Thursday, January 7, 2010


I don't remember how I first met Samuel R. Delany, the science fiction writer known as Chip to his friends.  I think my parents had something to do with it.  I know I proselytized endlessly to them about Chip and other writers of SF's New Wave, which was then at its cusp.  And my parents knew another SF writer, Tom Disch (though again, I have no idea how), so I suspect it was through Tom's auspices that Chip came over for dinner one evening.  From that evening forward for the next three years until I moved to Los Angeles, I did everything I could to be at Chip's side, or in his ear via the phone, as much of the time as possible.  I was 14 years old and as thick as a plank, and it is a testimony to Chip's overflowing generosity of spirit that he tolerated me, because good lord I must have been an annoying little twerp.

For the past few months I've been reading Chip's collection of essays, interviews and letters, On Writing -- slowly, slowly, to prolong the experience as much as possible  -- as of course it's had me thinking about those three years, during which Chip and I...

Shot a movie.

Saw a revival of Busby Berkeley's "The Gang's All Here."

Attended a couple of Clarion Workshops.

Saw Terry Riley perform "A Rainbow in Curved Air" live.

Saw Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" one-and-a-half times.  (We came in late and saw the last 40 minutes -- the nerve-wracking siege of the farmhouse; as the lights came up we were both clutching the arms of our seats, and Chip said, "Gee, I hope the first part of the movie is as good!")

Spent a lot of time talking.

(I also think I dragged him to see the musical "Follies," then in its original Broadway run, but that could be a trick of memory -- I know I wanted him to see it.) 

From 1969 to 1972 I felt as though any day that did not have some form of interaction with Chip was a day wasted.  When asked if I had a mentor, I always point to Chip. He is a great teacher and I learned more about writing from him than any other human being; but I think it was really his friendship and his far-ranging interests, that affected me so deeply at a time in my life when I was absorbing influences like a sponge.  Whatever lack of shallowness I can lay claim to, I owe to Chip.  Reading "On Writing" 37 years after those experiences, it amazes me how much there still is to learn from him.


  1. By chance was the character "Chip" on Transformers an homage to your friend?

  2. Nah, I didn't name Chip. Did I even USE him in any of my episodes??