Empire Star by Samuel R. Delany

Empire Star

Empire Star ” is a short but very good story about a kid that is chosen to deliver a message.. to the Empire Star. He doesn’t know what the message is but by the time he complete is journey/training, he will. There are some very cool concepts in the book, not the least is simplex, complex, and multiplex thinking. A concept I’ve been thinking about myself. The insult is noplex thinking. As you read this novella it seems straightforward at first, but soon you realize the characters are..
Jhup, I better not give it away.

I have a paperback of “Empire Star/The Ballad of Beta-2”; after reading both I realize I never read them. I assume I read them when I got the paperback but it must have fallen through the cracks when I was on my first Delany kick. I’ve been re-reading the non-fantasy Delany recently.

114 pages

Amazon Book Preview of “Empire Star

Excerpts from the book

He had:
a waist-length braid of blond hair;
a body that was brown and slim and looked like a cat’s, they said, when he curled up, half asleep in the flicker of the Field Keeper’s fire at New Cycle;
an ocarina;
a pair of black boots and a pair of black gloves with which he could climb walls and across ceilings;
gray eyes too large for his small, feral face;
brass claws On his left hand with which he had killed, to date, three wild kepards that had crept through a break in the power fence during his watch at New Cycle (and in a fight once with Billy James- a friendly scuffle where a blow had suddenly come too fast and too hard and turned it into for real-he had killed the other boy;
but that had been two years ago when he had been sixteen and he didn’t like to think about it);
eighteen years of rough life in the caves of the satellite Rhys attending the underground fields while Rhys swung about the red giant sun Tau Ceti;
a propensity for wandering away from the Home Caves to look at the stars, which had gotten him in trouble at least four times in the past month, and in the past fourteen years had earned him the sobriquet, Comet Jo;
an uncle named Clemence whom he disliked.

And later, when he had lost all but miraculously, the ocarina, he thought about all of these things and what they had meant to him, and how much they defined his youth, and how poorly they had prepared him for manhood.

Before he began to lose, however, he gained: two things, which, along with the ocarina, he kept until the end. One was a devil kitten named Di’k. The other was me. I’m ]ewel.

I have a multiplex consciousness, which means I see things from different points of view. It’s a function of the overtone series in the harmonic pattern of my internal structuring. So I’ll tell a good deal of the story from the point of view called, in literary circles, the omniscient observer.

Crimson Ceti bruised the western crags. Tyne, giant as solar Jupiter, was a black curve across a quarter of the sky, and the white dwarf Eye silvered the eastern rocks. Comet Jo, with hair the hue of wheat, walked behind his two shadows, one long and gray, one squat and rusty. His head was back, and in the rush of wine colored evening he stared at the first stars. In his long fingered right hand with the nails gnawed like any hoy might, he held his ocarina. He should go back, he knew; he should crawl from under the night and into the luminous cocoon of the Home Cave. He should be respectful to his uncle Clemence, he should not get into fights with the other boys on Field Watch; there were so many things he should do.
-page 5,6

“First of all, most of the Geodetic Survey Station was built by Lll. Second of all, as I have said many times before, intelligence and plexity do not necessarily go together.”
“But how was I supposed to know?”
“I suppose it won’t hurt to outline the symptoms. Did they ask you a single question?”
“That’s the first sign, though not conclusive. Did they judge you correctly, as you could tell from their statements about you?”
“No. They thought I was looking for a job.”
“Which implies that they should have asked questions. A multiplex consciousness always asks questions when it has to.” “I remember,” Jo said, putting down the ocarina, “when Charona was trying to explain it to me, she asked me what was the most important thing there was. If I asked them that, I know what they would have said: their blasted dictionary, or encyclopedia, or whatever it is.”
“Very good. Anyone who can give a non-relative answer to that question is simplex.”
“I said jhup,” Jo recalled wistfully.
“They’re in the process of cataloging all the knowledge in the Universe.”
“That’s more important than jhup, I suppose,” Jo said.
“From a complex point of view, perhaps. But from a multiplex view, they’re about the same.”
-page 64,65

“You’ve got to make allowances. When people become as militant as he is, the most multiplex minds get downright linear. But his heart’s in the right place. Actually, he said a great deal to you if you can view it multiplexually.”
-page 86

“The only important elements in any society are the artistic and the criminal, because they alone, by questioning the society’s values, can force it to change.”
-page 92

“It’s more complicated-” the girl began. [San Severina/Charona/Princess of the Empire Star (attended Miss Perrypicker’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies.)]
“Multiplicated,” Lump said. [a Lll named Muels Aurigae who was converted into an AI Lusp and then a Lump.] LUMP=Linguistic Ubiquitous Multi-Plex
-page 102

lacunae [An empty space or a missing part; a gap]
-page 110


  • Comet Jo: Eighteen years old, the product of a simplex culture.
  • Jewel: A tritovian (presumably a non-human life form) who spends most of the story in a passive, crystallized form. Jewel is also the narrator of the tale.
  • Charona: The guardian of the gate to the spaceport, Charona and her pet 3-Dog are quite obviously a mythological reference to Charon and Cerberus. Charona is the first person in Empire Star to tell Jo about the concept of simplex/complex/multiplex. Who is San Severina in her old age
  • San Severina: Owner of seven Lll—far more than any being has ever owned before—who must rebuild eight worlds (along with fifty-two civilizations and thirty-two thousand three hundred and fifty-seven complete and distinct ethical systems) ravaged by war. San Severina is Jo’s first tutor in the ways of galactic society. She helps Jo to move past his simplex upbringing and sets him on the path to becoming a multiplex being.
  • Oscar/The Lump: short for Linguistic Ubiquitous Multiplex, Lump is an artificial lifeform with a Lll-based consciousness and is Comet Jo’s companion for much of the text. Towards the end of the story we learn that the Lll whose consciousness Lump is based on is none other than Muels Aranlyde. (“Muels Aranlyde” is an anagram of “Samuel R. Delany”.) The LUMp said his use of “Oscar” was a literary allusion and since the person he originally claimed to be waiting for was Alfred Douglas, he is alluding to Oscar Wilde, Douglas’s friend and lover.
  • Ni Ty Lee: A young poet who seems to have experienced all that Jo, or anyone else for that matter, has experienced.
  • The Princess: stowaway on a military vessel headed for Empire Star. She is two years younger than Jo when they first meet, but she turns out to be a young San Severina.



About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information: www.effectiveconcepts.net
This entry was posted in Fiction, Science Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s