The Einstein Intersection / Edition 1 available in Paperback
The Einstein Intersection won the Nebula Award for best science fiction novel of 1967. The surface story tells of the problems a member of an alien race, Lo Lobey, has assimilating the mythology of earth, where his kind have settled among the leftover artifacts of humanity. The deeper tale concerns, however, the way those who are "different" must deal with the dominant cultural ideology. The tale follows Lobey's mythic quest for his lost love, Friza. In luminous and hallucinated language, it explores what new myths might emerge from the detritus of the human world as those who are "different" try to seize history and the day.
|Publisher:||Wesleyan University Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.38(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
SAMUEL R. DELANY many prizes include the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime's contribution to gay and lesbian literature. Wesleyan has published both his fiction and nonfiction, including Atlantis: three tales (1995), Silent Interviews: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction, and Some Comics (1994), Longer Views: Extended Essays (1996), and Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts & the Politics of the Paraliterary. The press has also reissued his classic science fiction and fantasy novels Dhalgren (1996), Trouble on Triton (1996, originally published as Triton), and the four-volume Return to Nevèrÿon series. Delany's non-Wesleyan books include Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999), The Mad Man (1995), They Fly at Çiron (1993), and The Motion of Light in Water (1987). NEIL GAIMAN is author of the Sandman comics and of the fantasy novel Neverwhere (1997).
Read an Excerpt
The Einstein Intersection
It darkles, (tinct, tint) all this our funanimal world.
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
I do not say, however, that every delusion or wandering of the mind should be called madness.
Erasmus of Rotterdam, The Praise of Folly
There is a hollow, holey cylinder running from hilt to point in my machete. When I blow across the mouthpiece in the handle, I make music with my blade. When all the holes are covered, the sound is sad — as rough as rough can be and be called smooth. When all the holes are open, the sound pipes about, bringing to the eye flakes of sun on water, crushed metal. There are twenty holes. And since I've been playing music I've been called all different kinds of fool — more times than Lobey, which is my name.
What I look like?
Ugly and grinning most of the time. That's a whole lot of big nose and gray eyes and wide mouth crammed on a small brown face proper for a fox. That, all scratched around with spun brass for hair. I hack most of it off every two months or so with my machete. Grows back fast. Which is odd, because I'm twenty-three and no beard yet. I have a figure like a bowling pin, thighs, calves, and feet of a man (gorilla?) twice my size (which is about five-nine) and hips to match. There was a rash of hermaphrodites the year I was born, which doctors thought I might be. Somehow I doubt it.
Like I say, ugly. My feet have toes almost as long as my fingers, and the big ones are semi-opposable. But don't knock it: once I saved Little Jon's life.
We were climbing the Beryl Face, slipping around on all that glassy rock, when Little Jon lost his footing and was dangling by one hand. I was hanging by my hands, but I stuck my foot down, grabbed him up by the wrist, and pulled him back where he could step on something.
At this point Lo Hawk folds his arms over his leather shirt, nods sagely so that his beard bobs on his ropy neck, says: "And just what were you two young Lo men doing on Beryl Face in the first place? It's dangerous, and we avoid danger, you know. The birthrate is going down, down all the time. We can't afford to lose our productive youth in foolishness." Of course it isn't going down. That's just Lo Hawk. What he means is that the number of total norms is going down. But there's plenty of births. Lo Hawk is from the generation where the number of non-functionals, idiots, mongoloids, and cretins was well over fifty percent. (We hadn't adjusted to your images yet. Ah, well.) But now there are noticeably more functionals than non-functionals; so no great concern.
Anyway, not only do I bite my fingernails disgracefully, I also bite my toenails.
And at this point I recall sitting at the entrance of the source-cave where the stream comes from the darkness and makes a sickle of light into the trees, and a blood spider big as my fist suns himself on the rock beside me, belly pulsing out from the sides of him, leaves flicking each other above. Then La Carol walks by with a sling of fruit over her shoulder and the kid under her arm (we had an argument once whether it was mine or not. One day it had my eyes, my nose, my ears. The next, "Can't you see it's Lo Easy's boy? Look how strong he is!" Then we both fell in love with other people and now we're friends again) and she makes a face and says, "Lo Lobey, what are you doing?"
"Biting my toenails. What does it look like?"
