Russ and Delany get a little sassy

Although many of the letters between Samuel R. Delany and Joanna Russ range in topic from quotidian events to discussions about queer theory and literature, a few are pure gossip.

Delany goes on at length in one 1971 letter to Russ about a dinner party he was a guest at, detailing the strange personalities of everyone in attendance. These comments (though sometimes factual and enlightening, like the person’s name and occupation) often steer into scathing critiques of manners, eating habits, and conversations. Nothing is ever too biting and Delany never comes off as cruel, but he has a knack for describing personalities with a laser beam-like approach.

In another letter, the pair discuss a recent article about Ursula K. Le Guin. The author of the article explains Le Guin’s extreme liberalism and how it is reflected in her literary work. It also outlines the way that Le Guin has steered Science Fiction writing back towards utopian settings. Russ, Delany, and the article author all seem to agree that utopian fiction is a fad that has passed and Le Guin’s resurrection of a failing genre is an annoying retread of old topics, albeit with new conclusions regarding feminism, lesbianism, and anarchism. Delany, the writer of this letter, seems to admire Le Guin from afar, although it seems he doesn’t know her personally. (Especially because he always seems to have an anecdote about everyone in his letters—No one is simply ‘Joe,’ they’re more like ‘beautiful, blond-haired Joe with the beautiful, blonde-haired wife.’)

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2 responses to “Russ and Delany get a little sassy

  • colemanpboyer

    You’re right, this correspondence does seem fascinating. Perfect for a journalist such as yourself. I am wondering Austin if they happen to have any opinions on Virginia Kidd? I would like to get the “dish” on Kidd because I am focusing on her for my wiki project.

  • cstabile

    Delany and Russ were very close (Tiptree constantly tries to get Russ to provide an introduction to Delany, but it never seems to work out) — both were living at the time, I believe, on the east coast, and Le Guin was in Portland, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t travel in the same circles (not to mention the fact that Le Guin was straight and married and Delany and Russ were each in the process of coming out).

    It might be worth thinking about the role of what you describe as gossip (and Coleman as dishing) in their correspondence.

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