New York: 4 June 1998.
6-1/2 pp. 4to. Samuel Delany on science fiction criticism, Ursula Le Guin, and Michel Foucault. Fine. Item #228466
Interesting and substantial letter
“Two nights back I finished The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of and — as they say — thoroughly enjoyed it. … I was, of course, delighted to see you break your own strictures and champion Joanna’s The Female Man!
“I think the story of Ursula and The Norton Book of SF is, if anything, shoddier then even the tale you tell. After all, one person’s ideology is another person’s ethics. And however namby-pamby, simpering, and milktoast you find her politics, if you were right it would mean decisions about which pieces to use were at least ethics driven, however much those ethics aren’t yours.
“But I don’t think it was even that.
“When Ursula contacted me about using my story High Weir, the first thing I remembered was, of course, how, at a Milford, lo, these many years back, you once pointed out — and quite rightly — that the story was probably my weakest SF tale to date [and I’ve still only written a dozen]; it contains the appalling phrase “the pretty Micronesian biochemist,” which I can only hear, even now, voiced in your most disdainful/amused tones.
“(I write it; my neck reddens …)
“Said I to Ursula over the phone: “Gosh, Ursula, this is a Norton Anthology. It’s going to be used as a teaching text all over the country. You want to represent me and my part in the development of ’60s SF by what I and pretty much everyone else with any taste consider among my two or three worst pieces. Why not take one of the really good ones?”
“Said Ursula to me: “No, Chip. You’re making the same mistake some of the other writers have. This is not a Norton Anthology of SF. This is a Norton Book of SF. They’re not the same thing. …” She went on to cite even your ‘misunderstanding,’ with the greatest regret. … If you take Ursula at her word, as I’m inclined to, she was still purposely avoiding the stories that should have been in the book, given its final, because they had appeared before in other places! … Most people I know — yes, in academe, use the volume practically as something to curse by.”.
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