This is Samuel R. Delany’s first pornographic novel, written between Nova and Dhalgren, the two SF novels where the sexual content broke the barriers of the genre and shocked and delighted critics and fans.
Delany wrote Equinox (the intended title) in September, 1968 with the intention of publishing it with Los Angeles-nased Essex House, a short-lived imprint of Milton Luros’ successful Brandon House, that was issuing “literary erotica” from the likes of Charles Bukowki, Philip Jose Farmer, Michael Perkins, etc., at the quirky editorial hand of Brian Kirby (later of the Los Angeles Free Press). Packaged as smut, smut readers did not buy these books well within that market and by the time Delany had his manuscript ready, Exxex House was kaput.
Delany didn’t find a publisher until 1973, with Lancer Books, which titled Equinox as The Tides of Lust. Lancer went out of business months later.
Delany write his second porn novel, Hogg, right after, and that one was not published until 1994 with Black Ice Books.
Because of his status as a major Sf writer, The Tides of Lust was reviewed by the mainstream media and met with favorable reviews, despite being ground-breaking in its sexual content with rape, S/M, sexual slavery and pedophillia.
Delany was not afraid to publish porn under his own name, as were other SF writers protective of their present and future careers. Delany was a respected fiction writer and literary/cultural critic, so his publishing hardcore erotic works has always met with strong mixed reactions from fans and critics.
Delany is a lot like George Bataille in that sense: a serious thinker and word master who also explores the dark sexual side of the self and unafraid of public reaction.
Equinox/The Tides of Lust is not as fetish and graphic as Hogg of The Mad Man, Delany’s third porn novel, relying more on dialogue to describe the sexual activity, but it does have its “shocking” elements…
An unnamed African-American captain of a sailing yacht, the Equinox, travels the world with two sexual slaves, a 13 and 15 year old brother and sister whom he “purchased” six years ago to tend to all his sexual needs, and to please guests on board the boat.
When Richard Kasak reprinted the novel in 1994 through his Masquerade Books imprint, the publisher succumbed to the PC pressures against pedophile literature, yet mocking it: they added 100 years to all underage characters, hence the brother and sister sex slaves are 113 and 115. Other minor characters are 106. (Kiddie porn is rampant in Hogg, the narrator is an 11 year old boy, the sex slave of a biker.)
When UK publisher Savoy House published The Tides of Lust, 2,000 copies were seized and destroyed by the British authorities and the publisher was jailed.
Is this a Transgressive Novel? It was at the time, and having read Delany’s other smut novels, Equinox is somewhat tame by comparison.