Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gene Wolfe tidbits (October 2014)

I haven't done one of these in a while, mostly because I haven't been coming across all that many news/interview items lately. But there have been a couple of interesting interviews recently that deserve to be mentioned, so I'm listing them here along with some other noteworthy items since my last 'tidbits' mid-2013:

Gene Wolfe: Legend, novelist, philosopher
Interviewed by Robert K. Elder, 2 October 2014
A great interview covering writing, religion, and even the academic reception of his work. The interviewer asks Wolfe what he is currently working on and gets a response that I (as a librarian) find very intriguing:
Q: What’s the next book?
Wolfe: What I’m doing now is writing a sequel to a book that is not yet appeared, “A Borrowed Man.” “Interlibrary Loan” is the name of the sequel. “A Borrowed Man” is about a man who is a library resource and is treated as much like a library book. And in other words, you can go in and you can check this man out of the library, and pick his brains probably about whatever.
     He is a clone from the DNA of a dead author, who has been given the memories of the dead author.

A Twelve Tomorrows exclusive: Science fiction legend Gene Wolfe looks back on his career
Interviewed by Jason Pontin, 25 July 2014
Another interesting interview in which Wolfe talks about writing, religion, war, his childhood, his current health and his recent move back to Peoria, Illinois.

Gene Wolfe: No Comparison
A Conversation with Paul Di Filippo, 17 December 2013
An earlier interview coinciding with the release of The Land Across, Wolfe's most recent novel. It is particularly enjoyable for Wolfe's retelling of the legend of the king of the cats. 

And finally, a very good retrospective on Wolfe's work was published on A Dribble of Ink a couple of months back:

Gene Wolfe: The Reliably Unreliable Author 
By Chris Gerwel, 28 July 2014

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Upcoming paper: "Gene Wolfe’s 'Seven American Nights' and the Ethics of the Open Text"

In a couple of weeks I will be presenting a paper on Gene Wolfe's "Seven American Nights" at an academic conference at the University of Warwick (UK). The conference, SF/F Now, will take place on 22-23 August 2014, soon after Loncon3, which I will also be attending. The paper is connected to my current PhD research and focuses on the novella's disruptive formal elements and resultant openness to interpretation, connecting these qualities to Emmanuel Levinas's notion of ethics and the responsibilities of interpretation. Abstract below:

Gene Wolfe’s "Seven American Nights" and the Ethics of the Open Text

Science fiction has long been concerned with ethical questions, including the effects of new technology on humans and the impact of human activity on the environment, both of which are addressed in Gene Wolfe’s “Seven American Nights” (1978). In both its form and content, however, Wolfe’s novella displays a concern for a different kind of ethics: the ethics of literary representation.

In my examination of “Seven American Nights” I seek to identify the narrative styles and techniques that create openness in the text and produce the elusiveness and ambiguity characteristic of Wolfe’s work. Written as a series of journal entries, the narrator’s account of a post-collapse America disrupts straightforward interpretation on multiple levels. Many of the elements that create uncertainty—including the unreliable narrator, fragmentary narrative and disruptive framing narratives—are metafictional devices that draw the reader into approaching the text critically as a constructed artefact. Wolfe’s innovative use of science fiction and fantasy tropes and intertexts further challenges the reader’s expectations and opens up a wide range of interpretative possibilities. This open text draws the reader into an act of self-conscious co-creation of meaning, while resisting attempts to ‘pin down’ a definitive interpretation.

The effects of this openness on the reader will be considered through Roland Barthes’s notion of the writerly text, while its ethical ramifications will be explored by way of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. I will argue that in its foregrounding of the text’s plurality, “Seven American Nights” draws the reader into an encounter with what Levinas calls the “unenglobable literary space.” Finally, I will draw upon Derek Attridge in some closing reflections on the implications of this ethical dimension of the literary encounter for the responsibilities of reading and interpretation.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gene Wolfe holdings at the Merril Collection

Late last year I completed a three-week professional placement at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy at the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library for my Master of Information Studies (Librarianship) - I wrote a bit about the experience on my other blog. One thing I loved about the Merril Collection was its extensive holdings of Gene Wolfe material, including many of the limited/special editions produced by small presses. As I was sifting through some photos recently, I thought I'd post a few here, for those readers and collectors interested in the bibliographic side of Wolfe's work.

