Science Fiction

Who was the first black writer to earn acclaim as a science-fiction writer?

The first black American to earn acclaim as a science-fiction writer was Samuel R. Delany (1942–), in 1962. Delany was born in Harlem and had a privileged childhood. He was a versatile and talented person who began to write at an early age. He was also a talented musician and composer by age fourteen, and studied physics and mathematics in high school. It was then that he was diagnosed with dyslexia. Delany won a number of awards for his writing, including a fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont. There he met poet Robert Frost. Delany studied at City College of New York for a while, but failed to complete his degree. His first science-fiction novel, The Jewels of Aptor, was published in 1962, when he was twenty years old. In 1973 he published a graphic novel, The Tides of Lust. That helped to set the course for his novels that followed. Around the mid-1970s he came to grips with his identity as a gay man. Delaney continued to write, producing in 1977 the first of his well-received works of criticism, Jewel-Hinged Jaw, followed by The American Shore in 1978. He has been highly recognized for his writings, receiving the Pilgrim Award in 1984 from the Science Fiction Research Association and the William Whitehead Memorial Award for Lifetime Contribution to Lesbian and Gay Writing in 1993.


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