Friday, May 9, 2008

Review - The Motion of Light in Water

The Motion of Light in Water
by Samuel L. Delany
1989 Hugo Winner for Best Related Non-Fiction

In the past I've usually paired these non-fiction reviews but that isn't going to happen for a while with Nebula award winners dominating my reading list. So I'm just sticking with a shorter review of these works as they come up.

The Motion of Light in Water is an autobiography of Delany's journey to a professional science fiction writer. It's also the story of an often unhappy marriage of convenience, of being a homosexual in New York in the early sixties, and his development as a writer. Delany uses a drifting style where short numbered sections that are usually just a paragraph or two but occasionally as long as a page change from topic to topic rapidly.

Delany in one of his earliest hetrosexual experiments got his partner pregnant during their first year in college. They eloped and moved to a tiny apartment in a slum where both continued to work on developing writing careers. Delany was an active homosexual and the book goes into detail on his sexual exploits which most commonly consisted of one night stands and mass encounters at secretive gatherings. Eventually while dealing with all of this Delany decides to write a science fiction novel which he manages to sell.

One of the things that I appreciated in The Motion of Light in Water is that Delany takes a very critical eye to his youth. Rather than just romanticizing his past Delany recognizes that he wasn't a good husband (his wife was well aware of his sexual activities; the problems were ones of emotional support) and he acknowledges the moment when he realized that as good as he was his writing was still falling short of the qualities he wanted.

It's that candidness that makes his autobiography effective. In addition Delany focuses almost exclusively on the first few years of his marriage before he separated from his wife and left the country with only a few diversions to illuminate those events. Delany's prose is just as sharp as it ever was which makes this an interesting autobiography to read.