Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders

Last updated
Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
First edition
Author Samuel R. Delany
Cover artistLinda Kosarin
CountryUnited States
PublisherMagnus Books
Publication date
April 17, 2012
ISBN 978-1-9368-3314-6

Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders is a novel by Samuel R. Delany.


Publishing history

An excerpt from a draft of the novel was published as "In the Valley of the Nest of Spiders" in issue 7 of Black Clock magazine. [1]

A set of typographical corrections for the published novel has already been released. [2]

Plot summary

The novel begins in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 6, 2007, where we meet Eric Jeffers some six days before his seventeenth birthday. Eric is living with his adoptive father, Mike. The story follows Eric as he goes to live with his mother, Barbara, in the fictive "Runcible County" on the Georgia coast. There, living in the town of "Diamond Harbor", Eric learns that a black, gay philanthropist has established a utopian community for black gay men in a neighborhood called the Dump. Eric takes a job with the local garbage man, Dynamite Haskell, and his nineteen-year-old son and helper, Morgan Haskell. Eric and Morgan become life partners, and the novel follows them—through job changes (from garbage men, to managing a pornographic theater, to handymen), changes of friends, and changes of address (from a cabin in the Dump, to an apartment over the movie theater, to another cabin out on Gilead, a nearby island)—into the twilight of their years. [3] Though it does move many decades into the future and off-handedly mentions fictional future events and technologies, much of the novel does not feel like far future science fiction. It ends somewhere between 2070 and '80.


The title of the novel suggests Italo Calvino's similarly titled novel The Path to the Nest of Spiders .

Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders can also be viewed as a companion piece to Dark Reflections , Delany's immediately previous novel. But where Dark Reflections centers on themes of loneliness, sexual repression, fear, and the difficult life of the artist, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, in sharp contrast, celebrates companionship, love, sexual openness, and freedom. Toward the end of Dark Reflections, we learn that in his youth, Arnold Hawley, the novel's protagonist, ran away in fear from a situation that would likely have changed the course of his life. Early in Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, Eric is told a story by Bill Bottom, a neighbor of his. Bill, like Arnold, ran away from a situation that had the potential for great happiness. He concludes by asking Eric to promise that when he is presented with his own choice—and, Bill insists, that moment will come—to choose happiness, no matter how afraid he might be to take that path. The major themes of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders are love, relationships, and the consequences—both good and bad—of taking that chance and making the choice to go after what makes you happy.

Beginning relatively early in Eric's life (while he is still seventeen in the story), he repeatedly expresses a desire to do good things for other people. This is a thematic element that spans the novel.

There is also a very strong tie to Baruch Spinoza. He is mentioned early in the novel, and in the latter half, Eric is given a copy of Ethica by a cross-dressing one-time theology student, Mama Grace. Eric agrees to read Ethica three times. It shapes and reflects his actions and attitudes.

Like The Mad Man , Hogg , and Equinox , Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders has number of highly sexually explicit scenes, of many sorts.

In recent interviews, Delany has stated that it is his design to have Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders straddle the genera realism, science fiction, and pornography.[ citation needed ]

Delany has said, in an interview with Kenneth James, that he was inspired to write the book by a quote from Vladimir Nabokov. [4] In the essay "On A Book Entitled 'Lolita'", Nabokov describes what he learned when he deduced that his novel had been rejected by publishers who, dismayed by its theme of underage sexuality and rape, didn't even read it. He stated:

there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106. [5]

Literary significance and criticism

Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders garnered positive reviews. Roger Bellin of the Los Angeles Review of Books called it "a book worthy of his career full of masterpieces — and a book that no one else could have written." [6] Steven Shaviro stated that "it is the best English-language novel that I know of, of the 21st century so far." [7] Further praise came in reviews from Paul Di Filippo in a review in Locus magazine [8] and a brief review and long discussion led by Jo Walton at [9]

