Ultan's Library

a web resource for the study of Gene Wolfe

urbis-detail

Me & Gene – by Stephen Palmer

Master Ultan asked Book of the New Sun enthusiast and SF writer Stephen Palmer how he first came across Wolfe’s work. This is his reply.

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A Lexicon Urthus update

Cover image for Lexicon Urthus - A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle, by Michael Andre-DriussiWolfe scholar Michael Andre-Driussi recently got in touch to let us know that he has published a list of corrections and errata for his masterful “Dictionary of the Urth Cycle”, Lexicon Urthus.  

The ebook version has been updated in the kindle store, and recent copies of the hard and softcover editions have also been updated, and are marked “Second Edition 2008: corrected 2014” on the copyright page. Michael has provided Master Ultan with the following lists of corrections. He says:

“For hardcopy books, I think an acceptable method would be to write in the corrections, thereby personalizing the volume. Use of vermilion ink would be an added bonus!”

The following collection of 42 items on three different lists: the first list was made of comments by known readers; the second are from anonymous Kindle readers via complaint (a Kindle Quality Notice on August 7, 2014); the third was found via the CreateSpace spell checking tool. Each one is in page order; that is, the numbers start over again at the beginning of each list.

LIST OF CORRECTIONS AND CHANGES

Lexicon Urthus Second Edition (with page numbers from the hardcopy book)

History of Urth (p. 178) 12 P.S. “Chateline Sancha” should be “Chatelaine Sancha.”

Lune (p. 218)
line “Or Lune’s physical qualities . . .” replaced with “Or Lune’s orbit might be more artificial than natural physics; it might be a powered hovering.”

“(See flier)” replaced with “, described for fliers: ‘Their lift is supplied by the antimaterial equivalent of iron, held in a penning trap by magnetic fields. Since the anti-iron has a reversed magnetic structure, it is repelled by promagnatism’ (IV, chap. 24, 198).”

“Applying this to Lune . . .” replaced with “Applying this to Lune, we envision vast amounts of antigravity”

“Such a ‘light’ moon . . .” replaced with “substance on the satellite, allowing constant thrust along a circular track, taking 28 days per lap.”

midinette (p. 241) a blank line is missing before the entry.

planetaration (p. 286) should be “planteration.”

pyx (p. 295) is missing a period at the end “297).”

Severian (p. 318) history section: Eudoxia should be “Eudocia.”

Thais (p. 343), last line: “She became queen of Egypt, was condemned by Dante . . . and became the subject of a novel by Anatole France, as well as an opera” replaced with “She came up with the idea of burning the palace of Persepolis, and Alexander did it, so Thais has a ‘destruction of the palace’ element that finds an echo in Thais of Urth.”

Xenagie (p. 377) is missing a period at “246).”

Anonymous reports

xii (resevoir) => reservoir
62 (Caitanya) themeselves => themselves
110 (Domnina) mirrrors => mirrors
201 (khaibit) rejuvination => rejuvenation
202 (khaibit) orginial => original
226 (man-apes) seem seem => seem

CreateSpace spell checker

23 (arctother) deathsports => bloodsports
25 (arsinoither) deathsports => bloodsports
77 (Catherine) khabit => khaibit
99 (Cyriaca) occassion => occasion
101 (Daria) orginially => originally
107 (diatryma) deathsports => bloodsports
111 (Dorcas) commited => committed
125 (Eschatology and Genesis) laserburn => laser burn
133 (family trees) geneological => genealogical
150 (Gildas) degredation => degradation
156 (Guasacht) condotierre => condottiere
185 (Idas) onomasatics => onomastics
189 (Isid Iooo IoooE) occassionally => occasionally
316 (sergeant at the vincula) clavinger => claviger
330 (starost) heretiary => hereditary
336 (tallman riders) nighmarish => nightmarish
340 (technology levels) hastauri => hastarii
350 (torture chamber tools) grusome => gruesome
361 (Valeria) autarach => autarch
364 (vincula) clavinger => claviger
366 (Vodalus) harrassment => harassment
416 (ships) thalangii => thalamegus

Still More

223 (Magic in the Urth Cycle) [remove quote mark at end of quoted block] 272 [Capitalize A of There Are Doors] 384 (Yrierix) [change ‘second “r”‘ into ‘second R’]

The list of corrections can be found at the Sirius Fiction site,

Aramini on Wolfe on Youtube… again!

