I love the books of Samual Delany. Especially “Babel 17” and “Heavenly Breakfast” are dear to me. The copy I have of “Babel 17” is falling apart due to the glue disintegrating, so every time I re-read it I have to take extra care keeping the book together and not drop 20 or so pages.
Taking “Motions of light in water” and his later “Mad Man” and more autobiographical pieces written in the 1980’s, Delaney seems to live a pretty hardcore life with some likings and preferences that cross borders I will never cross.
In the 60’s, Delany was – with Silverberg and Zelazny – one of the new generation of Science Fiction writers and being gay, black and very talented, one of the gems of interesting crossing boundaries of subcultures and subcultures within subcultures.
“Babel 17” (more than i.e. “Nova” in my opinion) deals with love in various forms, from gay to heterosexual to multiplex forms like trios and quartets. Still aimed at an heterosexual audience (the main character is a pretty, sensitive, poetic and intelligent heterosexual woman) it regularly crosses the borders and shows worlds of interhuman relationships much broader and lovingly than older writers like Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov and peers like Silverberg created.
The reason why I love especially this work is that it radiates a light and optimistic view on a future where the personal expression of ones sexual and sensual bearings are an intricate part of work and life.
No doubt, on the edge of publishable novels, others like Delaney have emerged who can balance their private explorations into worlds I will never enter with vivid characters and solid storytelling, but I never read their work.
Reading “Heavenly breakfast” (the name of the band Delaney was part of in the 60’s) much becomes clear. During the period he describes he lives together with most if not all members of the band in a house shared with many others. In the same room people sleep, eat and have sex. Friends and strangers drop in, stay for a while and leave again. Some become part of the group. Some disappear. Some build successful relationships, some fail. Some fit, some do not.
Currently (in Europe anyway) we live in a time where a new sexual revolution seems to be emerging. The extremes are things like re-creations by 15 year old guys of the stuff you see in video clips where black man are surrounded by close to naked women possibly shaped by force and manipulation and possibly ending in rape and things like “Breezer sluts”: young kids who trade sexual favors for alcoholic drinks they can not afford or get due to their young age.
The other and more bright side is where the new generation is shaking off the bullshit of pre-emancipated times. At least there are many more fields and places where you can be very much you, whether you are hetero, bi-sexual, gay, promiscuous or not. You can like who and what you like. Sexe (male/female) and your social background is no longer determinating your role in society. Being a male no longer means that you -as a man- define the rule sets of social and cultural reality in general. Being female no longer means that you are a second rate civilian with as main tasks to bread the next generation of the family tree, to prepare food and to keep the house clean. Being born in a working class family no longer means you have no chance to become a succesful lawyer or whatever, joining business clubs and closing multi-million dollar deals.
Linked to this is the new speed of information. Finding articles about stuff that draws your interest is easy as cake when you live in an area like the “Western world” where censorship is at least limited. Your sources are multitude and offer you many points of view: allowing you the freedom to pick any stand you like, even if it is no stand at all.
Sure there are places where being different and non-conformity still leads to being terrorized by those who decide what is “appropriate”. Especially where conservatism rules. But then: you have the freedom to move, cut loose the bounds and move where your “being different” actually is considered normal.
We are still terrorized in our personal freedom by conformity many times. By frustrated dreams, frustrated lives, frustrated choices wheter they are ours of those in our surroundings. Damaged spirits, unclear rules, fucked up emotional issues.
Angela Roe, whom I met in 2005, then spoke of a thesis she was writing for her study regarding trauma and violence with Dutch Antillian people. Her basic assumption was that many of the behavioral patterns of people living in on the island her parents came from resambles those of traumatized people who have suffered from violence and abuse.
I think this interesting thought does not only limit itself to the population of descendents of slaves being captured by rival tribes, sold to the Dutch in this case, shipped overseas like sardines in a piss and poop drenched can, starving and rotting and dying and to arrive an entire other part of the world to work in circumstances I do not even know of.
One shocking statistic I read in a newspaper many years ago claimed that in 1 out of 6 families at least one child has suffered from sexual abuse either within the family (father, mother, uncle, house friend) or in the area (neighbor, teacher, someone in the same rural area). Next to violence, sexual (child) abuse is to me one of the signs of “something is terribly wrong here”.
So on the one side there is this glorious road to sexual liberation, where you can manifest yourself anyway you like, with anyone you like, crossing boundaries of age, geographic-, social- and cultural backgrounds. On the other side there is the “little monkey with a crooked foot” in our minds (Re: R.A. Lafferty: that is why and where it went wrong with our specific branch from the point of view of the other monkeys) acting and reacting in a distorted way with – in some cases – various forms of outside bound violence.
It is the frustrated energy and the damage that can make it hard to say: “hello stranger until this moment: I love you” and “hellostranger, I dig you” and “hello stranger, I like you, you like to make out?” with the openness and without all the extra bullshit we tend to mix and blend into it.
The generations of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s have already did their share of cleaning up the mess, so that the new generations of the 00’s can move more freely (and lets pray that those idiots spreading vile systems of repression where i.e. “god” and “gods word” are used as an excuse to deny you your human rights to express yourself and your genuineness and personal beauty are of a dying breed).
Namaste and until next time.