Samuel Delany’s first published short story was The Star-Pit and ran in the February 1967 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow.

Arguably considered the best science fiction story of 1967, Black Gate noted the accolades this story received:

The Star Pit was a finalist for the 1968 Hugo for Best Novella, which went in a tie to “Riders of the Purple Wage” by Philip Jose Farmer and “Weyr Search” by Anne McCaffrey. It was in Judith Merril’s SF 12, the very last outing for her seminal series. Robert Silverberg anthologized it twice – not just in Alpha 5 but in the Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels. Gardner Dozois put it in his anthology with a similar title (and ambition) to Silverberg’s: Modern Classic Short Novels of Science Fiction. And Richard Lupoff chose it for What If? Volume 3.

Delany himself collected “The Star Pit” in his great first collection Driftglass, and in a later collection, Aye, and Gomorrah.

According to Delany’s own notes:

In early spring of ’67, when I was living intermittently with Marilyn on East 10th Street, I received a phone call from someone who said he was Baird Searles—Drama and Literature Director for WBAI-FM. His name was unfamiliar, but I knew of WBAI and had listened to it on and off. In the year of his death, it had been my father’s favorite radio station. “I really enjoyed that story of yours in Worlds of Tomorrow this last winter—‘The Star-Pit.’” Mr. Searles told me. “I was wondering whether you might like to write something on that order as, say, a radio play.” I responded immediately: “Why not simply do ‘The Star-Pit’ itself?”

WBAI-FM would go on to present Delany’s The Star-Pit at Thanksgiving over the next ten years.

Primarily for New Yorkers treated to this Thanksgiving tradition, was there any special reason why this was played at Thanksgiving?

  • 1
    Having commissioned it, they probably wanted to get their money's worth out of it. Why do you use the same costumes for the school play instead of making new ones each year?
    – Valorum
    Nov 26, 2021 at 8:06
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    I believe the gist of the question is not why the play was repeated, but rather why it was repeated at Thanksgiving Nov 26, 2021 at 13:59
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    @OrganicMarbke That’s correct. At first glance it’s an odd choice. But these are all reasonable reasons, and a lot of people’s holiday movie choices are no odder. 🤷 Nov 26, 2021 at 14:05
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    Recording part 1 archive.org/details/pra-BB3818.02A. Part 2 archive.org/details/pra-BB3818.02B Nov 26, 2021 at 21:41
  • @lucasbachmann Great! Thanks. Nov 26, 2021 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


According to Delaney it simply became a tradition, presumably because having played it at Thanksgiving once (and it being well received), they decided to do it again.

DELANY: Did you ever hear of the radio play made out of The Star-Pit? For a decade it was played over WBAI once a year as a Thanksgiving tradition. I do the narration. It was hundreds of years ago.

Sex in the Theater: Jeremy O. Harris and Samuel Delany in Conversation

It's also quite long, which means that for logistical reasons, they can play it when the staff need time off, notably not just at Thanksgiving.

After skipping a year, for the next six years The Star-Pit played annually over WBAI, usually around Thanksgiving—running from four to six in the morning, or sometimes from three till five a.m. For a while it was something of a New York autumn tradition. I stayed up (or got up) to hear it twice in that time. There was another year break; then it ran for three more years.

By the show’s tenth anniversary, WBAI had relocated in a large church basement on East 58th Street. That year I came in when they ran it, to reminisce about it for the listeners, before and after it aired. Since then, every two or three years, WBAI’s Jim Freund has found a post-midnight slot for it on one holiday or another, when someone working at the station wanted to take a night off.

NOTES ON THE STAR-PIT by Samuel R. Delany

  • I wonder if any other radio stations adopted other sci-fi / fantasy productions for other holidays? Dec 17, 2021 at 16:26

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