Our contributor, Marc Aramini, has posted more discussion of Wolfe on youtube:

Wolfe in 2015: A Borrowed Man

Ultan’s Library notes that Gene’s next novel, A Borrowed Man, is now listed on Amazon for publication in October 2015.

Gene discussed the novel in his October interview with the Barrington-Courier Review: 

“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.”

Pre-order A Borrowed Man at Amazon USA

Pre-order A Borrowed Man at Amazon UK

Ultan contributor Marc Aramini’s new video on Gene Wolfe and Literature

Proving Veil’s Hypothesis: Variance Reduction Techniques, Larval Life Cycles on an East Wind, and Shadow Children Riding Mars(c)hmen in The Fifth Head of Cerberus

Marc Aramini

“I am exempt by reason of being a child and by reason of being an animal…” (“Marsch” on his unjust incarceration in the “V.R.T.” section of The Fifth Head of Cerberus, p.181)

In the wake of the postmodern explosion that decentralizes absolutes and puts universal meaning into question, it is at times difficult to approach Gene Wolfe’s work with the actual scientific rigor it demands.

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Aaron Allston 1960-2014

It was with great sorrow that we learned last week of the passing of novelist and game designer Aaron Allston. Best known for his work on novels set in the Star Wars universe, Wolfe fans will remember him for his fine story “Epistoleros” in the recent Shadows of the New Sun collection.

Many of the authors in that collection chose to write stories woven tightly into the story-space of Wolfe’s works, but Aaron chose to write a story that just felt Wolfean. He skilfully crafted a metafictional western in the epistolary style that examined the relationship between story and history. We recommend that you seek it out.

I contacted Aaron about an interview for our series talking to the writers collected in Shadows of the New Sun. His health, writing, and convention commitments prevented us from completing the interview at that time. When I contacted him again I found that he had already written a comprehensive set of story notes about “Epistoleros” which answered many of the questions I’d hoped to ask him.

We send our condolences and sad best wishes to all of Aaron’s family and friends.

You can read “Epistoleros” in Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe edited by J.E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett, available from Tor Books.

You can download the story notes free from Aaron’s website:

Judi-Rohrig-GW-Picture_0525a

Shadows of the New Sun: an interview with Judi Rohrig

Photo of Judi Rohrig, Gene and Rosemary Wolfe, writer C.S.E. Cooney, and Bekah Rohrig (Li'l Pirate).

Judi Rohrig, Gene and Rosemary Wolfe, writer C.S.E. Cooney, and Bekah Rohrig (Li’l Pirate).
Photo by Byron Rohrig

Judi Rohrig is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, and an editor who has been honored with the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award (2004) for Non-Fiction (for editing Hellnotes, a weekly newsletter for writers of dark fiction). She also edited the electronic anthology Stones. Her stories have appeared in Masques V, Spells of the City, Pandora’s Closet, Furry Fantastic, Dreaming of Angels, Extremes V, and Cemetery Dance magazine. Forthcoming are stories in All-American Horror and Shadows of the New Sun.  According to her website, Judi makes her home in tornado vulnerable, flood-prone, and earthquake-shaken Southern Indiana.


Tell us how you first encountered Gene’s writing?

It might come as a shock and surprise to those who have enjoyed the delicious worlds and deft prose and poetry of Gene Wolfe all these many years, but every day opens the possibilities to new readers. I know because in 2002, I became one of those newbies. That year I was the publicity coordinator for the World Horror Convention in Chicago, and Gene was one of the Guests of Honor. Honestly, I knew nothing about his writing except that one of my good friends spoke highly of his books (and said friend owned and had read every single one of them multiple times).

Fair enough. I dove right in, pinged Mr. Gene Wolfe via email, introduced myself and function, and requested an interview. He said he’d already done enough interviews – people were tired of hearing about him. Please understand he was never curt or rude, just, well, challenging. So I backed up and punted. That’s what I told him. I said I needed to publicize his attendance at the convention, but I wanted to engage him in something fun. So he insisted on interviewing me, and I wound up writing about the back-and-forth.

By the time the convention was over, we (including his lovely wife, Rosemary, and my husband and daughters) were friends. And I had learned to think in a whole different way. He’s not just deep in print, let me tell you.

Tell us about your favourite story or novel by Gene and what it means to you.

This is a hard question to answer. It’s akin to asking what’s my favorite kind of cheesecake. But I’ll give it a go.