Edward Parker of Lambda Literary stated that "Time is an important theme throughout the book. Delany has constructed the story so that time passes slowly in the beginning—the whole first half of the book covers only five of the novel’s seventy years—and then accelerates as the main characters age, structurally reflecting the human experience of time...but I wondered occasionally, especially in the novel’s first half, whether the story could not have been told in fewer words." Parker criticized what he saw as a lack of editorial oversight, citing as an example a passage describing toastmaking that had little to do with the scene occurring around it but also considering the literary worth of its prose and wondering if it helped the reader relate to "the feeling of the slowness of time." [10]

Related Research Articles

<i>Pale Fire</i> 1962 novel by Vladimir Nabokov

Pale Fire is a 1962 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is presented as a 999-line poem titled "Pale Fire", written by the fictional poet John Shade, with a foreword, lengthy commentary and index written by Shade's neighbor and academic colleague, Charles Kinbote. Together these elements form a narrative in which both fictional authors are central characters. Nabokov wrote Pale Fire in 1960–61, after the success of Lolita had made him financially independent, allowing him to retire from teaching and return to Europe. It was commenced in Nice and completed in Montreux, Switzerland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vladimir Nabokov</span> Russian-American novelist (1899–1977)

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was an expatriate Russian and Russian-American novelist, poet, translator, and entomologist. Born in Imperial Russia in 1899, Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian (1926–1938) while living in Berlin, where he met his wife. He achieved international acclaim and prominence after moving to the United States, where he began writing in English. Nabokov became an American citizen in 1945 and lived mostly on the East Coast before returning to Europe in 1961, where he settled in Montreux, Switzerland.

<i>Dhalgren</i> 1975 novel by Samuel Delany

Dhalgren is a 1975 science fiction novel by American writer Samuel R. Delany. It features an extended trip to and through Bellona, a fictional city in the American Midwest cut off from the rest of the world by an unknown catastrophe. It is number 33 on the 20th Century's Greatest Hits: 100 English-Language Books of Fiction list.

<i>Always Coming Home</i> 1985 novel by Ursula K. Le Guin

Always Coming Home is a 1985 science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. It is in parts narrative, pseudo-textbook and pseudo-anthropologist's record. It describes the life and society of the Kesh people, a cultural group who live in the distant future long after modern society has collapsed. It is presented by Pandora, who seems to be an anthropologist or ethnographer from the readers' contemporary culture, or a culture very close to it. Pandora describes the book as a protest against contemporary civilization, which the Kesh call "the Sickness of Man".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">LGBT themes in speculative fiction</span>

LGBT themes in speculative fiction include lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) themes in science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction and related genres. Such elements may include an LGBT character as the protagonist or a major character, or explorations of sexuality or gender that deviate from the heteronormative.

<i>Triton</i> (novel) 1976 novel by Samuel R. Delany

Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia (1976) is a science fiction novel by American writer Samuel R. Delany. It was nominated for the 1976 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and was shortlisted for a retrospective James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 1995. It was originally published under the shorter title Triton.

<i>Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand</i> 1984 novel by Samuel R. Delany

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984) is a science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany. It is part of what would have been a "diptych", in Delany's description, of which the second half, The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities, remains unfinished.

<i>The Original of Laura</i>

The Original of Laura is an incomplete novel by Vladimir Nabokov, which he was writing at the time of his death in 1977. It was published by Nabokov's son Dmitri Nabokov in 2009, despite the author's request that the work be destroyed upon his death.

<i>Lolita</i> (1962 film) 1962 film by Stanley Kubrick

Lolita is an American 1962 black comedy-psychological drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick based on the eponymous 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov.

<i>The Mad Man</i> 1994–2015 novel by Samuel R. Delany

The Mad Man is a literary novel by Samuel R. Delany, first published in 1994 by Richard Kasak. In a disclaimer that appears at the beginning of the book, Delany describes it as a "pornotopic fantasy". It was originally published in 1994, republished and slightly revised in 1996, and republished again with significant changes in 2002 and again in an e-book version with further corrections in 2015. Delany considers the 2015 version the definitive edition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edmund White</span> American novelist, memoirist, and essayist (born 1940)

Edmund Valentine White III is an American novelist, memoirist, playwright, biographer and an essayist on literary and social topics. Since 1999 he has been a professor at Princeton University. France made him Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1993.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Florence Sally Horner</span> American kidnapping victim (1937–1952)

Florence "Sally" Horner was an American girl who, at the age of 11, was abducted by serial child molester Frank La Salle in June 1948 and held captive for twenty-one months. It is believed that Vladimir Nabokov drew on the details of her case in writing his novel Lolita, although Nabokov consistently denied this.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ekaterina (novel)</span>

Ekaterina is a 1993 novel by Donald Harington.

