time, is a suspenseful and vivid historical narrative, recreating the top-secret meeting between the mathematical genius Leibniz and the philosopher Spinoza caught between the horrors of the cannibalistic Dutch Rampjaar and the brilliant “big bang” of the Enlightenment.

Plus: equal parts history, confession, complaint, gossip, and personal triumph, Delany's “Racism and Science Fiction” combines scholarly research and personal experience in the unique true story of the first major African American author in the genre. And featuring: a bibliography, an author biography, and our candid, uncompromising, and customary Outspoken Interview.


“A talent very close to time travel—or magic.”

“The most remarkable prose stylist to have emerged from the culture of American science fiction.”
—William Gibson

“I consider Delany not only one of the most important science fiction writers of the present generation, but a fascinating writer in general who has invented a new style.”
—Umberto Eco

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What Others are Saying

More about Samuel...

atticScience Fiction’s Gay Elder Statesman
By Christopher Murray
Gay City News NYC
April 11th, 2019

"When the leviathans of science fiction like Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov were at the height of their popularity, it was Delany who won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula Award two years in a row, in 1966 for “Babel-17” and the next year for “The Einstein Intersecti­on.” He did this as an African American man. And as a gay man. That was completely unprecedented in American sci-fi writing..."

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atticAtheist in the Attic: A Review
By Matthew Keely
May 31st, 2018

“The Atheist in the Attic” must surely number among Delany’s least accessible stories: although his writing has always engaged with philosophy and history, Delany rarely assumes that his readers share the same copious breadth and stunning depth of his own knowledge. As he writes elsewhere in this volume, “there is so much knowledge available today that there can be no such thing anymore as a classical education that we can expect more than a relatively few people to share.” Delany presumes his novella will have the best of all possible readers: I was both flattered by the author’s trust and stymied by the novella’s oblique difficulty. For all that it frustrated me, I’d like to read it again.

atticAtheist in the Attic: A Review
Publishers Weekly
June 2018

This small volume offers two delectable ruminations (plus an interview) by Delany (Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders) on the nature of God and the insidiousness of racism. In the title novella, the 17th-century mathematician Leibniz travels in secret from Amsterdam to the Hague to visit the philosopher Spinoza, wishing to hear his ideas of an immanent “God, or nature” that led to accusations of atheism. But Leibniz finds this is “like hunting for a man hiding in the attic of a building that has none.” Though Delany does not spell it out, Leibniz historically took the more traditional, Christian view of the divine, so it is significant that he comes away from this fictional meeting full of optimism that “this Jew and I would come so close to the same conclusions.” The essay that follows, “Racism and Science Fiction,” originally published in 1998, concludes that even the appearance of racism can be a factor in reproducing and promoting racism itself. Delany is generous enough to choose not to dwell on the guilt of each individual because racism is a system, saying as much in the earlier story, that “at best the world was intriguingly devious and only the people in it a little silly.” Delany has said he thinks by writing, and this remarkable melange will be enlightening for readers to follow along with him.


atticAtheist in the Attic: Starred Review
by William Grabovski
Library Journal Express
June 2018

Following the 1950s Golden Age of sf, Delany (Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders), Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Robert Silverberg, and a handful of others invigorated the often staid genre by not only exploring previously taboo subjects but publishing lucid critical articles and nonfiction works. With the 1960s came the demand to confront sociopolitical realities, but unlike mainstream literature, the genre resisted change until 1962, when Delany published his first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, wherein a poet/sailor and his strange passenger journey to a land ruined by war. With the symbolist verve of Arthur Rimbaud and using personal experience as backdrop, Delany charged the work with naturalism rare in the genre at that time. Ambivalent about his status as the “first major African American sf author,” Delany wrote “Racism and Science Fiction” in 1998, which casts a scholarly eye on the genre. This collection includes this essay, the novella “The Atheist in the Attic,” an interview with Delaney, a selected bibliography, and V author biography.

Verdict Delany readers, as well as those interested in sf’s fraught evolution, will find much to enjoy and ponder in this latest addition to the “Outspoken Authors” series.

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atticAtheist in the Attic: Starred Review
by Andrew Andrews
True Review
June 23rd, 2018

Grand Master of SF Samuel R. Delaney gives us an absolutely fascinating and downright frightening recollection of the terrible past, violent reminders of racism and how he was much a victim himself of racial violence. The recollection of how he was vilified for “destroying SF” by none other than famous editor Fred Pohl was a shock to me.

In that era, even while SF writers were accepting the polyrealistic, multispecies universe of what was being written, there were those who said the black man and woman (or any other human description), don’t belong in the genre, as absurd and ridiculous as that seems. So thank goodness for Delaney.

Included in this collection of stories and essays is the Conjunctions-serialized story, “The Atheist In the Attic” and an interview with Delaney by Terry Bisson.

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