If That’s What You Mean

Mark Dery: Have you ever felt, as one of the few blacks writing SF, the pressure to write science fiction deeply inscribed with the politics of black nationalism?

Samuel R. Delany: The answer there depends on what your question means. If you mean: Do I feel that, deep within my work, I’ve situated material that encourages the reader’s engagement with some of the political questions that the disenfranchised people in this country, victimized by oppression and an oppressive discourse based on the evil and valorized notion of nationhood and its hideous white — no other color — underbelly, imperialism, must face but cannot overcome without internalizing some of the power concepts and relationships inescapably entailed in the notion of “nation” itself? Well if that’s what you mean, my answer is: Damned right I have! Certainly from my 1974 novel Dhalgren on, that’s been a major plank, reason, and justification in, of, and for my project.
       If, on the other hand, you mean: Do I feel that the surface of my work must blatantly display signs of solidarity with those who, through the real despairs imposed on them by oppression, have momentarily abandoned any critique of the presuppositions of nationhood and its internal contradictions, and that, through such signs in my work, I endeavor to speak back to those people in a voice indistinguishable from theirs, confirming what in them cannot question, what in them does not have the luxury of being able to critique the grounds on which they stand — a confirmation which, while I acknowledge that its project is an endlessly practical and necessary one, and one which I can usually support at some level of abstraction? Well, if that’s what you mean, then, alas, the answer is: No. That’s not part of my project — even though I often approve of it in others. Still, it’s just not what I do best.

       — “Black to the Future,” Flame Wars (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1994), 188-9