"Oh, really!" and she shakes her head and goes into the woods towards the village.
But right now I prefer to sit on the flat rock, sleep, think, gnaw, or sharpen my machete. It's my privilege, so La Dire tells me.
Until a little while ago, Lo Little Jon, Lo Easy, and Lo me herded goats together (which is what we were doing on the Beryl Face: looking for pasture). We made quite a trio. Little Jon, though a year older than me, will till death look like a small black fourteen-year-old with skin smooth as volcanic glass. He sweats through his palms, the soles of his feet, and his tongue. (No real sweat glands: piddles like a diabetic on the first day of winter, or a very nervous dog.) He's got silver mesh for hair — not white, silver. The pigment's based on the metal pure; the black skin comes from a protein formed around the oxide. None of that rusty iron brown of melanin that suntans you and me. He sings, being a little simple, running and jumping around the rocks and goats, flashing from head and groin and armpits, then stops to cock his leg (like a nervous dog, yeah) against a tree-trunk, glancing around with embarrassed black eyes. Smiling, those eyes fling as much light, on a different frequency, as his glittering head. He's got claws — hard, sharp horny ones, where I have nubs. He's not a good Lo to have mad at you.
Easy, on the other hand, is large (about eight feet tall), furry (umber hair curls all down the small of his back, makes ringlets on his belly), strong (that three hundred and twenty-six pounds of Easy is really a lot of rock jammed jagged into his pelt: his muscles have corners), and gentle. Once I got angry at him when one of the fertile nannies fell down a rock chimney.
I saw it coming. The ewe was the big blind one who had been giving us perfect norm triplets for eight years. I stood on one foot and threw rocks and sticks with the other three limbs. It takes a rock on the head to get Easy's attention; he was much closer than I was.
"Watch it, you non-functional, lost-Lo mongoloid! She's gonna fall in the —" At which point she did.
Easy stopped looking at me with his what-are-you-throwing-stones-at-me-for? face, saw her scrabbling at the edge, dove for her, missed, and both of them started bleating. I put my all behind the rock that caught him on the hip and almost cried. Easy did.
He crouched at the chimney edge, tears wetting the fur on his cheeks. The ewe had broken her neck at the chimney's bottom. Easy looked up and said, "Don't hurt me no more, Lobey. That" — he knuckled his blue eyes, then pointed down — "hurts too much already." What can you do with a Lo like that? Easy has claws too. All he ever uses them for is to climb the titan palms and tear down mangoes for the children.
Generally we did a good job with the goats, though. Once Little Jon leaped from the branch of an oak to the back of a lion and tore out its throat before it got to the herd (and rose from the carcass, shook himself, and went behind a rock, glancing over his shoulder). And as gentle as he is, Easy crushed a blackbear's head with a log. And I got my machete, all ambidextrous, left footed, right handed, or vice versa. Yeah, we did a good job.
Not no more.
What happened was Friza.
"Friza" or "La Friza" was always a point of debate with the older folk-doctors and the elders who have to pass on titles. She looked normal: slim, brown, full mouth, wide nose, brass-colored eyes. I think she may have been born with six fingers on one hand, but the odd one was non-functional, so a travelling doctor amputated it. Her hair was tight, springy, and black. She kept it short, though once she found some red cord and wove it through. That day she wore bracelets and copper beads, strings and strings. She was beautiful.
And silent. When she was a baby, she was put in the kage with the other non-functionals because she didn't move. No La. Then a keeper discovered she didn't move because she already knew how; she was agile as a squirrel's shadow. She was taken out of the kage. Got back her La. But she never spoke. So at age eight, when it was obvious that the beautiful orphan was mute, away went her La. They couldn't very well put her back in the kage. Functional she was, making baskets, plowing, an expert huntress with the bolas. That's when there was all the debate.
Lo Hawk upheld: "In my day, La and Lo were reserved for total norms. We've been very lax, giving this title of purity to any functional who happens to have the misfortune to be born in these confusing times."
To which La Dire replied: "Times change, and it has been an unspoken precedent for thirty years that La and Lo be bestowed on any functional creature born in this our new home. The question is merely how far to extend the definition of functionality. Is the ability to communicate verbally its sine qua non? She is intelligent and she learns quickly and thoroughly. I move for La Friza."
