SAMUEL R. DELANY (1942- ) is an author, critic, and professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts. In the white heterosexual male-dominated world of genre SF, Delany stands out by virtue of being black and openly bisexual. He is best known for his massive (and massively popular), experimentally written space operas, notably Babel-17 (1966), Nova (1968), Dhalgren (1975), Triton (1976), and Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984), highly ambitious works in which a diverse group of individuals and intergalactic cultures clash along lines of language, economics, ethics, social structure, theology, psychology, and sexual orientation. His critical essays, many of which are collected in THE JEWEL-HINGED JAW (1977), are deeply concerned with what Delany calls the Language of Science Fiction -- "What are 'Bradbury,' 'Sturgeon,' 'Cordwainer Smith,' 'R. A. Lafferty,' 'Heinlein,' and 'Jack Vance' if not, essentially, the individual narrative tones with which their ideas are put?" Delany believes that SF, like poetry, is something that we must learn how to read. To that end, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw contains close, insightful textual analyses of writers such as Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Roger Zelazny, et al.
Richard M. Powers' cover painting for The Jewel-Hinged Jaw is one of his finest Surrealist landscapes, clearly inspired by the work of Yves Tanguy, but unmistakably a painting by Powers. Quiet prevails, a cool blue silence. It is though we are seeing for the first time Plato's world of forms in which Man has been reduced to his essence, an Eye (perception) and a Jaw (communication/speech). Unfortunately, this is the sole book of Delany's to have been graced with a cover by Powers.