This weekend I got to attend a few Frameline films. Friday night's treat was *The Polymath*, a film about Samuel R. Delany.
Delany has long, long been one of my favorite writers, science fiction and autobiography and an essay or six (I am still uneasy after reading an essay about the lack of science behind so many AIDS proclamations and procedures). He's inspired me, given me hope, and left me utterly in the dark. There are works I need to reread, having acquired enough experience in the world now that I hope I would 'get' them better. But lest ye wonder why, then: back when I was in my late teens I discovered his early/mid works, and in them was treasure. What I would call now a 'queer sensability' filled them (though that phrase wasn't aroudn yet). I found characters without gender, characters with body modifications (though I didn't know that phrase either! at least it existed) of the highest tech sort, gay sex... all food for an alone queer person.
Just a couple weeks ago I acquired a copy of *Phallos*, a graphic-novel sized (and styled, with art! yea!) novel, the first new Delany I've read in a time. It's like an orgasm of Delany tropes. Yet more than that... it is the pay-off of years and sentences and novels of bitten fingernails and here-and-gone-again objects. Poetry and sex converge in as hot and impossible and nasty a Delany way as ever (and this is a book about a book, which is itself fiction...). In this book, Delany reveals the core of so many of his works, his philosophy; the missing piece. Literally (in a couple sense of the word).
So, there I am, reading *Phallos* almost as slowly as I can stand, so it won't end, a basic reader's trick, and along comes a new lover who I tell about this writer, who attends this film festival yearly, and he looks at the catalog, and my ghod there is a film about that guy Lance was talking about (to synopsize that story), and off we went to the hot, hot movie theater (San Francisco holds up not well in the occasional heat wave).
Treasure, treasure. The director was there and spoke afterwards; so much that didn't make it into the film. My own observation was a wish for some quotes that were about the *people* (aka characters) in Delany's works (particularly I'd've like a science-fiction character or two; after all that's where the vast majority of his readers found him); it's the living beings inhabiting these artisicially described, often ugly worlds, that are the connect-to-able for the readers. And I can understand a director's artistic choice is his choise. Still. It was also a bit long in the middle, as films often seem; I don't doubt the oppressive theater 'helped' there as well.
The film kinda goes backwards in time, with quotes and bits of lectures and photos. I began to remember who I was when I found his work, how I worked so hard to find his books and to get as much as I could out of them. And then how I got more info through living, and continued looking for his works, and they got harder to grok at times. But always I could mine a nugget or six, and wanted the rest...
It was interesting to see a kind of parallel existence; who he was as a writer, trying to put his experience into his works, a positive gay and literary man, and then me, a youth trying to find, understand, express my own queer, kinky self. I am so greatful for Chip's works (and speaking of: I remember reading *Locus* at the time, and working out eventually that Chip WAS Samuel!), and now for this film. I think the film would be of interest to anyone into Delany himself, great writers, black writers, gay writers, gay experience.