The girl sat and played with white pebbles by the fire while they discussed her social standing.
"The beginning of the end, the beginning of the end," muttered Lo Hawk. "We must preserve something."
"The end of the beginning," sighed La Dire. "Everything must change." Which had been their standing exchange as long as I remember.
Once, before I was born, so goes the story, Lo Hawk grew disgruntled with village life and left. Rumors came back: he'd gone to a moon of Jupiter to dig out some metal that wormed in blue veins through the rock. Later: he'd left the Jovian satellite to sail a steaming sea on some world where three suns cast his shadows on the doffing deck of a ship bigger than our whole village. Still later: he was reported chopping away through a substance that melted to poisonous fumes someplace so far there were no stars at all during the year-long nights. When he had been away seven years, La Dire apparently decided it was time he came back. She left the village and returned a week later — with Lo Hawk. They say he hadn't changed much, so nobody asked him about where he'd been. But from his return dated the quiet argument that joined La Dire and Lo Hawk faster than love.
"... must preserve," Lo Hawk.
"... must change," La Dire.
Usually Lo Hawk gave in, for La Dire was a woman of wide reading, great culture, and wit; Lo Hawk had been a fine hunter in his youth and a fine warrior when there was need. And he was wise enough to admit in action, if not words, that such need had gone. But this time Lo Hawk was adamant:
"Communication is vital, if we are ever to become human beings. I would sooner allow some short-faced dog who comes from the hills and can approximate forty of fifty of our words to make known his wishes, than a mute child. Oh, the battles my youth has seen! When we fought off the giant spiders, or when the wave of fungus swept from the jungle, or when we destroyed with lime and salt the twenty-foot slugs that pushed up from the ground, we won these battles because we could speak to one another, shout instructions, bellow a warning, whisper plans in the twilit darkness of the source-caves. Yes, I would sooner give La or Lo to a talking dog!"
Somebody made a nasty comment: "Well, you couldn't very well give her a Le!" People snickered. But the older folk are very good at ignoring that sort of irreverence. Everybody ignores a Le anyway. Anyway, the business never did get settled. Towards moondown people wandered off, when somebody suggested adjournment. Everyone creaked and groaned to his feet. Friza, dark and beautiful, was still playing with the pebbles.
Friza didn't move when a baby because she knew how already. Watching her in the flicker (I was only eight myself) I got the first hint why she didn't talk: she picked up one of the pebbles and hurled it, viciously, at the head of the guy who'd made the remark about "Le." Even at eight she was sensitive. She missed, and I alone saw. But I saw too the snarl that twisted her face, the effort in her shoulders, the way her toes curled — she was sitting crosslegged — as she threw it. Both fists were knotted in her lap. You see, she didn't use her hands or feet. The pebble just rose from the dirt, shot through the air, missed its target, and chattered away through low leaves. But I saw: she threw it.
Each night for a week I have lingered on the wild flags of the waterfront, palaces crowding to the left, brittle light crackling over the harbor in the warm autumn. TEI goes strangely. Tonight when I turned back into the great trapezoid of the Piazza, fog hid the tops of the red flagpoles. I sat on the base of one nearest the tower and made notes on Lobey's hungers. Later I left the decaying gold and indigo of the Basilica and wandered through the back alleys of the city till well after midnight. Once I stopped on a bridge to watch the small canal drift through the close walls beneath the night-lamps and clotheslines. At a sudden shrieking I whirled: half a dozen wailing cats hurled themselves about my feet and fled after a brown rat. Chills snarled the nerves along my vertebrae. I looked back at the water: six flowers — roses — floated from beneath the bridge, crawling over the oil. I watched them till a motorboat puttering on some larger waterway nearby sent water slapping the foundations. I made my way over the small bridges to the Grand Canal and caught the Vaporetto back to Ferovia. It turned windy as we floated beneath the black wood arch of the Ponte Academia; I was trying to assimilate the flowers, the vicious animals, with Lobey's adventure — each applies, but as yet I don't quite know how. Orion straddled the water. Lights from the shore shook in the canal as we passed beneath the dripping stones of the Rialto.
Writer's Journal, Venice, October 1965
In a few lines I shall establish how Maldoror was virtuous during his first years, virtuous and happy. Later he became aware he was born evil. Strange fatality!
