Cover of 1994 paperback reprint edition
|Author||Samuel R. Delany|
|Original title||Tides of Lust|
|Cover artist||Kurt Griffith (RhinocEros Edition, 1994)|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Equinox is a 1973 novel by Samuel R. Delany, and is Delany's first published foray into explicitly sexual material. It tells of a series of erotic and violent encounters in a small American seaport following the arrival of an African-American sea captain. It is a non science fiction work, though with fantastic elements.
Peter Nicholls in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction described the work as "serious in intent, though likely to be shocking to most readers in its evocation of the extremes of sadomasochism in imagery which is sometimes poetic and often disgusting -and so intended- perhaps as a Baudelairean ritual of passage".
Equinox was written contemporaneously with Dhalgren. Equinox is Delany's preferred title, but the book was originally released under the title The Tides of Lust, a compromise with the publisher, Lancer Books, who wanted to call it Tides of Eros.
The book was first published in the UK in 1980 by Savoy Books of Manchester. 2000 copies were seized by the police (along with 3000 copies of the Charles Platt novel The Gas) and the rest of the printing withdrawn from booksellers. Following a prosecution one of Savoy's partners, David Britton, was sent to prison in May 1982. When republished in the early 1980s, all ages of underage people who performed sexual acts were increased by 100; e.g. there were 109 year old children in the prose.
A new American paperback edition was published in January 1994 by Masquerade Books, under the RhinocEros label.
Equinox concerns the sexual and violent encounters that ensue -"the search for erogenous gratification of a diverse collection of people"- when an unnamed Black sea captain, sailing his 72-foot diesel boat, the Scorpion, with his dog Niger and two teenagers Gunner and Kirsten, docks at a small American seaport and meets its inhabitants including Robby, a naive drifter; Catherine, a Countess; Proctor, an artist; Bull, the town sheriff (who is himself an active criminal) and his equally thuggish operative Nazi; and various low-life characters including the black and white twins (self described rape artists) Nig and Dove.
A lost wallet is traced to its owner, the artist Jonathan Proctor. At his studio, Proctor tells the Captain the story of his life in picaresque episodes, culminating in his first encounter, many years before, with the bewitching Catherine. She is depicted as a kind of baleful Madonna: depraved, hypocritical, perversely saintlike. Proctor mobilises the Captain and the other characters in a kind of amorous military assault against her as a personification of religious double standards. In the novel's closing movement, the perpetrators of an appalling sex crime are protected by their corrupt friends, while the completely innocent vagabond Robby is lynched and punished in their place. The apparent brevity of the novel thus detailed, and the slightness of its narrative, is only achieved by passing over its many long and very explicit sexual descriptions. These are polymorphous, bisexual, often involving multiple and underage partners, and incorporating urophilic and SM elements. Though very detailed and gratuitous (in that the author seems to revel in and enjoy the sexual descriptions), these passages are generally written in a poetic, obscure and oblique language which removes them from the realm of mere pornography and inserts the novel into a modern tradition of challenging and thoughtful erotica shared by such works as Burroughs' The Wild Boys and Trocchi's Cain's Book.
There is an additional leitmotif relating to the myth of Faust, and at several points the Captain himself is either likened to the Devil or actually supposed to be Satan himself. Though sexually rapacious, the Captain's character is sympathetic, and in his conduct and attitudes seen to be one of the least truly evil personages in the narrative. 
- Nicholls 1979, pp. 162-163.
- Clute and Nicholls 1995, p. 316.
- Delaney 1999, p. ?
- Barbour 1979, p. 164.
- Cover notes, The Tides of Lust, Savoy Books, 1980
- Brulotte and Phillips 2006, p. ?
- Barbour, Douglas. Worlds Out Of Worlds: The SF Novels of Samuel R. Delany. Frome, Somerset, UK: Bran's Head Books Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-905220-3-7.
- Brulotte, Gaétan and John Phillips. Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. CRC Press, 2006, ISBN 1-57958-441-1.
- Clute, John and Peter Ncholls. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1993 (2nd edition 1995). ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- Delany, Samuel R. Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts & the Politics of the Paraliterary. Wesleyan University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8195-6369-2.
- Nicholls, Peter. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Granada Publishing, 1979. ISBN 0-586-05380-8.