Gene Wolfe

Did you know that Gene Wolfe was an industrial engineer who helped design the machine that makes Pringles potato chips? He's also one of my favorite authors, even though I am not particularly fond of potato chips.

I've read quite a bit of his work-- short fiction, long fiction, series, etc., even some poetry-- but not all of it. At the recommendation of a friend, I'm currently reading Peace. It's reminding me a bit of the Wizard Knight series, maybe, at least in its frame. Gene Wolfe likes using the frame tale as a device, and he's very good at it.

[*Edit: Oh wow...I finished Peace last night and immediately started rereading it. What a book. It wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be; in fact, I'm not sure what it is at all, aside from very good and very very unsettling.]

Here are a few images I've found.

These three are all by Bruce Pennington (top to bottom: Citidel of the Autarch, Shadow of the Torturer, and Claw of the Conciliator.) I found them in an article on Black Gate, an excellent magazine and general speculative fiction/art website.

This is Richard Bober's 1994 cover for the Tor release of Calde of the Long Sun.

Gene Wolfe also writes a bit of poetry, one of which won a Rhysling Award in 1978. It's called "A Computer Iterates the Greater Trumps" and can be found in Alchemy of Stars, an anthology of Rhysling winners. Here's part of it....

Trump (20)
The L6a6s6t Judgement, and my creed betrays,
Unlearnt foreknowledge of these coming days.
The angels come to smite the sea and land,
The anti-Christ for us-- and slays.
Trump (19)
The Sun the dancing children love,
Casts down this radiance from above.
Fusion, fission, no remission;
So small a house, so large a stove....

Now this is interesting: Chaosium, Inc. has released an rpg called The Chronicles of Future Earth, written by Sarah Newton and based largely on Wolfe's Urth. I have no idea what to say about the rpg itself-- I've never played it-- but it has some interesting maps. Here's another article at Akratic Wizardry and a review

This is my favorite cover image for Shadow of the Torturer. It was done by Don Maitz for the original Simon & Schuster edition of 1980. 

Wiki gods say, "...The Shadow of the Torturer won the annual World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award as the year's best novel. Among other annual awards for fantasy or science fiction novels, it placed second for the Locus (fantasy), third for the Campbell Memorial (SF), and was a finalist for the Nebula...."

Wolfe's fiction has received quite a lot of critical attention, from within the genre world and from the literary world at large. In one particularly good review, "Mapping a Masterwork" by Peter Wright at Ultan's Library, The Book of the New Sun is compared to James Joyce's Ulysses:

It could be argued that The Book of the New Sun is science fiction’s Ulysses. Like James Joyce, Wolfe has ‘put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep professors busy for centuries over what I meant, and that’s the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.’ 13 However, to do so would be to deny Wolfe’s determination to wed the reading process with his particular conception of existence through his games playing. From his other fiction, it apparent that Wolfe perceives the world as an ambiguous round of perceptions and misperceptions in which the individual struggles, and ultimately fails, to apprehend the precise nature of existence.

 The three images above of from Japanese editions; artwork is by Takeshi Obata.

Artist Richard Vass did this cover for the Hungarian Delta Vision edition.

The Eschaton Is Nigh

There's an upside to ditching 90% of your paperback collection and going all digital without really cataloging anything: in the past few years, I've been inadvertently afforded the pleasure of rereading some pretty great stuff. 

I forget; I download again; I find out three pages in. This time it was Frederik Pohl's Eschaton series: The Other End of Time, The Siege of Eternity, and The Far Shore of Time.

The Eschaton books are eminently readable but treat on some fairly hard scifi tropes: the politics of first contact, human rights issues, and of course theoretical and speculative physics (matter/antimatter transfer, cosmological theories, and more.) It's thoroughly engaging, even on the second pass.

Frederik Pohl wrote for many, many years and won pretty much every science fiction award there is. His work spanned the decades between the 1950's and his death last year in 2013 and garnered him Hugos, Nebulas, National Book Awards, Loci, and many others. 
(For those hands-busy days, Sci-Fi-London offers this great collection of radio dramas based on classic stories by Frederik Pohl and Isaac Asimov. )

Back to the Eschaton books, though. This trilogy is a later work; I was able to find full, uncropped, untreated digital versions of John Harris' cover paintings. This is a great thing, since Tor's crop job on the second of these was pretty brutal.

John Harris' original cover painting for The Other End of Time, published by Tor in 1996.

Harris' painting for the second of the trilogy, The Siege of Eternity, published in 1997.

And the third, The Far Shore of Time, released in 1999.