I don’t think there is a better short story writer, so I love his collections. Starwater Strains especially. But whenever I come across one of Gene’s short stories in a magazine or anthology, I have to read it first. He absolutely nails just how long the story should be. Heck, the crafty devil managed to include a brief tale in the introduction he wrote for Brian A. Hopkins’ new collection, Phoenix. I don’t know anybody else who could pull that off.

My favorite short story is “Frost Free,” which Gene wrote for the new anthology. If I would read another short story in the next few hours, I’m certain it would be a contender for my favorite. But, for now, it’s “Frost Free.”

As for novels, Pirate Freedom is hands down my favorite and not because he dedicated it in part to my younger daughter, Bekah (known to Gene as the Li’l Pirate). When I finished that book, I turned around and read it all over again. Captain/Father Chris truly snagged my heart and managed to drag me into the fray all over again. Gene does that, though, all too easily. Most often it’s because Wolfe worlds involve numerous  dimensions and layers. Reading any of his books or short stories just once can’t possibly provide  any reader with the full force and impact. His tales are like those Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls. There’s more and more and more and . . .

Home Fires is like that, too: It’s Science Fiction! It’s a mystery! It’s a thriller! I totally enjoyed peeling away those layers. The first time I heard Neil Gaiman talk about Gene’s writing, he said he’d read Peace and then turned around and read it again because he didn’t know until the end that there was so very much in that story. I’d already read Home Fires three times when the editor called me about the anthology. That was the world I wanted to explore more fully, so I reread it twice more.

But Peace does hold a special place in my heart.

That brings us to Gene’s essays. Castle of Days includes some of the finest essays on writing I’ve found. See? There’s so much to consider, and I haven’t even hit on Letters Home. (Be patient.)

What is it about Gene and his work that has inspired you and so many other writers and readers?

He spins one heck of story. I don’t know anybody else who writes like he does. His words grab me by my collar, whoosh me into whatever world he’s created, and fold me into his story immediately. There’s no warm-up. No hesitation. Just here it is and here’s what’s happening. I haven’t figured out how he does it. Maybe I really don’t want to know, and I’m a writer who reads the end to mysteries, not to kill the suspense, but because I want to see how the writer gets to that end. I don’t do that with Gene’s works though. I plunk my keister down with my dictionary and open all my senses. I think it’s a lot like savoring twenty-year-old fine Kentucky bourbon. I sip; I consider; I marvel. And in the end, I feel mighty fine!

But there is more to Gene Wolfe than his writings. I have the extreme privilege of knowing Gene as a person. Our emails and letters and conversations generally revolve around our families and things in the world other than writing. Lots of silly things. Silly songs. Poems. Remembering things from our pasts. And yet having swept away his writings, I have to say his Letters Home, a collection of his correspondence with his family when he served in the Korean War, is the one book I treasure most. Li’l Pirate is now older and married to a Marine. Gene’s letters have helped me to understand a bit of what my son-in-law must be feeling being so far from his family. I try to read something from it right before I go to bed at night.

Your story in Shadows, “Tunes from Limbo, But I Digress” is related to Gene’s novel Home Fires. What was it about this recent book that inspired you? Can you tell us how you came up with the story?

My tribute in the book touches a bit on explaining this. I came up with that title a long time ago. Gene told me then I better hurry up and write a story to go with it or he was going to steal it. But no matter what I wrote, no story of mine seemed to be the right fit. Then when the editor called and said Gene requested a story from me for the book, lots of things suddenly fell together: Home Fires; a comment Gene made about pencils and my obsession with Palomino Blackwing 602s; his many stories where he wrestles with memory; Mark Roth’s TED talk about suspended animation. And once I got out of the way of the narrator, lots of other things popped up.

Storytelling is always a surprise. It’s part of the fun of writing. But besides wanting to tromp around in a Gene Wolfe world, I also wanted to write a story for Gene and Rosemary, so there are things in the story that only Gene will understand. Names he will recognize. Lines from poems we shared. I knew from the beginning the story would begin with “Dear—.” I mean how many of Gene’s stories begin just like that? And I said I was a junkie for his letters. “Tunes . . .” is my letter home. Gene Wolfe forced me onto a spaceship bound for who knew where. It was fun finding out.

There has never been a story that I have worked on harder or have sweated over more because how do you pay homage to a man like Gene? As long as he likes the story that’s all I care about.

Home Fires is another of Gene’s tricksy books. I was astonished that you felt safe to write a related story. Were you at all worried that you hadn’t “got” the story beneath *Home Fires*’s surface (because I would be terrified)? But your story oozes confidence as it builds on the novel’s foundations. I am curious to know how you felt about it?

