links for 2010-07-16

  • It has long been said that air (which others call argon) is the source of life. This is not in fact the case, and I engrave these words to describe how I came to understand the true source of life and, as a corollary, the means by which life will one day end.

    For most of history, the proposition that we drew life from air was so obvious that there was no need to assert it. Every day we consume two lungs heavy with air; every day we remove the empty ones from our chest and replace them with full ones. If a person is careless and lets his air level run too low, he feels the heaviness of his limbs and the growing need for replenishment. It is exceedingly rare that a person is unable to get at least one replacement lung before his installed pair runs empty; on those unfortunate occasions where this has happened—when a person is trapped and unable to move, with no one nearby to assist him—he dies within seconds of his air running out.

    But in the normal course of life, our need for air is

  • by Michael Andre-Driussi

    The Urth of the New Sun (1987) offers the unique opportunity of showing exactly what we are up against in reading (or deciphering) a Gene Wolfe text. This coda to The Book of the New Sun (1980-83) answers many mysteries of the original tetralogy, but readers should bear in mind that it was not part of the original plan. In a 1990 essay beguilingly titled "Secrets of the Greeks," Wolfe explains the origins of the fifth book:

    I had an argument with David Hartwell over this last bit [the ending of The Citadel of the Autarch]. David felt that I should add one more paragraph saying, Okay, Severian went to the universe next door and borrowed the white hole and fixed the sun and everybody lived happily ever after. I, on the other hand . . . felt that a paragraph wasn't going to be enough. David and I yelled at each other for a while, but eventually came to an agreement. David would publish The Citadel of the Autarch exactly as I had written it, provided that I w

  • by Peter Wright

    Since its publication in 1972, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe’s collection of three inter-linked novellas, has earned a reputation for being the author’s most perplexing single volume. Such a reputation is entirely justified since ambiguity is the watchword to the text. More significantly, it is also an organising principle of form, a means of confounding interpretation, and a fundamental theme associated with Wolfe’s defining authorial obsessions: the subjectivity of perception, the unreliability of memory, and the nature of identity. To draw attention to the presence of equivocation in The Fifth Head of Cerberus is hardly original as every critic and reviewer to approach the text has cited its influence as a source of their own puzzlement, their sense of inadequacy and, at times, their despair. ‘Hints, hints, damnable hints and clues! That’s all there is in Gene Wolfe’s stories: little pieces of the jigsaw and one is never quite sure that there is a pattern t

  • The title is a multiplex pun, so typical of Gene Wolfe. The Book of the Long Sun (1993-6) can only closely follow, or mirror The Book of the New Sun (1980-3). And just as Severian, the narrator of the first Book, is the New Son of God, a man becoming Christlike if not Christ himself returned, so Patera Silk, Wolfe's new protagonist, is the Long Son, the product of a virgin birth, long (tall) in physical and moral stature. And the renovation of the Sun is again implied; and the story, in four volumes, is very long, and is not over yet. Thus Wolfe in six words summarises his second tetralogy; and the critic can add that The Book of the Long Sun is, very likely, the most significant work of SF to be published in the 1990s – the most precise, the most sustained, and the most profound. It is a tale of physical, religious, and philosophical exodus; and, as such, it interrogates, and dismisses, the material world. The result is devious, eccentric, and charismatic, an old story rendered utterl
  • the most condescending and unconvincing case for gene wolfe. hard to say who the writer has less respect for, his audience (apparently supposed to be people interested in literary fiction), or gene wolfe and his fans.
  • “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” is a 1994 science fiction novella by Mike Resnick. It is set in the far future when a group of anthropological aliens are studying the long and brutal empire of mankind.

    Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

    Olduvai Gorge from space!Many centuries after the Empire of Man came tumbling down, a group of anthropologist aliens are visiting the birthplace of mankind – Olduvai Gorge in Africa. Each member of the group has one particular scientific specialty, but the narrator – know only as He Who Views – has an extra special function – the ability to morph with an artifact and re-live its story. The group finds seven different objects and consequently learn the fascinating details of each one’s existence. Through He Who Views eyes we are treated to several detailed stories spanning the age of Mankind. We learn about the aliens who visited Earth when man was little more than a violent ape; Mtepwa the slave boy who rose to become head of a great and terrible tradi

  • Full text of Gene Wolfe novella, as published in F&SF. I think this won a Hugo or something…..
  • Right out of the gate let me deal with this. Peter Wright has a lot of smart things to say about The Book of the New Sun. His nuts & bolts are fine, great even. Everything here may be couched in academic tone, but I expect that from literary criticism published by a university press. The problem here is his thesis. I feel like Peter Wright, by acknowledging Severian's treatment of quadruplex allegory (triune, in Severian's version, since why not Judeo-Christian it a little), tries to wriggle out from admitting that it sort of ruins his entire interpretation (65). Severian tells Dorcas about the literal, the metaphorical, & the transubstantial meaning, but Wright sticks with the second one. Spoilers for those of you who haven't read it: Peter Wright insists that since the hierodules are admittedly creations of human(ish)kind, the transroboalienposthuman offspring who attempt to shape humanity in the past/future future/past to make sure that they are invented in cyclical time, that they
  • Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun

    Having cast one manuscript into the seas of time, I now begin again. Surely it is absurd; but I am not – I will not be – so absurd myself as to suppose that this will ever find a reader, even in me. Let me describe then, to no one and nothing, just who I am and what it is that I have done to Urth (p. 1)

    These words which open Gene Wolfe's The Urth of the New Sun, serve to describe the difficulty many readers have had in placing this book in context with the four-volume The Book of the New Sun. It has been referred to by Wolfe and others as a "coda" of sorts, a little piece separate in mood and tone from the preceding volumes that is nonetheless attached as an addendum that refers back to the prior work as a basis for its own story. Published in 1987 due to a request from Wolfe's editor, David Hartwell, that there be at least something that explained what happened to Severian and the mysterious "New Sun," The Urth of the New Sun has confounded a

  • How To Read Gene Wolfe
    by Neil Gaiman

    LOOK AT Gene: a genial smile (the one they named for him), pixie-twinkle in his eyes, a reassuring mustache. Listen to that chuckle. Do not be lulled. He holds all the cards: he has five aces in his hand, and several more up his sleeve.

