The award is formally known as the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, awarded by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America for ‘lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.’ Samuel Delany was the 2013 winner, and he’s in good company, with former winners including Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. LeGuin, Connie Willis, and Harlan Ellison.
With two Hugo awards and four Nebula awards under his belt, there’s no doubt that Delany has well-earned recognition as a master of science fiction. Still, on winning the award, he humbly paid homage to the masters before him who deserve recognition:
“It recalls to me–with the awareness of mortality age ushers up–the extraordinary writers who did not live to receive it: Roger Zelazny, Joanna Russ, Thomas M. Disch, Octavia E. Butler–as well, from the generation before me, Katherine MacLean, very much alive. I accept the award for them, too: they are the stellar practitioners without whom my own work, dim enough, would have been still dimmer.” (via. SFWA)
If you don’t already know Samuel Delany’s work (and you’re looking for some of the most mind-blowing science fiction out there), you best get started. Here’s where we recommend you start:
Dhalgren – One of his most difficult and most well-known works, Dhalgren follows the adventures of a young poet named Kid as he ventures into the heart of an American city run wild with poverty, criminality, violence, and insanity. As with many of his works, Dhalgren tackles issues of race, gender, class, and social inequality head on. It’s not the most accessible of his works, but the brain work is worth it, and worth the many rereads you’ll want to invest in.
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand – Two words. Space. Dragons. And if that doesn’t do it for you there’s a lot more awesome where that came from… This novel is a trip, like literally a trip… through a space crowded with the wildest of beings, and Delany gets into the grit and details of different cultures, traditions, and tongues, a universe full of peoples of different shapes, sizes, talons, and eating habits all struggling to survive and cope with the inconceivable massiveness and diversity of a universe consisting of thousands upon thousands of populated planets, peoples, and information. Forget world-building, this is universe-building. So if you’d rather wait on the tough stuff like Dhalgren, you can’t go wrong with Star in My Pocket.