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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
Aye, and Gomorrah and Other Stories

by Samuel R Delany

(Vintage, $14.00, 383 pages, trade paperback; published in April 2003.)

Aye, and Gomorrah and Other Stories contains most of Samuel R. Delany's short cover scanfiction output (mostly written in the 1960s and early 1970s) save for those stories in his Neveryon series and a few inexplicably omitted items. The majority of the stories in this book had been collected previously in a 1971 volume called Driftglass.

I remember reading the earlier collection and being startled and intrigued by the unusual style, pacing, and approach of Delany's stories. At the time the stories that had the most vivid impact on me were "The Star Pit", "Driftglass", "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones", and Delany's most famous short work, "Aye, and Gomorrah...", a dense, stylish, decadent tale of asexual spacers on leave on planet Earth.

I was curious to see how well these stories had withstood the passage of time. Most of Delany's stories now strike me as interesting, but failed and excessively affected, experiments. They often leave me feeling that under the idiosyncratic storytelling there's not much actual story going on.

Nevertheless, some of Delany's stories are very good.

While "The Star Pit"'s languorous attention to detail wonderfully imbues its descriptions of spaceport life with realistic authenticity, other such efforts, such as "Driftglass", seem like unnecessary rehashings of the same narrative idea.

Delany occasionally pays homage to other authors. "Corona" is a nearly pitch-perfect Theodore Sturgeon story, but "We, in Some Strange Power's Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line" is a clumsy attempt at emulating Roger Zelazny.

Of the five stories not included in the previous collection, only one stands out: the evocatively mysterious fantasy, "Ruins".

The gem here is the title story, "Aye, and Gomorrah...", rightly regarded as a science fiction classic. It's achingly beautiful and written with intensity, verve, and passion.


Originally published in slightly different form in
The Montreal Gazette
, Saturday, 10 May 2002.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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