Cover of the first edition
|Author||Samuel R. Delany|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia (1976) is a science fiction novel by 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.
Delany has said that Trouble on Triton was written partly in dialogue with Ursula K. Le Guin's anarchist science fiction novel The Dispossessed, whose subtitle was An Ambiguous Utopia. It is also loosely linked to several others of his works (particularly Neveryóna) in its references to "the modular calculus", a vaguely described future mathematics that would analyze analogies, fictional constructs, and possibly human personalities. The most recent edition from Wesleyan University Press (1996) has a foreword by the postmodern novelist Kathy Acker, focusing on Trouble on Triton as Orphic fiction.
As the subtitle implies, the novel offers several conflicting perspectives on the concept of utopia. Utopia literally means "good place" or "no place". Delany takes the term heterotopia from the writings of philosopher Michel Foucault. Literally, heterotopia means "other place" or "a place of differences". Foucault uses the term to designate spaces outside everyday fixed institutional and social spaces, for example trains, motels and cemeteries. In the novel's future solar system, Neptune's moon Triton supports one of several human societies independent from Earth, which has developed along radically libertarian lines in some ways: though a representative government exists, it has virtually no power to regulate private behavior, and citizens may choose to live in an area where no laws apply at all. Technology provides for a high degree of self-modification, so that one can change one's physical appearance, gender, sexual orientation, and even specific patterns of likes and dislikes.
The novel examines how Triton's freedoms and customs are perceived by the main characters, particularly Bron Helstrom, a young man who has previously worked on Mars as a male prostitute. The society of Mars is far harsher than that of Triton, and it has evidently influenced Bron's personality. He is self-absorbed, often lacks insight about himself and others, and has great difficulty with personal relationships. Though the civilization of Triton offers everything that he could reasonably want, he is unhappy with his life, out of harmony with those around him, and continually looking for others to blame whenever things go wrong.
As the novel continues, political tensions between Triton and Earth lead to a destructive interplanetary war. This is mainly used as the backdrop for Bron's (ultimately disastrous) relationship with a brilliant young woman known as the Spike, but Delany speculates interestingly on how an interplanetary war might actually unfold.
Although unsatisfied with the novel's "abrupt" conclusion, Richard A. Lupoff praised Triton as "a thoroughly absorbing, highly rewarding reading experience. . . . a noble and fascinating experiment [that] speaks well for the author."
Connections to other works
Trouble on Triton contains the first two parts of the five-part series "Some Informal Remarks Toward the Modular Calculus", which continues in several volumes of the Return to Nevèrÿon series. The novel as a whole is Part One, while the novel's second appendix is Part Two.
Bron's home city of Bellona, Mars shares its name with the Bellona where Delany's other novel Dhalgren is set.
Trouble on Triton is set in the same universe as Delany's short story "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones", included in his collection Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories.
- On Triton and Other Matters: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany
- "Richard Lupoff's Book Week," Algol 17, 1977, pp.31-32
- "Internet Speculative Fiction Database". Retrieved 2008-01-01.