Isidore Ducasse (Comte de Lautreamont),
The Songs of Maldoror
All prologue to why Lo Easy, Lo Little John, and Lo me don't herd goats no more.
Friza started tagging along, dark and ambiguous, running and jumping with Little Jon in a double dance to his single song and my music, play-wrestling with Easy, and walking with me up the brambly meadow holding my hand — whoever heard of La-ing or Lo-ing somebody you're herding goats with, or laughing with, or making love with. All of which I did with Friza. She would turn on a rock to stare at me with leaves shaking beside her face. Or come tearing towards me through the stones; between her graceful gait and her shadow in the rocks all suspended and real motion was. And was released when she was in my arms laughing — the one sound she did make, loving it in her mouth.
She brought me beautiful things. And kept the dangerous away. I think she did it the same way she threw the pebble. One day I noticed that ugly and harmful things just weren't happening: no lions, no condor bats. The goats stayed together; the kids didn't get lost and kept from cliffs.
"Little Jon, you don't have to come up this morning."
"Well, Lobey, if you don't think —"
"Go on, stay home."
So Easy, Friza, and me went out with the goats.
The beautiful things were like the flock of albino hawks that moved to the meadow. Or the mother woodchuck who brought her babies for us to see.
"Easy, there isn't enough work for all of us here. Why don't you find something else to do?"
"But I like coming up here, Lobey."
"Friza and me can take care of the herd."
"But I don't mi —"
"Get lost, Easy."
He said something else and I picked up a stone in my foot and hefted it. He looked confused, then lumbered away. Imagine, coming on like that with Easy.
Friza and I had the field and the herd to ourselves alone. It stayed good and beautiful with unremembered flowers beyond rises when we ran. If there were poisonous snakes, they turned off in lengths of scarlet, never coiling. And, ah! did I make music.
Something killed her.
She was hiding under a grove of lazy willows, the trees that droop lower than weeping, and I was searching and calling and grinning — she shrieked. That's the only sound I ever heard her make other than laughter. The goats began to bleat.
I found her under the tree, face in the dirt.
As the goats bleated, the meadow went to pieces on their rasping noise. I was silent, confused, amazed by my despair.
I carried her back to the village. I remember La Dire's face as I walked into the village square with the limber body in my arms.
"Lobey, what in the world ... How did she ... Oh, no! Lobey, no!"
So Easy and Little Jon took the herd again. I went and sat at the entrance to the source-cave, sharpened my blade, gnawed my nails, slept and thought alone on the flat rock. Which is where we began.
Once Easy came to talk to me.
"Hey, Lobey, help us with the goats. The lions are back. Not a lot of them, but we could still use you." He squatted, still towering me by a foot, shook his head. "Poor Lobey." He ran his hairy fingers over my neck. "We need you. You need us. Help us hunt for the two missing kids?"
"Poor Lobey." But he went.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Einstein Intersection"
Copyright © 1967 Samuel R. Delany.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For the most part the story seems to hint an at intriguing premise of post-apocalyptic Earth being inhabited by someone trying to become humans. But almost 10 pages before the end, it feels like this concept was more than the author could handle and he just gave up. Overall, not a book I would recommend, except for those who love to say "huh??" at the end of books.
This is the only book by Delany that I've ever cared for & I love it. He blends SF & mythology, a post-apocalyptic world filled with wonders & monsters. Our hero journeys through this world, discovering more about it, himself & the human race. He shows mankind's greatest failures & achievements through the eyes of something else. A very interesting read & re-read.I read it again & although the words are very familiar after all these years, still they move me in different ways & make me think of different things. Certainly a classic.
