My life in outer space

The Einstein Intersection – Samuel R Delany (1967)

The Einstein Intersection

Delany wrote at least some of this in his early twenties in Greece, which is evinced by the fact that some of the chapters are prefaced by excerpts from his diaries of the time, in which he records his interactions with the locals and his thoughts about his writing. He details how random events influenced the narrative, such as a young red-headed boy running across his path; something which gave him the idea of changing the colour of Kid Death’s hair to red.
It appears to be a kind of personal exorcism for Delany who was writing out the influences and obsessions of his early life, one of them being Billy the Kid.
The events of the novel are set so far in the future that the sun has captured two extra planets that now orbit between the Earth and the Sun.
This is a world recovering from a nuclear war and, in Dickian fashion, ‘different’ people abound. In Lo Lobey’s village (‘Lo’ being a title for ‘functional’ people) there are many ‘different’ people. The severely non-functional are kept in ‘kages’ and looked after until they either die or – in some cases – prove their functionality.
The people have many myths of the past, such as the story of Orpheus and, amusingly, that of The Beatles. As La Dire tells Lobey:-

‘Let’s talk about mythology, Lobey. Or let’s you listen. We’ve had quite a time assuming the rationale of the world. The irrationale presents just as much of a problem. You remember the legend of the Beatles? You remember the Beatle Ringo left his love even though she treated him tender. He was the one Beatle who did not sing, so the earliest forms of the legend go. After a hard day’s night he and the rest of the Beatles were torn apart by screaming girls, and he and the other Beatles returned, finally at one, with the great rock and the great roll.’

La Dire, who looks after the kaged non-functional children, goes on to tell Lobey that the legend of Ringo is a version of an earlier legend, that of Orpheus.
Lobey, who has a hollow scimitar the doubles as a flute, falls in love with a telekinetic mute called Friza, who also has power over animals.
When she is killed, Lobey vows to avenge her and finds himself reliving the legend of Orpheus.
It’s a beautiful poetic piece of work in some ways typical of its time. There are echoes of Philip K Dick and the romanticism of some of the work of Roger Zelazny, Ray Bradbury and others. Certainly it is typical of the Romanticism of the time. Despite its reliance on human myths and concepts, the central premise is that these descendants of humanity are no longer human and consequently will develop new rules and societies more suitable for them.
One custom that has been adopted within society is that of the mixing of the genes, and so having sex with strangers in this time appears to be beneficial to society.
Lobey, then receives instruction from La Dire (who appears to be somewhat prophetic) that he must go on a journey to kill that which killed Friza.
First he must kill a minotaur-like mutation, which leads him into an underground computer complex.
Kid Death is the counterpart of Hades and has the power to bring Friza back to life if necessary. Lobey must however travel to Kid Death’s own domain in order to confront him.
Along the way he meets various other characters and joins a group of dragon-herders who are travelling to Branning-at-Sea.
Delany is seldom an easy read, since there are often levels to his work that are missed on a first reading. With this, however, one can enjoy it for what it superficially is, which is an epic quest tale with the Campbell structure.

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