Thanks for those kind words. They truly mean a lot. Yes, the pressure at first was daunting, but that spring when I first met Gene, he asked that I be one of the speakers at his tribute luncheon. At that time I had read very few of his works, but I agreed. (I mean, what an honor!) I talked about how bowled over I was with his writing. How he was like drinking champagne in a paper cup. Or was it beer in Waterford crystal? The point was I was a new reader. Brand-spanking new!

Gene Wolfe as a writer is all about being brand-spanking new. He grows as a writer with every new project. He keeps his eyes and ears open, his imagination cranked up to high. Maybe that’s the most important thing to take away from Gene Wolfe as a writer. He forgets the stuff that came before and embraces the possibilities of the future. The man is ageless, and some people need to catch up.

Rosemary Wolfe (1931-2013)

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Gene Wolfe’s wife Rosemary this past weekend. 

Photo of Rosemary WolfeRosemary, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, died on Saturday 14 December in Peoria, Illinois, after a long period of illness and progressively worsening health. She and Gene had been married for over 50 years and had had four children. She was Gene’s muse, and it was to her that he dedicated his lone volume of poetry, For Rosemary.

A funeral mass will be held for Rosemary on Thursday 19 December at 11:00 am at St Bernard’s Church in Peoria.

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to Gene and all the family.

The Editors,

Ultan’s Library

Here are links to:

Gene Wolfe’s time at Plant Engineering

After his time as a process engineer for Procter and Gamble and before becoming a full-time science-fiction writer, Gene Wolfe worked (1972 – 1984) as an editor for the technical magazine Plant Engineering. He is usually described in biographical sources as “the editor” but, as he explained to Lawrence Person in an interview published as long ago as 1998, he was actually “an editor” rather than the sole or chief editor of the magazine:

LP: For quite a while you were the editor of Plant Engineering magazine. Do you think that doing so gave you any special insights into how the pace of technological change is reshaping society?

GW: Yes, I was an editor, actually, on the staff of Plant Engineering magazine. I was lucky enough to be the robot editor, so I got to work with modern, real world robotics. I actually have two diplomas from robotics schools I attended. So that was very nice. I guess I’m branching off into other things, but I also got to be the Letters to the Editor editor, which was good and fun and taught me a lot of stuff, and I was the cartoon editor. (laughs) Basically I had a real good job.

This interview, entitled “Suns New, Long, and Short: An Interview with Gene Wolfe”, was originally published in the Fall/Winter 1998 edition of Nova Express. It is currently available on the web here. It is also reprinted in Shadows of the New Sun: Wolfe on writing/Writers on Wolfe, edited by Peter Wright (Liverpool University Press, 2007), where the above quotation may be found on pages 173-174.

Intrigued to know more about this “real good job”, Ultan’s Library co-editor Nigel Price recently asked Wolfe about his time at Plant Engineering and the persisting description of him as the magazine’s editor. Wolfe replied as follows:

There is no revising print. When it’s out there, it’s out there for all time. I have never been able to catch and correct the assertion that I was editor of Plant Engineering. I was actually a senior editor on the staff. Senior editors had to supply cover articles, “supply” meaning write the articles and take the pictures, including a cover picture that could make it past the art director. Two or three of those a year, depending.

We had other responsibilities as well. I was the editor for power transmission (hydraulics, gears, pneumatics, belts, et cetera) and fastening and joining (welding, glue, screws, et cetera), and also the editor for cartoons and letters-to-the-editor. There was an electrical editor, a construction editor, a materials-handling editor, a maintenance editor, a safety editor, and so forth. It was hard at times, and easy at others.

Oh yes… How in the world did I forget this? I was also robot editor. I went to robot school twice, once for hydraulic ‘bots and once for all-electric. And I wrote or developed the robotics articles.

The revelation that Wolfe was once robotics editor for Plant Engineering provides an interesting insight into the background of the creator of Ossipago, the chems and taluses of the Whorl, and all the other various robots, androids and automata which we encounter in the Solar Cycle and elsewhere in his writing. Those wishing to read Wolfe’s non-fiction articles, however, will have a hard time finding them, unless they have access to back issues of Plant Engineering, as the author confirms that…

To the best of my knowledge none of my magazine articles have been reprinted anywhere. Sorry to disappoint you, but very happy to find that you will be disappointed.

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