Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

They Fly at Ciron cover

They Fly at Çiron (1993)

Based on a story first written Samuel R. Delany in 1962, which was reworked and appeared in the June 1971 issue of F&SF as collaboration by Samuel R. Delany and James Sallis

Tor fantasy paperback - 243 pages
cover art by Thomas Canty


Read for group discussion on March 14, 2001
How we each rated this book
Dan 5 Amy 6 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri - Barb 3
Aaron 6 Cynthia 4
Ron - Jackie -

Aaron's Commentary  Samuel R. Delany - They Fly at Ciron

For the most part I enjoyed Delany's writing style in this novel, even if it is at times self-conscious.  (Most of Delany's writing, and indeed most "New Wave" science fiction, strikes me that way. As important as the New Wave movement was to the development of SF, whenever I read even the best New Wave works I constantly sense the author looking over my shoulder as I read, saying, "Look at that!  How 'bout that! Isn't that clever?") I couldn't help wondering, however, if this shouldn't have been left at its original shorter length. There is not that much depth to the characterization, and the story is quite simple.

Still, Delany's ambiguous treatment of the characters and cultures in the book caught my interest.  At first glance, the story pits one powerful and very evil group against two very good groups, but on closer inspection it's not so clear.  Some of the Myetrans, especially Kire, are sympathetic to a degree, even though their rationalizations for their actions are obviously inadequate.  Meanwhile, there is a dark edge to the angelic Winged Ones.  Even the innocent villagers settle into the role of killers rather comfortably. The story raises the question whether killing in self-defense can ultimately be just as harmful as killing out of aggression.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by Samuel R. Delany:
-- Nova   in September 2004

Samuel R. Delany (1942-    ) is a US author and critic.
1967 Nebula Award for Best Novel for Babel-17
1968 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for "Aye, and Gomorrah . . ."
1968 Nebula Award for Best Novel for The Einstein Intersection
1970 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones"
1970 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones"
1989 Hugo Award for Best Non-fiction Book for The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957-65

Samuel R. Delany was the first successful African-American author of science fiction and fantasy, and an important figure in the New Wave movement of SF of the 1960's.

Delany burst onto the SF scene at an early age, completing his ninth novel by the time he was 26. Despite his age, his first novels were recognized as extremely sophisticated in style and themes. The Jewels of Aptor (1962); The Fall of the Towers trilogy, consisting of Captives of the Flame (1963, revised as Out of the Dead City), The Towers of Toron (1964), and City of a Thousand Suns (1965); The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965); and Empire Star (1966) are variations on Delany's favorite premise, a great quest in the far future.

His next three novels were arguably his most important. Babel-17 (1966), winner of the Nebula Award, is Delany's most direct treatment of one of his recurrent themes, language and communication. The Einstein Intersection (1967), also a Nebula winner, in which a far future Orpheus wanders a bizarre transformed Earth, and Nova (1968), in which a Holy Grail quest leads a determined ship captain to the heart of a star about to go nova, both display Delany's love of mythology.

Delany did not publish another SF novel until Dhalgren (1975), an extremely long and dense novel about a young artist who arrives at a decadent city and begins to write an extremely long and dense novel. Debate continues over whether this is Delany's best work or his worst. This was followed closely by Triton (1976, also titled Trouble on Triton). Subtitled "An Ambiguous Heterotopia," this is the most detailed examination of issues of sexuality in a science fiction setting that Delany, who is bisexual, has written.

Delany's only subsequent science fiction novel was Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984). His short SF is collected in Driftglass (1978) and Distant Stars (1981).

Since the late 70's, most of Delany's published fiction has been fantasy. In addition to They Fly at Ciron (1993), Delany wrote a series of books comprising the Neveryon (Nevčr˙on) sequence: Tales of Neveryon (1979), Neveryona (1983), Flight from Neveryon (1985), and The Bridge of Lost Desire (1987, also titled Return to Neveryon). On the surface the Neveryon stories are standard sword and sorcery adventures, but they raise many race, gender, and class issues.

Delany has written various books of a sexually explicit nature. The Tides of Lust (1973, also titled Equinox) and Hogg (1995, but written much earlier), are both pornographic novels featuring scenes of graphic and unpleasant sado-masochism. Mad Man (1994) is a mainstream novel of an academic descending into a world of sexual extremism. On a related note, Delany's recent book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999), bemoans Mayor Giuliani's elimination of the New York City Times Square sex theaters.

Over the course of his career, Delany has increasingly turned his energy away from writing fiction to literary criticism. His works of criticism include The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (1977), The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch - "Angouleme" (1978 - an entire book devoted to analyzing a single Disch short story!), Heavenly Breakfast: An Essay on the Winter of Love (1979), Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (1984), The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957-65 (1988), Wagner/Artaud: A Play of 19th and 20th Century Critical Fiction (1988), The Straits of Messina (1989), Silent Interviews: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction, and Some Comics: A Collection of Written Interviews (1993), Longer Views: Extended Essays (1996), and Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts and the Politics of the Paraliterary (2000). Much of this work seeks to define science fiction's place in literature as a whole, and it is often interspersed with significant autobiographical details. Similarly, Atlantis: Three Tales (1995), is a semi autobiographical account of Delany's artistic influences, some of which are also apparent in 1984: Collected Letters (2000).

Finally, Delany co-edited with his former wife, poet Marilyn Hacker, a series of four anthologies of experimental SF entitled Quark (1970-1971).

Thanks to Aaron for this Delany bibliography

Our book club's page for Nova by Samuel R. Delany
Jay Schuster's Samuel R. Delany Fan Tribute Site
Science Fiction Weekly Interview - Samuel R. Delany (2001)

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