Gene Wolfe, the man, the myth, the legend! Like most fans of this iconic sci/fi writer, I was introduced to Wolfe when I picked up The Book of the New Sun. And it was Shadow & Claw and Sword & Citadel which got me through some dreary days in the late 1990s.
This particular author is right up there with Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick in terms of revolutionizing the genre. I am sure he is tired of being compared to these legends, so I will freely admit that when I think of Wolfe, I think of Bill Watterson. That last one caught you off guard, didn’t it? Why would I say that the creator of Calvin and Hobbes is on the same level of pure awesome as Wolfe? Both writers build innovative worlds of beauty and imagination and then cram them with so many references to history, literature, philosophy, and art that every time you read their work you are awed, inspired, and humbled with the reminder that you, dear reader, are a mere Muggle.
Apparently I am not the only person to feel this way. Shadows of the New Sun is an edited anthology chock full of well-established writers (most of whom have written scores of novels over the past several decades) who are also in awe of the great man. How do you know if you’ve made it as a writer? When other writers line up around the block to talk about how much YOU inspired THEM. This is what Gene Wolfe does. He is the writing man’s writer. He will bowl you over with his talent and with the shocking realization that for all his accolades, he is a humorous and personable dude.
Each contributor in this volume starts out by telling the story of how they met Gene and his wife Rosemary, how they first encountered his writing, and the impact he had on that person’s career. We are talking friendships that span decades here. Wolfe is the type of guy who will go to a convention to give a speech on writing and publishing in the sci/fi genre, but not before asking if there are other published writers in the audience, and then inviting them to join him on stage.
Seriously. Have you ever met an established author? Dear lord they can have a whole lot of ego attached to them. But not Wolfe.
Shadows of the New Sun is a tribute of the highest order to Wolfe as an artist and as an awesome human being. The shorts pay homage to his previous works, his characters, and his layered themes. The stories can be surprisingly simple and inscrutable by turns. Together they are a magnificent representation of the legacy Wolfe has inspired in the genre.
Final consensus: I am not worthy of the subtle magic Gene Wolfe has inspired in these terrific writers!
Frostfree by Gene Wolfe
Is there anything our technology can’t do these days? Imagine the refrigerator of the future; one that can cook for you, clean for you, find you dates, love and dote on you.
A Lunar Labyrinth by Neil Gaiman
Lunatics, labyrinths, and his lyrical use of alliteration. Also werewolves and the lingering scent of rosemary.
The Island of the Death Doctor by Joe Haldeman
For those of us who have always wanted to be marooned on a desert island with Severian and Termenus Est.
A Touch of Rosemary by Timothy Zahn
On one hand a war of wizards, on the other hand another tribute to the subtle spell that Rosemary Wolfe weaved over writers in the sci/fi community.
Ashes by Steven Savile
A beautiful story of one man’s love and loss while falling through time.
Bedding by David Drake
You know, if you are going to knock up the local farmer’s daughter, you might want to make sure that the family doesn’t have any guns lying around. I’m just sayin’.
…And Other Stories by Nancy Kress
For those of us who have always wanted to get trapped in a book; another perspective to consider.
The Island of Time by Jack Dann
One of the best, and yet most horrifying, stories in this compilation!
The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grim by Michael Swanwick
Full disclosure: Swanwick is my all-time favorite author and it is no surprise that his contribution to this collection is the best story in the book. My complete and utter bias notwithstanding. Also, I have recently discovered that his lives in Philadelphia. I work in Philadelphia. Do I smell a restraining order in my future? Could be!
Snowchild by Michael A. Stackpole
An old fashioned genre throwback complete with violence, magic, and maggot people.
Tourist Trap by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg
A reimagining of Plato’s Cave (Google it).
Epistoleros by Aaron Allston
Wonderfully executed old-timey mystery. Complete with alternate history and set in the Wild West.
Rhubarb and Beets by Todd McCaffrey
Full disclosure: I have never cared for Todd McCaffrey’s writing style and this was not a story that changed my opinion. Also, purple unicorns (which is not the metaphor it sounds like).
Tunes from Limbo, But I Digress by Judi Rohrig
Downloading brains into memes – from space. It could happen.
In the Shadow of the Gate by William C. Dietz
Considers what might have happened to Severian between The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Concilitator.
Soldier of Mercy by Marc Aramini
Reflections on identity and memory as inspired by Latro.
The Dreams of the Sea by Jody Lynn Nye
It is hard to resist inhabiting the worlds that Wolfe has created. Nye sets her characters sailing the seas of Urth under the New Sun.
The Log by David Brin
Gives some great writing advice for mastering narrative, “by retyping great passages by Gene Wolfe.”
The Sea of Memory by Gene Wolfe
It is only fitting that the master himself should bookend this collection. He imagines an ending with travelers adrift in time and space, trying to put memory in context.
Shadows of the New Sun
Edited by J.E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett
Published by Tor, 2013
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars