As far as science fiction anthologies go, Quark #1 is weird. Co-edited in the early 70s by the poet Marilyn Hacker and Samuel Delany (who were married at the time, but have long since separated and both self-identified as homosexual), it purports to be an quarterly of “speculative fiction,” an all-encompassing buzzword for outsider literature that was particularly in vogue at the time. Perhaps as a result, the first book in the series (of four) is both utopian and vague, full of middle-ground short stories that either couldn’t or wouldn’t hack it as pure science fiction. Familiar names are there — Ursula K. LeGuin, A.E. Van Vogt — but they’re all flubbing a little, trying out different styles. It’s often funny, and certainly worth seeking out, but the real highlight of Quark #1 is an essay from Samuel Delany, who tries nobly to place “speculative fiction” into a larger historical context.
In the spirit of open sourcery, and because I love it when other sites do this, I’ve scanned Delany’s article and PDF’ed it for anyone interested. This is a relatively hard-to-find essay, and a quick read to boot. The brunt of the piece has to do with the largely unspoken similarities between science fiction and poetry; in Delany’s argument, both genres have an incantatory function, in that they are both preoccupied with conjuring up the “thingness” of things.
An interesting aside: science fiction is the most fertile area of writing in the production of new words — a position held, up until the mid-1930s, by poetry. Coincidence?
Download: Samuel Delany, Critical Methods: Speculative Fiction (1.3 MB)
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