Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 213–226 | Cite as

Tales of Plagues and Carnivals: Samuel R. Delany, AIDS, and the Grammar of Dissent

  • Thomas Lawrence Long


While even today lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people might have cause to distrust the healthcare establishment, how much more fragile was the relationship between sexual minorities and health professionals in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic. Dissent from consensus healthcare and health research then was a question of survival in the face of political and medical intransigence. This article focuses on one version of AIDS dissent: The narrative representations of AIDS in fiction by the gay African-American fantasy writer Samuel R. Delany, which rejected the rigid binarism of “safe” and “unsafe” sex practices, Delany’s evidence-based dissent. He also engaged in a related form of cultural dissent: speaking the unspeakably obscene, at a time when Silence = Death. Delany called into question both the inferential leaps based on limited epidemiological research that were represented in safer sex guidelines and the widespread public reticence about sexual behavior.


HIV/AIDS Safer sex guidelines Fantasy literature Narrative studies Queer health History of medicine 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of ConnecticutStorrs MansfieldUSA

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