Babel-17 and Empire Star

Samuel R. Delany


Language is a tool so powerful that in the wrong hands it can be used as a weapon. All the more reason to be prepared for the unexpected…if you can read between the lines.
       For their part, the Alliance has taken every precaution to do just that, commissioning poet and language expert Rydra Wong to decipher what they believe to be coded transmissions sent between enemy Invaders. Cracking them may yield the locations of imminent attacks, enabling the Alliance to foil their efforts before they occur.
       However, Rydra discovers that the code — dubbed Babel-17 — is in fact a language, one so compact that it has her spooked. With her ticket punched and team recruited, she heads to the War Yards at Armsedge, the purported setting of the next attack. Here she hopes to “…find out who, or what, in the Universe thinks that way.”
       But her plan soon unravels when she realizes a traitor is in their midst, one step ahead and ready to spin their ship and operation out of control. What she doesn’t realize: she and her crew have taken the adage, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, more literally than was ever necessary.
       Born out of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Babel-17 is Delany’s love letter to language, exploring the idea that each language has its own unique influence on the perceptions of its speakers. Thus, we live a lifetime at the mercy of our own communication, always struggling to understand others whose culture is as foreign to us as their language.
       But it’s also a precursor to and mash-up of Arrival and A Scanner Darkly in the most grand and dramatic sense. Where you can let your imagination run wild along with that of Delany. Though, don’t forget the words of the Baroness Ver Dorco: “Imagination should be used for something other than pondering murder, don’t you think?”

Empire Star
Comet Jo is a brass-clawed eighteen-year-old from the satellite Rhys who is as deadly with his claws as he is with his ocarina. But he’s a naive simpleton who’s perfectly satisfied with maintaining the status quo. Intergalactic space travel is not a feature on his résumé.
       That is, until he stumbles upon a wrecked spaceship where a dying crew member emerges. With his last breath he urges Jo to deliver a message to the planet Empire Star. The message: unknown and entombed in a crystallized Tritovian stone named Jewel — the very same perceptive and multiplexed Jewel who narrates Jo’s story.
       Thinking this episode holds special significance in his life, Jo obliges, hitching rides from one planet to the next on his way to Empire Star. He comes of age during the process, maturing in his speech and understanding of the world, opening his mind to the possibilities that only a learned being could recognize. Then he sees that his purpose is much more integral than just that of a measly message carrier.
       And like the cyclical nature of the story, once you reach the end, you’ll find yourself at the start. And then you’ll only have one place to visit to begin again.

Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942) is an American author, professor and literary critic. His work includes fiction (especially science fiction), memoir, criticism, and essays on sexuality and society. His science fiction novels include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection (both Nebula award winners), Nova, and Dhalgren. After winning four Nebula awards and two Hugo awards over the course of his career, Delany was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002. From January 2001 until his retirement in May 2015, he was a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia.

edition information

  • Introduction by Lonely Christopher.
  • Artwork by Vikki Zhang.
  • Limited to 300 signed and numbered copies and 175 unsigned copies.
  • Signed by Samuel R. Delany, Lonely Christopher, and Vikki Zhang.
  • Clothbound with top-edge stain and two-color stamping.
  • Fully cloth bound, dustjacket, printed endpapers, ribbon markers, head and tail bands.
  • Cloth slipcase with stamping on the spine.
  • Original book price: $225.
  • Book size 6¼ × 9¾ inches.
  • Number of pages: 384.
  • Published October 2022.
  • ISBN 978-1-61347-297-2.