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  • lgracewebb

Worldmaking and Encounter, Part 2

[Part 2 of a 3-part series breaking down my Master's thesis into something more digestible. Read Part 1 here!]



“Where those alien eyes that we had loaned now looked, we interrogated everything.”


-Samuel Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand





Samuel Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand portrays an otherworldly figure, the only survivor of the mysterious destruction of a planet, body scarred and fitted with prosthetic limbs and eyes. Marked by the violence he has experienced and the knowledge that this violence is intrinsic to the society he lives in, he carries with him both a refusal of these terms of a world and the potential for a different one. Everyone who encounters him senses this strangeness, and by following his gaze they begin to question the world they had taken for granted, to see it through his disorienting view.


What does it mean to be a figure who exists in another world? A figure who holds another world, or at least the belief that another world is possible, around them like a bubble?


Otherworldly figures embody a relationship of refusal of the world they were given. They have a deep understanding that these worlds are upheld by violence, oppression, and exclusion- upheld by only granting some beings full “humanity” and partially or fully deadening the rest of the world, reducing people to slaves, silencing the land, emptying space.


Refusing the terms of the world around them means refusing to be understood by this world-refusing to appeal to its logic, to its rules, to attempting to be seen as a reasonable and rational subject deserving of rights.


Because these figures are acting according to their own code, their actions may appear mad and illogical to the rest of the world. Refusing to play by the rules of consensus reality is dangerous- it means letting go of the safety and privileges that come with being understood.


Worlds are tied up in orientation, in time and space. To be in another world is to be disoriented. To have lost a sense of time, space, to be out of sync, out of touch from temporal and spatial conventions. It means working on your own timeline, moving through the world according to your own sense of direction.


Seasonal timing, planetary timing, queer timing. Listening to voices others can’t hear. Moving in a disabled body’s rhythm. Working with a traumatized body’s relationship to the past and orientation towards the future.


Delany’s character is yanked across galaxies and out of worlds, but maintains his own internal sense of time and geography. And while this disorientation is born from violence, it is also a gift that carries with it a different way of seeing, full of the potential for world destruction and world creation.




Works mentioned:


Delany, Samuel R. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Bantam: New York, 1984.

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