The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delaney is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel about a man's quest to avenge the death of his lover, to bring her back from the dead Orpheus-style, and to kill the man who has caused several deaths in his village. The book rates two out of five stars. If I hadn't read it for a book club, I wouldn't have finished it. The book had a slow start, picked up toward the first quarter, then fell flat on its face by the half-way mark and never really got off the floor after that. The biggest thing that killed the book for me was the reactionary nature of the hero, Lo Lobey. He's an empathetic character draw heavily on the Orpheus myth. As he sets off on his hero's journey, however, he reaches a point where he is only reacting to those around him, and therefore he never really takes charge or seems to pursue anything. He becomes content to just let the antagonist Kid Death come to him. This makes for some pretty boring reading. A character in waiting makes for a reader in waiting. I hate waiting. The other thing that really bogged this novel down was a self-awareness on the part of the author. It was difficult to lose myself in the story because the author was always near-by and reminding me of his presence. He did this blatantly by inserting epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, many of which were excerpts from what I assume is his own personal journal. Also, the tone of the story was a double-edged sword, in that its unique voice made it stand out from other novels I've read, yet that same voice also caused me to spend more time paying attention to the author's use of language, which meant less time paying attention to the story. The creative use of language was interesting, however. Delaney has a beautiful way with metaphor. On top of that, the narrative voice was strong and consistent. The style was unique to that novel, and few readers would confuse a page from The Einstein Intersection with a page from any other novel. The metaphor and unique tone combine in an intriguing setting that inhabits a world of mutants on an Earth abandoned by humans. Despite the likability of Lobey and the mystery of what he and the other characters are if all the humans are gone, in the end, this novel offered no compelling reason to finish it. Beyond that, for the trouble of finishing it, the ending offered no reward for having made it through all 123 pages.
This tale is about Lo Lobey a sherpherd in his small village. Lo Lobey and his fellow villagers are an alien species that have chosen to make Earth their home after humans have abandoned it many years ago. Due to radiation and fickle genes, this species has trouble reproducing functional children. Those that are deemed functional receive the title Lo (for men), La (for women), and Le (for the androgynous). Those that are non-functional do not receive a title. Lo Lobey falls in love with Friza, a villager with no title. Soon after, Friza is killed by Kid Death. The village elders feel Lo Lobey is the chosen one to go after Kid Death and bring Friza back. This is a hard book to review. This is one of those books that you know that you need to read at least twice (if not more) to truly understand everything that is happening in this book. This book is less than 150 pages, so you can read this book in one sitting, and then read it again if you want. :) I should mention that I started this book, and I had to put it down for a week or so before picking it up again. I feel like I would have a better grasp of how I feel about this book, if I had read it in one sitting. This is a beautiful book to read. It is like reading a mythological dream written in the form of a poem. The book is not written in verse, but you feel like you just float along as you read it. This feeling is definitely helped along by the fact that Lo Lobey is on a hero's journey and he, like the Greek hero Orpheus, is going to the underworld to rescue his love (Friza for Lo Lobey and Eurydice for Orpheus). I wish that I was a bit more up-to-date on my Greek mythology to make more connections. Besides the song-like quality of the text, I really liked the messages in this book. In particular, a major focus of this book is on difference. Early on in the book, the villagers have a long conversation about whether Friza should be given the title of La. Friza doesn't speak, but she is smart and has special powers like being able to keep dangerous creatures away. Some villagers argue for La because she understands others, but others vote against it because she does not speak. Overall, I enjoyed this short book. It was thought-provoking but comfortable (i.e., the mythology context of the story made the story feel relate-able). I have read a few reviews of this book, and most of them note that the book feels like it is going over the heads of its readers; however, it is not done in a condescending way. When you read this book, you just get the feeling that you need to reread it, because there is so much in it and you can't absorb all of it. Delany won the Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo for this book. If you were considering trying Delany but were not ready to jump into Nova or Dhalgren (his more popular books), this is a great starting point.
1) When I see a movie for the first time, I don't watch it with the commentary track turned on. So while having brief autobiographical segments pop up to explain what you were doing around the time when you were writing something may be interesting to some, it can also take people out of the world your building. 2) I'm not saying one shouldn't use pop culture references. I will say that if one does so, they should be prepared for their novel set when all of humanity is nothing more than myth and legend to feel oddly dated. I would suggest though that if you're mixing your pop culture in with ancient myths to suggest how pop culture will become myth one day, that perhaps when you want to suggest what type of person a character is, you use the reference that has a couple hundred years of traction behind it. People may understand those a little easier. 3) I am not a fan of any work that makes me wonder how many illegal substances an author was on when they wrote it. I am less so a fan of any work where I wonder how much of the author's stash was shared with the committee that gave the work an award.
Very interesting reading this one last. It really foreshadowed the rest. BTW: when I said all of his work, I don't include the Neveryon series.