<i>Look at the Harlequins!</i> 1974 novel by Vladimir Nabokov

Look at the Harlequins! is a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov, first published in 1974. The work was Nabokov's final published novel before his death in 1977.

"Lolita" is an English-language term defining a young girl as "precociously seductive." It originates from Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita, which portrays the narrator Humbert's sexual obsession with and victimization of a 12-year-old girl whom he privately calls "Lolita", the Spanish nickname for Dolores. Unlike Nabokov, however, contemporary writers typically use the term "Lolita" to portray a young girl who attracts adult desire as complicit rather than victimized.

<i>Dark Reflections</i> 2007 novel by Samuel R. Delany

Dark Reflections is a novel by Samuel R. Delany, published in 2007 by Carroll & Graf, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group. In 2008 it received a Stonewall Book Award and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Fiction.

<i>Lolita</i> 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita is a 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov that addresses the controversial subject of hebephilia. The protagonist is a French literature professor who moves to New England and writes under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert. He describes his obsession with a 12-year-old "nymphet", Dolores Haze, whom he kidnaps and sexually abuses after becoming her stepfather. Privately, he calls her "Lolita", the Spanish nickname for Dolores. The novel was originally written in English, but fear of censorship in the U.S. and Britain led to it being first published in Paris, France, in 1955 by Olympia Press.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samuel R. Delany</span> American author, critic, and academic (born 1942)

Samuel R. "Chip" Delany is an American writer and literary critic. His work includes fiction, memoir, criticism, and essays on science fiction, literature, sexuality, and society. His fiction includes Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection ; Hogg, Nova, Dhalgren, the Return to Nevèrÿon series, and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. His nonfiction includes Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, About Writing, and eight books of essays. He has won four Nebula awards and two Hugo Awards, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2002.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chesya Burke</span> American novelist

Chesya Burke is an American editor, educator and author of comic books and speculative fiction, most notably horror and dark fantasy. She has published over a hundred short stories, essays, and articles in magazines and anthologies such as Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, and Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany. Her short story collection Let's Play White was published in 2011 while her debut novel, The Strange Crimes of Little Africa, was released in late 2015. Nikki Giovanni has compared Burke's fiction to that of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison.

Incest is an important thematic element and plot device in literature, with famous early examples such as Sophocles' classic Oedipus Rex, a tragedy in which the title character unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother. It occurs in medieval literature, both explicitly, as related by denizens of Hell in Dante's Inferno, and winkingly, as between Pandarus and Criseyde in Chaucer's Troilus. The Marquis de Sade was famously fascinated with "perverse" sex acts such as incest, which recurs frequently in his works,The 120 Days of Sodom (1785), Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795), and Juliette (1797).


  1. Delany, Samuel R. (2007). "In the Valley of the Nest of Spiders". Black Clock. 7: 116–134.
  2. "Kevin J. Ring: Delany pages, corrections to Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders".
  3. "Escort arşivleri".
  4. "Samuel Delany interviewed by Kenneth James on June 18 2012 at Barnes and Noble". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 via
  5. Ladenson, Elisabeth (2007). Dirt for Art's Sake: Books on Trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita . Cornell University Press. p.  191. ISBN   978-0801441684. are at least three themes which are utterly taboo.
  6. "Los Angeles Review of Books". 21 May 2012.
  7. "Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders – The Pinocchio Theory". 25 May 2012.
  8. "Paul Di Filippo reviews Samuel R. Delany". April 22, 2012.
  9. Walton, Jo (May 31, 2012). "A Good Life: Samuel R. Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders".
  10. "'Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders' by Samuel R. Delany". June 26, 2012.