    I once read him an account of a baffling murder, committed ninety years ago. "Oh," he said, "well, that's obvious," and proceeded off-handedly to offer a simple and likely explanation for both the murder and the clues the police were at a loss to explain. He has an engineer's mind that takes things apart to see how they work and then puts them back together.

    I have known Gene for almost twenty-five years. (I was, I just realized, with a certain amount of alarm, only twenty-two when I first met Gene and Rosemary in Birmingham, England; I am forty-six now.) Knowing Gene Wolfe has made the last twenty-five years better and richer and more interesting than they would have been otherwise.

    Before I knew him, I thought

  • Introduction

    This is the WolfeWiki project, an attempt to gather in one v-place large quantities of information about the works of the great American writer Gene Wolfe.

    Wolfe is best known as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, but his work encompasses poetry, horror, "magical realism," and much more. Much of his work is designed to force the reader to work with the writer, using techniques like lacunae, unreliable narrators, shifting points of view, and many others to create mystery. It may be that a given Wolfe text has no "correct" interpretation, or even a "correct" answer to the question, "what happened in that story, anyway?"

    But the mystery and the effort the reader expends in trying to understand a Wolfe text are, for some readers, more valuable than any number of the easy-to-understand pabulum-texts that appear on the shelves of our grocery stores and airport newsagents. If you are one of those, please join us in creating a mobsourced guide to the mysteries, puzzles, a

  • The Best Introduction to the Mountains
    by Gene Wolfe

    There is one very real sense in which the Dark Ages were the brightest of times, and it is this: that they were times of defined and definite duties and freedoms. The king might rule badly, but everyone agreed as to what good rule was. Not only every earl and baron but every carl and churl knew what an ideal king would say and do. The peasant might behave badly; but the peasant did not expect praise for it, even his own praise. These assertions can be quibbled over endlessly, of course; there are always exceptional persons and exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless they represent a broad truth about Christianized barbarian society as a whole, and arguments that focus on exceptions provide a picture that is fundamentally false, even when the instances on which they are based are real and honestly presented. At a time when few others knew this, and very few others understood its implications, J. R. R. Tolkien both knew and underst



    –The Ineffable Art of Gene Wolfe

    by Patrick O’Leary

    "Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there—that, one might say, is created. It is the inexplicable presence of the thing not named." —Willa Cather

    “Now, Dorothy, dear, stop imagining things. You always get yourself into a fret over nothing.”

  • Gene Wolfe

    Welcome to a fan site dedicated to author Gene Wolfe

  • I loved Shadow and Claw – was blown away, in fact. The whole thing is dreamlike in quality, unfathomably large in scope, deliciously, slyly puzzling. It's enormous fun picking away at Severian's ideas about the past of his far future Urth, at the mysteries of his companions Jonas (why does he have a mechanical hand?) and Dorcas (was she resurrected?), at what the Claw might actually be – and at how truthful and accurate our narrator, for all his protestations that he remembers "every rattling chain and whistling wind, every sight, smell and taste", really is. "Trust the text implicitly. The answers are in there," Gaiman tells us. Then "do not trust the text farther than you can throw it, if that far. It's tricksy and desperate stuff, and it may go off in your hand at any time." I think a second read is definitely going to be in order; I'm also champing at the bit for the second half to arrive.
  • Mapping a Masterwork: A Critical Review of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun
    Posted by Jonathan • Aug 28th, 2002 • Category: Book Reviews, Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe

    covercoverVolume One: Shadow and Claw

    Volume Two: Sword and Citadel (Millennium, 2000)

    Reviewed by Peter Wright

    Long before its inclusion on Millennium’s SF Masterworks list, Gene Wolfe’s densely allusive four volume The Book of the New Sun (The Shadow of the Torturer (1980), The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), The Sword of the Lictor (1981) and The Citadel of the Autarch (1983)) was acclaimed as one of science fiction’s ‘masterpieces’. Universally praised, each volume won at least one of sf’s most coveted awards: The Shadow of the Torturer took the Howard Memorial Award and the World Fantasy Award in 1981, and the British Science Fiction Award in 1982; The Claw of the Conciliator brought Wolfe his second Nebula Award in 1981, whilst Locus honoured the novel with its Best Fantasy Novel Award in 1982; The Sword

  • Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun

    I’ve been meaning to write on this series/book for years, but because I’m less than enthusiastic about it, I haven’t quite had the impetus. Thinking back on it now, there are striking bits and pieces that have stayed with me, but the work as a whole has not. But because Gene Wolfe is praised to the skies by many “intellectual” sci-fi fans while being ignored by everyone else, I think he represents a position that is worth exploring. I.e., why is Wolfe still occupying a marginal place in literature in spite of praise from the likes of John Clute and Michael Swanwick, while Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson have made it into the mainstream canon?

    I think there are discernible reasons for this. Wolfe may not be any worse than Stephenson or Gibson, but his particular weaknesses are much more problematic for non-sf readers than theirs. This is mostly for the sake of people who have already read the book, since I’ll be referring to lots

  • Gene Wolfe Solar Cycle Book Club

    A Forum Dedicated to Reading and Discussing the 12 Novels of Gene Wolfe's Solar Cycle

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