Most of the Merril Collection's Wolfe holdings are in their main run of fiction and spread across three shelves. All of the hardcovers' dustjackets are in archival sleeves and the particularly fragile materials are in archival boxes - I love seeing books so well preserved!

I took the time, while I was at the collection, to check out some of the hard-to-find (and now incredibly expensive) printings of some of Wolfe's shorter fiction, such as this stunning embroidered and illustrated copy of Empires of Foliage and Flower (Cheap Street, 1987):

I think the collection also holds a complete set of the small Cheap Street chapbooks that were originally sent out as 'greeting cards', including "The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin Is The Sun" and "The Arimaspian Legacy" (pictured below with the original artwork used for its cover, and the covers of some other Cheap Street chapbooks):

Hidden in the basement of the Lillian H. Smith branch is the Merril Collection's store room, which contains many shelves of uncatalogued foreign language materials, including many foreign language Wolfe books donated by Wolfe himself, who has visited and spoken at the Merril Collection several times. I found these very interesting for the different cover art they used - I've noticed that there is almost no consistency between how different cover artists depict Severian and Silk, in particular (check out Hoof&Hide's great Wolfe cover art gallery for more examples of this).

Czech translation of The Shadow of the Torturer
Polish translation of The Shadow of the Torturer
French translation of Lake of the Long Sun
Spanish translation of There Are Doors

As I was rummaging through the store room, I stumbled upon some of the Merril Collection's ephemera and manuscripts, including a manuscript of Wolfe's Letters Home, which collects some of the letters he wrote to his parents during the Korean War:

So, there you have it, a brief recap of some of the great Wolfe holdings at the Merril Collection. If you're in Toronto, I strongly recommended checking out the library, especially if you're a Wolfe fan!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Gene Wolfe tidbits (June 2013)

It's been a couple of months since the last post, but here are a few more links to various Wolfe-related items around the interwebs.

Interviews with Gene Wolfe

S&L Podcast - #134 - Interview with Gene Wolfe (25 June 2013)
Gene Wolfe was interviewed in a recent Sword and Laser podcast (hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt).

A 1982 Video Interview with Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe Wherein They Discuss the Label “Science Fiction” - via
Interesting interview from 1982 with Wolfe, Asimov & Ellison. Highlights some of the differences between them as authors and individuals.

Interviews with contributors to Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun: Nancy Kress - Ultan's Library (30 May 2013)

Shadows of the New Sun: Marc Aramini - Ultan's Library (29 May 2013)


In a recent PS Publishing newsletter, Peter Crowther writes: "we are definitely going to be publishing a special signed and slipcased PS edition of Gene Wolfe’s upcoming The Land Across. Watch out for further announcements."

SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 13): “Shadow of the Torturer” by Gene Wolfe (12 June 2013)
An enjoyable podcast with Karen Burnham and Karen Lord discussing Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Gene Wolfe tidbits (April 2013)

Welcome to the second instalment (first here) of tidbits relating to Gene Wolfe picked up over the last month from various shady corners of the interwebs. Not a lot this month, but a few neat things to chew on...

Shared Worlds - "Hand in Hand" (March 2013)
This webpage, which I found out about this through the SFWA website, was created to encourage registrations for the 2013 Shared Worlds Teen Writing Camp at Wofford College in South Carolina. It features snippets of writing advice from science fiction, fantasy and horror writers (including Wolfe, Gaiman and others) written on their hands and photographed. Quite a neat concept!

Dragoncon - Gene Wolfe (April 2013)
A very entertaining mini-biography of Wolfe, who is one of the featured guests of this year's Dragoncon (30 August - 9 September 2013 in Atlanta). I assume it was written by Wolfe himself, given the writing style, humour and inclusion of random details I'm fairly sure I haven't read elsewhere - including this fantastic little story that describes Wolfe's retirement from Plant Engineering, the trade journal he was editing, in 1984 to write full time:
By the goodwill of the editor-in-chief, Leo Spector, he got a farewell dinner at which a dozen speakers insulted shamefully. He then rose and insulted all of them back, ending his little talk by throwing aside his orange trade-show jacket, his tie, and his white shirt. Beneath it he wore a T-shirt: REALITY IS A CRUTCH FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN’T HANDLE SCIENCE FICTION.

J E Mooney - Shadows of the New Sun (excerpt) (25 April 2013) has published J. E. Mooney's foreword of the upcoming Gene Wolfe tribute anthology, Shadows of the New Sun. We also now have a more solid release date, 27 August 2013, and a cover: